The Five Commandments of Networking for Indian Lawyers

It all starts in the womb. I don’t mean anything euphemistic or metaphorical, but literally; I was recently told that to get into premier schools in India, parents have to apply for admission immediately after conception. One parent, was incredibly upset that he missed out because his child was already due in a month and he hadn’t applied! He tells me, “There are plenty of schools, I know, but in this one my child would have been able to study with X’s children and think of it, several years down that line, he/she would have had so many influential contacts; it’s all about networking.” Agreed, in India you have to compete with a sizable fraction of a billion people, and that pushes us to be competitive in every aspect of lives, and the only way to get ahead, is to know the right people – to network!

Commandments of Networking for Indian LawyersBut networking in India is a not a fun thing to do – it is serious work, at-least at networking events. With the International Trademark Association (INTA) Annual Meeting, the biggest networking event for trademark lawyers just round the corner, I was thinking about certain things I’ve noticed, at various networking events with Indian lawyers. A silent unwritten code (thus far) which is quite discernable.

I give you the Five Commandments of networking for and with Indian Lawyers

Thou shalt spread thy cards

Carry an enormous amount of cards and practice dealing them out with the skill and ease of a blackjack dealer. Your goal is to go out there and give out as many cards as possible. There is also a general method of giving out cards, which is to hold the card with both hands and bow a bit whilst handing it over. Once the card is out of your hand, your mission has been completed. Move over to the next person. Collect as many cards as you can, but remember it is more important to give than to receive!

Thou shalt know thy facts:

When talking to a person, make sure you’ve memorized facts about your firm, from the name of the dog that the founder had, to the date in which the first client engaged your services. Train your mind such that you can narrate the entire story of the business, the clients, the services that you offer, and why you are better than the competition. You should be able to start and stop this at will and steer the conversation to and only around work and the said facts. For heaven’s sake don’t talk about the weather or the political situation or something flippant as a movie or a song!

Thou shalt guard thy contact with thy life

When talking to a potential client of any importance and you spot a colleague/former classmate/former friend/present competitor/Indian make sure you suddenly become animated in the conversation and carefully using your peripheral vision follow the person until he or she is out of sight and ear shot. Do not under any circumstance introduce your contact to your competitor. In a group setting, if the contact and the competition (everyone) are already together try and minimize the chances of your contact in interacting with any other person, edge them out if you must!

Thou shalt not have fun

Networking includes ‘work’. This means, you go out there and meet as many people as possible within the shortest time frame and collect as many business cards as possible within the confines of the conference room and get the hell out of there. Perish the thought about just meeting someone for fun, going fishing with them or on a hike or worse still doing something fun that you enjoy. There is a separate time and space of business and fun is not something you have with the people you do business with. Business is business – revere it!

Thou shalt show no mercy

If you’ve spotted a chap in a suit or if he or she is in the confines of the conference room/area make sure you strike up a conversation. Once you start talking to the other person, if it becomes apparent that the other person does not or will not be giving you any business or work, on account of the fact that he is old and retired, in a different line of work or is already working with other lawyers, leave immediately. You are not there to make polite conversation and listen to someone talk; so what if he fought in the Second World War and has interesting anecdotes, if he has nothing of business value to offer, leave.

Networking is serious business and we take it seriously!

While these are the top five commandments I’ve noticed, they are certainly not carved in stone, so if there’s something you’ve noticed, please let me know.

For those of you on the receiving end, the next time, you’re at a networking event with a bunch of lawyers and you are presented a card by someone along with the narration of business history akin to the narration of the Iliad, remember he is just following the commandments – Take the card and humour the chap!

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