Hosting “Networking Events” Brian Tannebaum Style, And Why I Don’t Bring Business Cards

“Do you know any lawyers who specialize in cat law? My food bowl has been empty for 20 minutes. The squirrels in the back yard think I have a good case.”

My friend Brian Tannebaum wrote a book called The Practice. You should read it. The Practice is the most relevant book about growing a law practice since Jay Foonberg‘s “How to Start and Grow a Law Practice.” The two books should really go hand in hand. Foonberg’s is about starting a practice, Brian’s book is about sustaining one. One of the key concepts Tannebaum stresses is the importance of relationships.

That said, I generally avoid anything called a “networking event” like the plague. Why? It’s a waste of time. You walk up to random people, have a two second conversation, and exchange cards. A few days later, I reach into my pocket, find a card, and think to myself “Who is this person again?” Then I throw it out.

They’re also not all that fun. Nothing is more annoying than the guy who approaches me and says “Hi, I’m John. I handle DUIs. If you get any DUI work in, I’d be happy to handle them for you, and pay you a referral fee! Check out my website!”

I think to myself, “I’ve never seen you in a courtroom, or any of your work. Why would I tell my friends, family, and clients to hire you? Because you asked me to, and have a cool card on heavy stock? Not gonna happen.”

I’d rather go to Crossfit. Even if I don’t get any business from it that day, at least I got a good workout.

So, it’s the summer. It’s hot out. And thankfully, I had some much needed downtime. Now that I actually have a minute where I’m not in court, what to do?

It might surprise you that I decided to host a networking event. It’s breakfast every Friday morning at the diner next to my office. I figure everyone eats breakfast, so why do it alone?

I know, I know, I could save $6 and eat breakfast at home, but I can’t remember the last time my cat has referred me a good case.

The breakfast event has expanded like crazy, and often involves accountants, doctors, and real estate developers. Today a fraud examiner showed up, and we had some interesting conversations about loss prevention. We managed to take up almost 1/3 of the diner. I’ve met some really cool people that I actually like to hang out with.

And brace yourself for this one. The breakfast event has actually turned into a good referral source for me.

How did I do it? I stopped bringing business cards. I never say “Hi, I’m Jordan Rushie, I’m a zoning lawyer, here is my card! Consider hiring me!” I talk very little about my practice unless someone asks.

Instead, I just talk to people like a normal human being. About anything.

Topics covered today? The stupidity of online dating. The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Election (which I am the campaign manager of). This blog and what I get out of writing it. Intermittent fasting, as people asked why I wasn’t actually eating anything, and proceed to tell me that I’m going to gain a bunch of weight by not eating 10 meals a day.

The conversation almost always ends like this:

“Do you have a card?”
“I don’t have any cards on me. But I’d like to continue this conversation. I’ll get in touch with you this week.”

Then I’ll usually follow via the telephone (these things still exist) to see if they want to hang out and grab a drink. I have already scheduled three meetings with people I met this morning for next week. Last night an architect and insurance agent I met at the breakfast event simply shared a bottle of good wine in my office. We talked about classical philosophy, and how emojis are causing the decline of the written word. After an hour of human conversation, eventually we started to chat about our respective practices to see if business opportunities existed.

This human interaction approach has lead to more business, and a larger social network.

What’s my point? You can sit at home and Tweet about developments in DUI law that I’ll never click on. You can start a law firm Facebook page that I might “like” and remove from my feed. You can even go and hand your business cards out at “networking events” to hundreds of strangers, which I will probably throw out. That’s what the law futurists tell you to do.

Or you can find ways to have meaningful interactions with other human beings. It might even lead to good new clients.

So while you law futurists are telling me I need to be on LinkedIn, Tweet more, and “utilize” my iPad, I’ll be sitting in the diner next to my office drinking coffee on Friday mornings. Actually talking to people. Like a human being.

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