Scott Limmer

This week Oscar and Scott discuss the true focus of networking and the following topics;
– preconceived notions about the “slick networker”
– How Building Relationships are the key to success
– Types of networking: General & Targeted
– How easy it is to get started
– Networking: Not a necessary evil, a necessary effort.

Episode transcript


INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice: two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

OSCAR:                      Hello everyone, this is Oscar and welcome back to the podcast, Reboot Your Law Practice.

SCOTT:                      Hi everybody, this is Scott. So this week, we’re going to delve a little deeper into networking and what it is and what it isn’t, and how hopefully we can frame it and talk about it so you could understand it a little bit more and we can get everybody a little more excited to do it. So Oscar, what I wanted to talk about first that I wanted to ask you, I think there is a lot of preconceived notions that people have about what networking is, what it’s all about, and let’s maybe talk about those first and maybe we can get those out of the way.

OSCAR:                      Well, I have a good example of that because when I first went into the private practice and saw the need to try to develop business, that’s what I kind of thought it meant, you know, I got to go buy tickets to a Yankee game or a Mets game for somebody and drop it off at their office, or I got to take them out to lunch and try to kind of slick snake oil…

SCOTT:                      Like a quid pro quo type of thing, you had to look to give them something so you’d get something.

OSCAR:                      Yeah. The idea was that it was not something that was ever taught to us in law school. It wasn’t something that we ever learned about. So we kind of got it from the idea of the salesmen that we were familiar with, who we didn’t like, guys who would hit us in our private practice for title insurance or for whatever. I think that’s a misconception that that’s all the networking can do or that’s the only way to do it.

SCOTT:                      Then if you go and look at the media, look at the way television or movies would portray a salesman, a networking type of guy, they would portray that person as a sleazy, shifty, trying to get something out of somebody kind of guy.

OSCAR:                      Even the word and the, “Oh, you have to network” makes it sound kind of like one of these self-help Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie type of thing, which, by the way, has positive aspect, but what I mean is that it’s kind of like self-promotional and all of that and it is to some extent. But the fact is and the reason why we focus on it so much is, if you are trying to rebuild your practice and if you are trying to reestablish yourself as a lawyer in your community, you got to have to get out there and paddle the pavement. It’s that simple.

SCOTT:                      Right. We’re looking through everyone to get involved in networking that is nothing like what we’re talking about, nothing like these preconceived notions about networking and what networking is like. We are trying to shift you away from those and say, “Listen, that doesn’t exist. We don’t want you to go to a meeting and just give someone your card and say “Hey, use me.” We’re talking about something different.

OSCAR:                      This is not your father’s networking. Remember please, we’ve discussed this before that you are not going to start taking these steps until you’ve got your stuff ready. You’ve thought about the areas you want to try to develop. You’ve thought about how you want to make the appearance your appearance, you’ve thought about your website. You’ve looked at your web presence. You’ve put out a social media package. You are ready to go now. Once that’s done, that’s when you leave the door and start networking, not a moment before that.

SCOTT:                      When you’re ready to do this networking, what is it? What is the networking we’re talking about? It’s very, very simple. It’s building relationships. That’s it. You want to build relationships with other business professionals and other people and learn from them. You want to hopefully get business from them one day but the goal is to build relationships, see if you can help them.

OSCAR:                      Right. That’s how it starts because the easiest way to get a referral is to give somebody a business first and if there is a way that you can start thinking about, putting yourself in that situation, that is certainly going to be the quickest way to start building these relationships. Also, there are lots of folks that maybe don’t know this new area that you are going into or don’t know hat you are trying to develop, or don’t know that you’ve opened up a new office, a new website or whatever. That could be the start of the conversation, but always remember you want to go there with the plan of what can I do for this person that I’m meeting? What’s his business or her business? Who do I know that maybe I can refer her away or learn more about it to start the relationship with the trust that it’s not just about me. I’m looking to see if I can help you in some way.

SCOTT:                      It’s a lot of what we discussed before, it’s you trying to give value to people that you meet. It’s you using your authenticity. It’s being authentic and talking to people and meeting people, telling them about yourself, about your family, about your job, about who you are, and getting to know people, so that you build this relationship.

OSCAR:                      But again, it’s well thought out. It’s not haphazard, and there are two things that will talk a little bit about and we can split this up. There is this targeted networking that is a general type of networking. Meaning the way you look at certain groups and kind of a larger, broader, more expansive way of networking is what we defer to as a kind of general networking concept. You want to talk a little bit about that, Scott?

SCOTT:                      Sure. So once you decide that what you need is go out and meet new people to gather information, to make new connections, once you decide you want to do that, you have to figure out how to do it. The question is how do you want to approach this? Like Oscar just said, you can look into general networking or targeted networking. So let’s look at general networking first. General networking is simple, just join a group. I belong to a local networking group, about 35 people. I’ve discussed it before, smartest thing I ever did. Go get involved.

OSCAR:                      It may take you a while to find the right one, by the way.

SCOTT:                      Right. So you can go to a local networking. You can join a chamber of commerce. You can join a bar association and start going to bar association groups. Charitable or religious groups, you can talk to the parents on the sidelines when you go to your kid’s sport games if you want. Any sort of community-based organization that you can get yourself involved in and you can sit down and talk to someone in an environment where you can discuss business back and forth is an advantage.

OSCAR:                      But let’s think about it for a minute because I can remember that when I first decided that I would start going into this new area, leave the criminal practice. Not leave it, but not make it the focus because the work wasn’t there. I wanted to go into more of commercial and business oriented practice, it seemed to me and my head popped up in a light bulb, Chamber of Commerce. Where else would I go? So I joined the local Chamber of Commerce out here in Long Island where I am and I joined another one in the city. It helped. I’m still a member but it’s funny in a way because all the lawyers, they were business lawyers.

So it took a while for me to distinguish myself from that and in many ways, I would think that actually Scott who has a different niche practice with Special Education Law as well as Criminal defense, He might have gotten more of that chamber of commerce by saying, “Hey, I’m a small business owner here in our town and I’m joining the chamber,” as opposed to saying, “I’m a business lawyer looking for business clients.” I started thinking about the way that I was handling those meetings and the only thing I spoke about when I talked to people at that meeting is usually related to my office – in other words, unemployment and insurance. Asking information about that, maybe I found a new carrier. Maybe I’ve worked out, I remember when we had negotiated a new lease with my landlord.

So I was coming to them and participating, not as a business attorney, as a business owner. If I was just there saying; I’m a business attorney, I wouldn’t have developed a business out of that. But when they started saying, “Oh yeah, he’s a local business owner,” and all of a sudden, “Hey, can you talk about this? Can you talk about that?” It was different because a lot of the lawyers who were members of that chamber didn’t have an office in the town that we joined. That made the difference. So it’s not just, “Oh, I’m going to go into that area and look for that type of work.”

SCOTT:                      Well, you have to have a plan. It’s exactly what you are saying and you didn’t maybe have the plan at first but you saw the lay of the land and you figured out what you wanted to go after, and that’s how you kind of guided yourself through the Chamber.

OSCAR:                      Right and say it. Again, it starts with what value do I bring and the value that I brought was that I had been in business in that community for 20 years and had relationships. I had experiences that I could help bring to the Chamber and add value. The minute that start happening and I began to trust it, it was easier to talk about business. Similarly, we talked about this before. In a bar association, which committee should you join? Do you just join the one that’s devoted to your area of law? No, join the small practice committee. Join the solo lawyers committee. Get involved in the business side of it as well. See if you can help the association with adding some pro bono work or attending a CLE or maybe even giving a CLE in a particular area that you have.

SCOTT:                      Right. You have no idea what can come off any of these relationships. The more relationships you form, the better chance you have of opportunities coming up. So when I joined my chamber of commerce, I decided to do this about six months ago or so. I’m trying to take every opportunity I can to meet as many people as I can. I want people to know what I do. I am meeting people in my neighborhood that I have never met before. It’s a good experience so far, but I’m trying to get involved.

They have five minute speaker slots at each meeting, so I took one of those because I wanted to introduce myself to everyone. I wanted everybody to know what I do. We were going to be running in a month or two, I decide to run a brain trust session and trying to get some people from the group, and I’m going to run it and people are going to come. Everyone is going to get 10 minutes, talk about your business, your problems for two minutes, and then we’re going to try to help them. So I’m trying to get myself involved and meet as many people as I can and put myself out there.

OSCAR:                      Right. Without necessarily pushing out the type of work that you do or the type of work that you are trying to get.

SCOTT:                      Right. Obviously we’re doing this podcast because things like these interest us and I think it’s a great opportunity for some business people on the community get together, try to help each other, get some input from sources that you wouldn’t normally get. I’m enjoying the relationships I’m making with people on the chamber and hopefully it will wind its way back into business at some point.

OSCAR:                      Right. So once you go through these organizations that are in your community, the chamber, your bar association, all these organizations are just cool, etc., then you want to start going into the second type of networking and that is, thinking specifically about folks, businesses, or individuals who can provide you the work that you are looking for and that you want to target to tell about your business specifically.

SCOTT:                      Now, this is where some discomfort may come in. This is where it may get a little difficult and you don’t want to approach someone or send someone an email. But I talked about this a couple of weeks ago about a book that I read that talked about the pain of embarrassment when you are dealing with someone, the pain of the “no” or being embarrassed somehow. I felt that after reading this and then discussed the pain of not being able to support your family, it didn’t really compare. So if you just take that away and you just say, “I have nothing to lose.” I have nothing to lose by composing a respectful nice email that says, “Hi. You and I have so and so as a mutual friend. He told me you might be a good person to talk to. I have these ideas. I was wondering if you’d like to have coffee one day.” What’s the worse that could happen? You get ignored, that’s it.

OSCAR:                      Right. I don’t have the time or whatever. The person could just say no. The person could ignore it, but you never know. You’re going to have to cast these lines out, maybe 10 times to get two or three valid responses. You are not going to get 100%, “Oh, that’s a great idea. Let’s come back. But if you start really thinking about as you talk to people in these larger groups, right? This is a lot of times where it comes from.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      You go into these groups. You are going to meet these individuals. You trade information back and forth, you are going to have these conversations and then you’re going to follow it up with a letter, an email, or a request to go grab a cup of coffee, is always a good one. Breakfast in the morning, we’re all busy.   That tends to be a good time to try to…

SCOTT:                      I’m a big coffee person. Someone who I don’t know, “Let’s have coffee for 20 minutes or half hour, feel each other out and see if we want to move this forward, if we’re interested in each other.

OSCAR:                      Remember, by the way, particularly at the first few sessions when you’re going to reach out to those people. You are going to have to go to them. You have to make it convenient for them.

SCOTT:                      Sure.

OSCAR:                      “Hey. I’m going to be in your neighborhood this week. Can I come by and just chat for 20 minutes over a cup of coffee?” When you do that, it makes it that much easier for them to say yes. “I don’t have to leave my office. I can just walk around the corner, maybe there is a coffee shop in that very building or whatever it is.” That’s the way to start doing that and you want to start really try to identify those professionals, those people, and those groups as well as just maybe friends of friends or referral from friends who can start giving you the business that you are looking to pick up.

SCOTT:                      Now listen, we talk about this all the time; a lot of people don’t like the idea of networking. They feel like maybe they can’t do it, they are too shy or they lack self confidence. I want to put forth a couple of positive things that can come from networking and I can say that I’ve experienced a lot of these things. By getting over the hump by being able to put myself out there, I have met people. I have gotten direct business opportunities. I have gotten indirect opportunities from other people. I have become very good friends with a lot of people that I network with. Because of a lot of the type of things you’re hearing on podcasts like this, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some younger attorneys and give them some advice with regards to their legal practices, I know you have also.

OSCAR:                      Right.

SCOTT:                      All these things, if it wasn’t for networking, Oscar, you and I probably wouldn’t be doing this podcast. It’s something that we’ve learned, that we enjoyed, and it’s been successful for both of us. We’re both passionate about it, and we’re able because of networking and because of the things we’ve done to be able to bring out our passion on a podcast like this.

OSCAR:                      Well, that’s the other thing too. It helps you in a number of ways, folks. You have to remember that you gain a lot out of it. If you are involved in a community, you know more about what’s going on in your community. You become a leader in your bar association. That’s going to be easier to help promote you when you try to sell to a client.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      These things come back and forth. You start giving a pro bono work, let’s say, at a particular location because of a charity or a religious organization. Chances are that’s going to be either in their bulletin, in their pamphlet, on their website, somewhere that you can then, when the client comes in say, “Look, I do this as well. I just spoke about that topic. There are lots of ways that this relationship building, if that’s better than the word “networking” that…

SCOTT:                      Because that’s really what it is, it’s relationship building.

OSCAR:                      Yeah and that’s what this does. It helps you in ways outside of the direct business practice but at the same time, it helps your practice to grow and once you get comfortable doing it and realizing the value you get out of it, it’s funny because you can find other ways to bring value back. It’s a fulfilling little circle and it just keeps building on it, but more importantly is you just got to do it.

SCOTT:                      You just got to get out there and do it, just do something, anything – join a local group, join a bar association, join the Chamber, do anything – but evaluate everything you do, and we’ll talk about that in later podcast. You don’t want to waste your time. You don’t want to just stand there and not talk to anybody or have no real potential referral partners. You need to evaluate and if it’s not good, move on. You got to start somewhere. Join something, get involved, be a guest at somebody else’s event and just get involved. Just get out there.

OSCAR:                      Right. Maybe you can mentor someone. Maybe you can find someone to mentor you as well that will help develop your business and give you some ideas. I know that I learned a lot about business from these relationships myself that have helped me outside my law practice, and so I encourage you all to realize that it is a necessary effort that has to be made in order for you to build this new practice that you want to start doing.

SCOTT:                      It’s part of your business. We’ve been talking about it for a number of podcasts now. It is a part of your business that is not voluntarily. You can’t throw it onto somebody else. This is something you have to do to succeed in the world we live in these days.

OSCAR:                      So we want you to think about this for the next session. Think about what areas, what organizations you can start with. How you’re going to lend value to those organizations and how you are going to start trying to build your practice through these relationships. So signing off for Reboot Your Law Practice, this is Oscar. You can reach me at

SCOTT:                      You could email me at or you can call at
516-900-4842. Leave us a message with a comment, a question, or suggest a topic for us to talk about in our future show.

OSCAR:                      I’d like to thank the few people that have left comments so far and we encourage more people to leave comments and what we may be starting in the future is if you’d like to talk about maybe your situation or an issue you might have, we’d like to maybe put that on the podcast and we can troubleshoot that. So if anybody is interested in something like that, please feel free to call…

SCOTT:                      516-900-4842.

OSCAR:                      We will see you next week, thanks. Bye, bye.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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