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Build relationships and the work will follow, says associate

Building long-lasting relationships rather than treating each interaction like a transaction will hold junior lawyers in good stead, a recruiter-turned-associate says.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 08 January 2024 SME Law
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Moulis Legal associate Lochlan Worrell knows a thing or two about how to network effectively with other legal professionals, given his background in legal recruitment before transitioning into a legal career.

Mr Worrell’s overarching message for junior lawyers and students is that their success hinges on building trust and genuine relationships with legal professionals.

In an episode of The Protégé Podcast, Mr Worrell told host Jerome Doraisamy that lawyers must focus on building long-term relationships.


“People can smell selling from a mile away,” he said.

“If you’re just pushing for a hard sell, that’s the one thing I would say try to avoid. It’s not about winning work.

“That’s the trap that I find a lot of people fall into. Whether it’s recruitment, legal, business development, [or] any industry where you’re selling, you focus on the end goal of trying to win work.

“But if you focus on building relationships, the work will follow.”

More avenues for networking

Mr Worrell also noted that while professionals may or may not gain anything out of their first conversation with someone, a mistake they often make is failing to subsequently follow up with them.

“It’s definitely about long-term, lasting relationships and not just treating it as a one-off transactional opportunity,” he asserted.

Reflecting on how the art of networking has evolved over recent years, particularly post-COVID-19, Mr Worrell said platforms like LinkedIn are useful to contact and connect with members of the profession.

Moreover, opportunities to network have increased in the recent past as professionals are increasingly open to meeting over Teams, Zoom, and other video conference tools, he said.

However, he signalled that along with these opportunities, new challenges have emerged in the post-pandemic era.

“The flip side of that is, of course, relationships are built face to face quite often, and it’s difficult to do that in a short-timed opportunity,” he said.

“In my experience, people that I have met fortuitously a few times over, those are some of the strongest relationships that I’ve managed to form. And it’s difficult to do that on a one-off call.”

Choose your events wisely

While building relationships is a core tenet for becoming successful, Mr Worrell acknowledged that young lawyers are always strapped for time as they juggle billable hours, clients, and cases with familial responsibilities.

As such, researching is critical to maximise networking opportunities and their benefits, he insisted.

“It starts with researching the events in your area,” he said.

“Consider the practice area that you work in and the types of clients that your firm already works with. Try and find bodies that align with that.”

This could be difficult for new lawyers, so Mr Worrell suggested that they lean on senior members of their team for recommendations on which bodies to join and events to attend.

Subsequently, lawyers could chart out what they would like to gain from these events, review the attendees’ list, and identify members with whom they should initiate conversations.

If the attendees are familiar to them, they could connect with them on LinkedIn or send an email beforehand to lay the foundation for a conversation, Mr Worrell said.

“The thing that separates a lot of people or sets them apart is the follow-up,” he said.

“It’s very easy to go to an event and have a quick conversation, get in, introduce yourself, do your elevator pitch and then walk away, and that’s the end of it. But follow up, add them on LinkedIn, send them a message, and that’s where the relationship can start. The first meeting is just the start of a very long relationship.”

Tag along with your seniors

Because the first few networking events could be intimidating for a junior lawyer, Mr Worrell suggested that they join senior members of their team to build their confidence before stepping out of their comfort zone and attending events on their own.

“The first networking event that I ever went to, I went alone and it was a very senior room,” he recalled.

“I walked in, and I was very clearly not the demographic that they were targeting, and it was extremely uncomfortable.”

Since then, Mr Worrell said he has become involved with bodies in Brisbane, like the Brisbane Junior Chamber of Commerce, to focus on creating “soft landing” opportunities for junior professionals to ease them into networking.

“The goal is to forge relationships, not win work,” he underscored.

“I think most people are quite confident and have the ability to forge friendships, and if that’s all you’re trying to do … that will make it much more comfortable.”

Mr Worrell concluded that if junior lawyers continue feeling uncomfortable at networking events after implementing these techniques, they may have to engage in critical reflection to pinpoint what makes them feel this way and attempt to specifically address them.

You can listen to Lochlan Worrell’s full Protégé Podcast here: