I posted the following response to Robert Ambrogi’s thoughtful post about relationship-building for lawyers and wanted to continue the conversation here:
You raise a great point about rainmakers and networking. When it comes right down to it, personal relationships, well cultivated over time, will always pay off over the long run.
My experience is that historically speaking, many lawyers find business development uncomfortable despite the obvious benefits that Mark Beese lays out in his article. And we also know that most lawyers have had little training in the art of rainmaking in law school. But it makes me wonder how the “Facebook” generation of young lawyers, just joining the profession, will approach business development.
After all, they cut their teeth on social networking sites and are used to virtually communicating with wide swaths of friends and acquaintances using electronic social media. The Networks for Counsel blind research study that Leader Networks recently released (full disclosure…sponsored by LexisNexis) suggests that the majority of young lawyers today (67% between the ages of 25-35) already belong to a social network, and that almost 50% of those young lawyers want a professional network just for lawyers. The fact that so many attorneys are already online using and familiar with networking sites is validation that networks like the one we’re developing (Martindale-Hubbell Connected, in beta with right now) have the potential to offer value for the legal community, and that we can be confident that this generation will migrate to networks as a natural next step in their online networking life cycle.
Of course, social media sites are only tools to support relationships and collaboration. They are not a replacement for traditional relationship-building. The jury is still out as to whether young lawyers will actually be become better rainmakers because of the professional networking technology available to them.