Our bar association schedules a number of great events every year. All of these events, whether dinners, seminars, or the picnic, provide all of us with the opportunity to meet and get to know our colleagues. Our events will only be successful if people come and take the time to talk and get to know each other. After many years, I recently realized that I have not been getting as much out of our events as I could be.
I was recently having a cup of coffee with a fellow attorney who I will call “John.” I’ve known John for as long as I’ve been a lawyer. In fact, we’ve often carpooled together to various events and have both been regulars at bar association dinners. Beyond the legal events, I always seem to run into John around town. From time to time, we’ll meet up to grab lunch or perhaps a drink at happy hour. I’ve referred him a few cases over the years. Some of those referrals have even called me to tell me what a great job John has done representing them. I certainly consider John a friend of mine.
During our recent meeting, we began sharing some recent war stories. John told me about a case that was outside his usual areas of expertise. Apparently, the litigation had not gone well for John’s client. Thinking that I’ve handled many cases like John’s, the first question I asked was, “Why didn’t you call me?” Even if I couldn’t handle the case, I’d certainly be willing to give a friend some pointers. After a few seconds of awkward silence, John gave me a number of excuses for why he didn’t call. Wasn’t my kind of case. Client couldn’t afford a big firm. Thought he could negotiate a quick resolution. Finally, the truth came out that John didn’t know I practiced in that area of law.
After all this time, this was absolutely the last answer that I was expecting to hear. Despite the fact that John could tell me what costume my daughter wore for Halloween, clearly, there was a communication gap. Over the years, as our relationship had evolved from business to personal, I had stopped telling him what I did. I took it for granted that he knew.
Bar Association functions provide a fantastic opportunity to meet people, and more importantly to talk with people. However, if discussion topics don’t go beyond commenting about the weather, or the recent Phillies/Eagles scores, then you’re missing out on developing professional and personal contacts that can last a lifetime. It is important to not only listen to what others have to say, but in our line of work, it is essential to take a moment and tell others what you do.
So, at the next Bar Association dinner, forgive me in advance if I take a few minutes to tell you about my practice and please don’t hesitate to tell me about yours.