Even for extroverts, networking can be painful. Attorneys often enter rooms full of people we do not know. Without the right skills, these networking events can be a waste of potentially billable hours. Leslie Knope, the main character on the television series “Parks and Recreation,”1 can serve as inspiration for attorney schmoozing.
Leslie is a shameless public servant and deputy director for the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana. She is praised for her enthusiasm, energy and love of parks. Leslie makes connections and nurtures them. She knows that networking is more than a business activity; networking is developing friendships.
Throughout the show, Leslie networks her way up the political ranks through preparation, authenticity, following up, helping others and hard work. Attorneys can learn a thing or two from Leslie and her schmoozing capabilities.
Whether you are attending an industry event or professional group, you should prepare before you leave the house. Networking events can be jam-packed with people.
Is a guest list accessible before the event? Whom do you want to meet and why? Learn names and faces before you go. Research their backgrounds for common interests. This way, you can target particular people. In the process of pursuing your networking goals, you will meet others. A little preparation can go a long way.
Leslie Knope is the definition of “prepared.” Before a meeting, she considers every issue that may arise. She researches people before she meets them. She contemplates every hypothetical response before presenting her case.
In the first season of “Parks and Recreation,” Leslie developed a canvassing guide that her colleagues could use while doorbelling.2 The guide covered hypothetical scenarios in response to her push for support in turning a pit into a park. For example, if the community member was Jack Nicholson, Leslie’s guide suggested that the canvasser reference “A Few Good Men,” stating, “You can’t handle the pit! That’s why we need to turn it into a park.”3
Like Leslie, lawyers must always be prepared for action and know what to say. Preparation and research are important.
At a first introduction, do not present an inauthentic version of yourself. People can sense inauthenticity. Instead of “fake it until you make it,” find connections through dialogue. Ask your new connection about their interests in and out of work. Shared interests can include a legal practice area, sports, crafts or traveling.
During conversation, you will find commonality. The best part about networking is meeting new friends, which can only be achieved through authentic conversation. Be honest and respectful about things you like or dislike. Never hide who you are.
Leslie Knope knows the importance of authenticity and presenting her real self. Leslie is a whole-hearted optimist and her enthusiasm is contagious. In the second season, Pawnee was struggling financially and Ben Wyatt, a visiting state auditor, told Leslie that Pawnee could not sponsor the concert series normally hosted by the Parks Department.4
Applying her energy and enthusiasm, Leslie single-handedly planned the event and convinced vendors to donate their services for free. But, with no time to spare, the concert series lost its star performer. Wyatt came to the rescue and hired a replacement with his own money, in recognition of Leslie’s hard work and authentic passion. He only helped Leslie because she was trustworthy and presented her authentic self. Like Leslie, we should be authentic.
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