Say you attend a cocktail party or some other meet-and-greet occasion. Someone learns you practise law. You are asked for advice. How should you deal with that?
To start with, I don’t give advice, except legal advice. And then, only at the office. Even doctors don’t give free medical advice at a cocktail or reception. And dentists don’t extract teeth over wine and cheese, either.
At parties, no one wants (or needs) advice. They want validation, confirmation, acknowledgement. Even when they’re asking for advice – they’re not, really.
So with that in mind, I offer only a few ‘suggestions’, from my own experience:
- You don’t have to go. Unless you really have to, that is. If you really have to go, leave early.
- Don’t drink alcohol. You need your wits about you when you present to others, even socially. “What you say can and will be used against you”.
- Some decades ago I was CBA President. I had to go to a lot of rubber chicken dinners/wine and cheese/cocktail receptions. My rule of thumb: watch when people start to get into their second drink; leave when they start to get to the end of that second drink – nothing good is going to happen after.
- Yes, bring your business cards. But more importantly, focus on getting cards from others you meet – and following up next day with a hand-written card (see my earlier post on this subject).
- If someone asks you what you do, don’t say “I’m a lawyer at XYZ”. That’s bland, boring, and ego-centric. For example, me? “I help people win at the Supreme Court of Canada”. Have a tag line handy that best presents the essence of what you offer.
- Get up to date with the news before you go. You can appear knowledgeable when you discuss current events. And this allows you to switch to a topic apart from the advice you don’t want to give.
- Last, don’t be seen/heard answering your cellphone or reading e-mails or texts. This sends the message you have more important things to do than be with who you’re with (whether the individual, or the group). You send this same message even when you’re off in a corner checking your smart phone – not smart.
by Eugene Meehan, QC, Advocacy Club Presenter
Eugene’s email: email@example.com