The Asshole’s Guide to Networking

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Are you an asshole? If so, you’re likely moving backward as you make an effort to build your professional network. Your business isn’t growing; it’s shrinking.

Being an asshole myself some of the time, I’m entitled to talk to my fellow assholes. Yep, it’s in the club rules. Feel free to check, asshole.

I’m a big advocate of networking to build your practice. That’s why I created a networking course.

But networking isn’t for everyone.

  • If you’re an asshole and you go to bar association activities to meet people, you’re not growing your practice: you’re shrinking it.
  • If you’re an asshole and you go to the Chamber holiday party, you’re not attracting new clients: you’re alienating them.
  • If you’re an asshole and you talk to the other parents at the kid’s baseball game, you’re not growing your business: you’re growing the business of your competitor.

Look, being an asshole is the reality for some of us. In fact, many count being an asshole as an asset in the practice of law. I’ve certainly seen some assholes come out on top in court.

Trust me: if you’re an asshole, you’re not alone. And there are things you can do to grow your practice. Being an asshole is not a lawyering disqualifier (says Captain Obvious).

I’ve had lawyers come to me after taking my course and explain that it’s not working for them. They’re taking people to lunch. They’re getting to know people, and people are getting to know them. But they’re not getting referrals. They want to know what’s wrong.

Being an asshole myself, I was amused at the thought that I could just tell them they were assholes and that’s why it wasn’t working. It’s not my course, it’s you, I’d explain.

But then, interestingly, I realized that it was true. Some people who take my course, implement my approach, and do exactly what they’re told aren’t growing their practices. Being an asshole really is an impediment when it comes to networking.

That’s when I realized that some lawyers shouldn’t network (except maybe with their own kind).

A Three-Step Marketing Plan for Assholes

Networking isn’t the only marketing tactic. It’s not for everyone. There are other approaches to building the practice of your dreams. Networking may have the highest return on investment of any marketing tactic, but it’s only marginally more effective than some alternatives.

Here’s my three-step plan for confronting the asshole problem. Here’s what you can do if you’re worried that you’re turning more people off than on.

  1. Assessment. Are you really an asshole, or are you deciding that you’re an asshole as a convenient way of avoiding confronting your social phobia, your lack of motivation, or your fear of rejection? Talk to some friends and be honest. Get some feedback. If you have no friends (and, of course, that’s corroborating evidence, right?), then talk to a psychologist and have him or her perform an asshole battery of tests (joking, there is no such test), but he or she can help you figure it out.
  2. Measurement. Look at your efforts thus far and count the referrals. If you’ve been out to lunch 100 times in the past year and aren’t getting results, you need to figure out what’s happening. Look hard at your lunch dates. Are they referring to others? Do you offer something no one needs? Are you failing to follow up every few months with your referral partners? If you’re not getting results, then something is amiss.
  3. Action. If you’re not getting results and you’ve determined that you’re an asshole, then switch approaches. What about a blog? (Clearly, that works for assholes, this blog being Exhibit A.) What about fleshing out your website with some serious content? (Can you say 10 comprehensive articles of 10,000 words each?) What about advertising on Google AdWords? What about an amazing YouTube channel? Networking is not the only avenue to a thriving practice.

It’s important to know ourselves. It’s valuable to be realistic. It’s useful to use what we bring to the table in the highest and best way. Play to your strengths. Don’t expend unnecessary energy trying to fix your weakness.

If you’re an asshole now and have been an asshole for a long time, then networking probably isn’t the tactic you should employ. Go in a different direction. Use a tactic where being an asshole is a strength. Write a book, make videos, advertise, blog, send letters to the editor, give commencement addresses, or make funny memes. Being an asshole needn’t stop you from having a great practice.

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