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A future lawyer’s guide to networking

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By Ian Bond and Zoe Gillingham on

Burges Salmon trainees hit the ground at TEDxBristol in ‘DareToDisrupt’ networking challenge


Networking. That one word is enough to strike fear into the heart of many a trainee. But as we know, it’s a skill that must be conquered.

This is why when we were approached with a networking challenge we knew that we had to embrace the experience.

A few months ago, the firm announced its support of TEDxBristol as main sponsor. TEDxBristol is an independent, voluntary, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to creating thought-provoking and inspirational events and talks in Bristol.

This year’s theme was ‘DareToDisrupt’ and a perfect platform on which to launch our own ‘DareToDisrupt’ campaign. Our task was simple — talk to attendees, find out their ‘DareToDisrupt’ stories and share these across social media.

On Thursday 2 and Friday 3 November, we arrived at Colston Hall in Bristol for TEDxBristol 2017 armed with a whiteboard, our phones and some hashtags, ready to ask the crowds: “Why do you DareToDisrupt?” In total, eight Burges Salmon trainees took part in the challenge and together we posted 88 ‘DareToDisrupt’ stories across the Burges Salmon trainee Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Here we share with Legal Cheek the five things that we learned about networking at TEDxBristol.

1. Be prepared

Understand the event and know your reason for being there. Set your intention — what do you want to achieve? Are you hoping to understand more about a business or industry, do you need to find out some specific information or is it just an occasion to practise your networking skills?

Ahead of TEDxBristol, the firm’s marketing team briefed us on our task. They introduced us to the ‘whiteboard’ concept — we would be door-stepping delegates to capture their ‘DareToDisrupt’ stories on the board, snapping that in a photo, then posting it to Twitter and Instagram in order to promote the event. For our part, we knew the programme, the theme of the event and why we ‘DareToDisrupt’ — we were prepared to share our stories in order to encourage others to share theirs.

Our role was clear and our approach was structured. This meant that we arrived at the venue ready to engage with those around us and be immediately active on social media.

2. Get stuck in

Naturally, lawyers being desk-based animals, the idea of having to go and speak to strangers in a non-legal, open environment is daunting. When we arrived at the venue there was the natural hesitation of going up and speaking to people. But, much like speaking up in a tutorial or at a meeting, once the initial foray was made it was much easier to be involved. We found working in pairs effective, as we were able to adapt who was to lead the conversation in order to maintain momentum during the day.

3. Accept that not everyone will want to talk to you

We would be lying if we said that everyone immediately warmed to us. They did not. Some may have even visibly recoiled… It might have been the enormous whiteboard that we were carrying but people on their own were far less likely share their story with us.

Not everyone wants to ‘network’ and part of the skill is in reading your audience.

Despite it being contrary to instinct, approaching groups rather than individuals proved far more successful with at least one person usually happy to speak up.

4. Use informal events to practise

TEDx’s agenda of making great ideas accessible and sparking conversation meant that it attracted a diverse group of people, many of whom were comfortable to take part in discussions. This made our task of networking possibly far more straightforward than if we were at a formal event.

Our advice would be to make the most of such events as these are great places to improve on networking skills and gain confidence in a relaxed environment.

5. Networking is tiring

The buzz you get from engaging with so many interesting people is not to be underestimated. Neither is how tiring a full day of networking actually is! Buoyed by the good-feeling of having heard so many interesting stories, we were adamant we’d be off to the pub for a celebratory drink to follow our success. Not so — we were all exhausted by 5.30pm. Having carried an over-sized whiteboard up and down numerous flights of stairs, and spoken to lots and lots of people, when the delegates left after the last speaker finished we also made our way to the exit for home.

Finally, we wanted to share examples of some of the people that we met and were willing to share their story about why they ‘DateToDisrupt’ at TEDxBristol 2017.

Amberli Hartwell’s story struck a chord with us as we were definitely outside our comfort zone.

Alan Bec is Fellowship Councillor for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Commerce and Manufacturing in the South West, a member of the International Time Perspective Network, member of the Spiritualist National Union and a husband, father and grandfather. Oh and one of the TEDxBristol speakers!

This gentleman was a networker’s dream and approached us first. Thank you!

TagMeIn is all about inspiring people and aiding them through life.

Protecting our planet was a key theme throughout the event.

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