We’re all familiar with the saying “think outside the box.” That phrase came to mind recently when I stumbled across a pair of posts —Networking With People Outside of Your Industry , Harvard Business Review by Dorie Clark and Five Smart Reasons to Create Content Outside Your Niche (Hubspot.com, August 10, 2016) by Larry Kim — that speak to the benefits of marketing outside the box – or the narrow confines – of your industry, inner circle or niche, albeit in very different ways.
Clark’s piece focuses on the importance of networking with others outside of the usual suspects in your traditional networking circle – which for most lawyers, is comprised of…well, more lawyers. While forging relationships based on commonalities which builds “bonding capital” is more comfortable for most professional, Clark argues that developing bridging capital or relationships built across differences can pay off by opening the door to a wider range of opportunities.
Clark offers a few tips to start building bridges – and though the advice is intended for those employed by a company looking to make contacts outside, it applies equally to solos who can just as easily wind up equally confined to dealing with the same folks in the same bar organizations. These include catching up with past colleagues you’ve lost touch with, asking existing contacts for introductions to those in other industries and keeping at it for the long haul since you can’t predict who knows who or will wind up where.
Just as lawyers can network with others outside of their immediate circle, they can also write about topics outside their immediate niche, as Larry Kim recommends in his piece. Again, while some of Kim’s reasons for going outside a niche are relevant to writers only. For example, Kim says writing outside a niche can help reaching bigger audiences. But that’s not particularly helpful for lawyers if the audience is outside their target market as I learned from one of my most popular and unintended outside-my-niche post about whether to use designers working on spec . The post generated significant traffic from the design community but because I don’t practice in that area, it didn’t convert to business.
But Kim’s other reasons may resonate with lawyers. Writing on a different topic provides an opportunity to express yourself, plus you can shake things up a bit to keep your sanity. And you never know where an off-topic post may lead; my Above the Law column on a self-defense retainer plan for gun owners landed me a spot on the Daily Show (not to mention, a great photo for my website.
Of course, most lawyers are busy and don’t want to devote scarce hours to chasing leads outside of their comfort zone on the off-chance they might lead to something down the road. And that’s certainly a valid view. As for me, I continue to believe that the most wild and amazing successes of many solos’ careers happen by sheer accidents that will only come along if you’re willing to get out in the wider world .