I had lunch yesterday with an old friend, Clare Murray. I say old friend as that’s how she described me afterwards in a tweet:
Terrific lunch today at 1 Lombard with old friend @bookmarklee
It did seem as if we were old friends and yet we met originally in 2001 in a professional capacity and have simply said hello a few times at meetings of the APP over the years. I think this was actually our first substantive conversation lasting more than 5 minutes since 2001.
I mention it on this blog because Clare displayed so many positive attributes of a good networker – that I think it’s worth using the lunch as a textbook example of ‘how to do it’. We’ve all had occasions where a business lunch has been a struggle. This one wasn’t – not for me, nor I think for her.
Let me tell you a little about Clare first. She’s the managing partner of a niche law practice based in Canary Wharf – CM Murray LLP. Earlier this year she had her first baby and took about 4 months off work. She lives close to the office, with her husband and evidently loves her work. Prior to setting up her practice Clare qualified at a leading national law firm and was subsequently a partner in a City law firm particularly recognised for its employment and partnership law expertise.
So what did Clare do that so wowed me yesterday?
- Encouraged me to talk about me before I could get her to talk about her. Ok, I made it easy for her! But she seemed genuinely interested in the story of my career since we last talked properly in 2001. She asked open questions, expressed concern and interest and evidenced her legal skill; friendly, professionally and easily.
- Responded openly when I asked about how she’d come to set up the practice a few years ago. She avoided the trap we sometimes fall into – she gave me no sales spiel. This was casual chat between ‘old friends’ who were catching up.
- Even though Clare had invited ME to lunch (actually her PA had emailed me to find a good date), when we moved to business issues her first question was about what she could do for me. She didn’t start by asking me how I could help her.
- When I asked Clare about her practice she told me about it in a really positive, enthusiastic and engaging way. I learned about her lateral hires, the team spirit, the extra talent and spark she looks for in potential recruits and the types of clients they act for. All very matter of fact. I was genuinely interested as it sounded different to many other employment lawyers I’ve spoken with. Let’s see what I can remember 6 hours later (when I’m typing this):
- A focus on high level executives in the city banks based in and around Canary Wharf. CM Murray were the first niche practice in the area (it’s why they located there);
- Expertise and a focus on advising the UK subsidiaries of US corporations on employment related matters; and
- Specialist knowledge and expertise in partnerships and LLPs
- Of course CM Murray has expertise in more areas than this but Clare seemed to know, instinctively I think, that there is little point in talking about everything you can do over lunch. The same is true at networking events. How much can one person remember – especially about someone they’ve just met? So far as i can recall, Clare focused on just 3 key memorable niches and added that the firm also does a lot of work with SMEs too. As I explained though – everyone works with SMEs. That acronym describes 99.9% of all businesses in the UK.
- When I asked what I could do to help her, Clare picked up on something I’d said earlier in the conversation (so she had been listening) and asked if I could think of any niche accountancy firms based in or near to Canary Wharf, City or central London who also have a focus on the same sort of clients as her – especially the UK subsidiaries of US corporations. Maybe they could collaborate and travel to the US to promote their practices together. We also joked about finding a way for her to expand her practice into her home town of Newcastle where her parents still live. But that’s more of a long term dream.
- We also talked about social media for professional advisers, my paid for talks on the subject, twitter (see @BookMarkLee @CMMurrayLLP and @ClareMary), blogging and holidays in Italy. Oh, and she inspired an amusing thought which will shortly appear on the Accountant jokes and fun blog.
Our lunch lasted almost two hours. The time flew by. It did feel as if we were old friends. I have a couple of things I promised to do by way of follow up. This blog post was NOT one of them. But as the day wore on I was reflecting on how enjoyable our lunch had been. I decided to share my positive feelings and, hopefully, in so doing, help others who may struggle with business lunches. I don’t think I’ve ever felt inspired to do this before. And I doubt I’ll do it again.
By the way I’ve now checked back to CM Murray’s website. My recollection wasn’t bad. In fact I now realise that during our conversation Clare spoke about the firm’s experience in dealing with the following as well as partnership issues and business immigration law:
- Board room disputes
- Executive bonus and departure issues
- Senior executive appointments and service agreements
- Expatriate and international secondment arrangements and disputes
- Large scale redundancy programmes
There’s another lesson. It’s unwise to expect the people with whom we network to remember all we say to them at meetings or over lunch. Despite my best intentions I still could not recall accurately the specialisations that Clare mentioned over lunch – or maybe I did and her descriptions were more focused than the wording on the website. Reading it now I do recall Clare mentioned them all. But I think she wisely summed them up into pretty much what I summarised earlier.
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