Dear (firstname, fallback=Colleague) -
During my Thanksgiving visit to London for presentations at the London School of Economics and at BigHand’s annual user conference about Transformative Technology and the Innovative Law Firm, I had the chance to meet Richard Susskind, the famed author of The End of Lawyers? As we concluded our discussion, I asked him for any advice he could share about expanding my writing and speaking in 2012. He smiled and said: “Be bold.”
I have spent much of the past two months considering the meaning of boldness, both personally and professionally. The idea intimidates me, but also reminds me of trying to meet Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1996 while working in the Office of Foreign Missions during my second summer of law school.
I simply walked into his office suite and asked his assistant whether he was free. Our conversation went something like this:
"Hi, I'm Ari Kaplan, is the Secretary available?"
"Who are you?"
Signature smile. [A cross between Seinfeld's Kramer and Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura]
"Yes, I'm Ari Kaplan, I work here."
Badge connected to the traditional Washington, DC silver ball chain hanging from my neck swings proudly.
"Who?" [A common repeat question in the sitcom that is my life.]
Less confidently, "Ari Kaplan."
She stands with authority.
She walks away.
I can't believe this is going to work. What a great story. Why are these people watching me?
She returns. "I'm sorry the Secretary is busy."
Undeterred. "I just want to introduce myself; I work here."
Unpersuaded. "I'm sorry."
Dejected. I walk away.
The nearby guard enjoying the dialogue asks: "Where are you from?"
"Brooklyn," I respond.
"You've got chutzpah, kid."
For the record, chutzpah alone is not enough.
I am convinced that if I had any reason whatsoever for requesting that meeting with Mr. Christopher, even something like interviewing him for the GW Law School newspaper, that exchange would have been different.
I am going to try to be more thoughtful about the basis for my meeting requests this year. Here is an example of how technology can provide it for you.
Last week, I noticed that that a few people had recently viewed my LinkedIn profile. (Do you ever look at this feature? It is free and can be very valuable.) One of them was the director of marketing for a legal technology company. I do a significant amount of ghostwriting for companies in this area and the head of marketing is often my closest contact. Since LinkedIn already showed me that there was interest, I called and asked if he wanted to meet at the Legal Tech New York conference, where my annual survey of corporate counsel is the subject of a panel discussion on Tuesday. We had a great conversation and scheduled a meeting for next week. Before hanging up, he said: "I hope we can find a way to work together; I have seen your writing."
Thank you, LinkedIn. Thank you, Mr. Susskind. Perhaps another time, Mr. Secretary.
Wishing you the very best,