Old fashioned person-person networking is still the best way to cultivate relationships with other attorneys. Someday you will refer them cases and vice-versa. You might co-counsel a case with them. If they are opposing counsel, it could make a case that much easier (or tougher).
In-person networking, however, can be extremely difficult for some people. If you find yourself shying away from all networking events, try to figure out your comfort zone.
Going to lunch with someone you have never met can be weird and awkward. It can also be surprisingly awesome and result in a new contact for you.
If you cannot muster the gumption to network with unknowns, start with people you know. Meet them at restaurants that you are familiar with and enjoy. In other words, start with the basics. Hopefully, this will make you realize it is not nearly as bad as you think.
Schedule networking when you are at your best
I prefer networking over lunch. At the end of the day, getting energized to talk with random people is not at the top of my list. During lunch, however, I am usually in a good mood and generally interested in socializing with others. That, in turn, makes lunch a much more successful networking experience than happy hour.
If mid-morning coffee is your thing, try and schedule that. If happy hour (not including alcohol) makes you come out of your shell, go for it.
Attend events that you actually want to attend
I can remember going to events in law school that I had no interest in, but felt like I had to be there. This resulted in lots of staring at my watch and looking for quick exit. Not only was I annoyed I was there, I bet other people noticed that too. Not good.
There are probably certain events that you have to attend for whatever reason. Other than those, only go if you want to be there. Not being there is one thing, but creating a negative impression is not helpful.
Networking is certainly a skill—but you can better at it!