Networking is an essential part of a lawyer's professional marketing efforts. Freshly-minted attorneys may be interested in finding the most effective ways to network. While there are many different approaches out there, here are nine tips for new attorneys wondering where to start on building their network:
- Join a niche bar association
There are many great smaller bar associations, whether they are for women, minorities, are practice-specific, or have some other focus. Having a common connection and with a smaller group of people, it can be much easier to get to know people in the association, and likely much easier to feel comfortable getting involved in the association's activities.
An additional benefit of joining a niche bar association is that you can gain experience and knowledge in the specific focus area of the organization.
- Join a bar association committee and get active
Whether you opt for a larger bar association or a smaller niche organization, joining a committee within the organization has multiple benefits. First, it will help you get to know other members of the organization well. This provides you and the other committee members with an opportunity to get to know each other's abilities as you work on projects and events together. As a result, both you and the other members now have each other as a resource, whether that be for direct client referrals, questions about a practice area, or support as you enter various stages of your career.
Secondly, these connections can serve as recommendations, should you be successful in your work on the committee. Third, getting to know a group of people within an organization makes it far easier to attend the oft-dreaded networking events. You will already know people when you get to the event, it can be a topic that you discuss with people you just meet at the event, and a vehicle for recruiting other members to your committee. Fourth, the work that you do on the committee may not only be rewarding, but can also provide invaluable experience that can later translate into skills for a new job, as well as points of discussion when interviewing for a new position. Fifth, this work often leads to working with incredibly interesting people, including judges, legislators, or speakers.
Finally, in many organizations, working up to a leadership position on a committee can lead to a position as a director or officer of the board that governs the bar association. Board experience can include non-profit planning, corporate governance, accounting, newsletter publishing and editing, among other things, which can provide additional skills that may not otherwise be a part of an attorney's repertoire.
- Volunteer to help at the registration table for bar association events
This may sound trite but it really works. Sitting at the registration table as people arrive at an event that you have helped to organize is a very easy way to start up conversations with other attorneys. Later at the event, when people are mingling, yours is a friendly face that people will recognize and be easily approachable.
- Attend events that bring different professions together
Don't limit yourself to just networking events for attorneys. One of the best events that our women's bar association puts on every year is one that brings together women of many different professionals. This is an excellent way to expand your network beyond just attorneys.
- Listen and talk to people
As a corollary to tip 4, the idea of connecting to non-attorneys is not limited to organized events. In every walk of life, there are opportunities to connect with non-attorneys--through hobbies, volunteer work, even your children's school. When you talk to people, be a good listener and let them know what you do and what your area of practice is. They may remember you when the time comes that they, or someone they know, need an attorney.
- Participate in attorney email list service
I learned more from the trial attorney's email listserve on the actual practice of law than I did in law school. Practitioners shared their tips and experience on issues that faced many of the attorneys on the email list. And after gaining experience, if there is a topic that emerges on which you can contribute, do so!
- Follow up
After meeting someone, follow up with a phone call, email, or even LinkedIn. Thank them for their time, and provide your contact information. As appropriate, take an opportunity to develop that relationship, by meeting for lunch, asking a question about their expertise, send them information on something you discussed, or even sending that person a referral.
- Always conduct yourself professionally and courteously
It should go without saying that you should always conduct yourself professionally and courteously, regardless of the situation. Referrals may come not only from your contacts, but also from opposing counsel, an arbitrator, a mediator, even an opposing party. Performing well at all times, in a professional manner, should be a no-brainer.
- Do as much as you can early in your career!
There are some people who have boundless energy and can engage in significant networking for the entirety of their careers. Some people may enjoy it, even thrive on it.
For most people, as careers progress, responsibilities mount, and life changes occur, the reality is that time and energy are limited commodities. This makes it all the more important that you take advantage of the time and energy you have at the beginning of your career to build up your network. Because, whether you are male or female, whether you have kids or no kids, whether you go on to become a partner or not, or whether you have hobbies that you would rather be doing, networking may, by necessity or by choice, become less of a priority. If you have already put in the work in building your network by the time you reach these various crossroads, it will be much easier to be selective in your networking choices later in your career.