Building Your Network: 6 Tips for Expanding Your Reach

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Networking is one of the most important skills for legal professionals, according to Networking helps legal professionals build and maintain their professional connections with clients, colleagues, and potential employers, which are crucial for success.

These tips can help you build your network and expand your reach:

Make Connections with Other Legal Graduates from Your School

Two law professionals network.
Image via Flickr by flazingo_photos

Your law school can be an excellent source of networking because, as university dean Fiona Trevalyan Hornblower told Delece Smith-Barrow of U.S. News & World Report, the experience you shared with your contemporaries and other graduates forges an instant bond. Contact your alma mater to learn about upcoming networking events and mentoring opportunities. You could also find people who attended your law school via social media platforms.

While you can make connections with past classmates after graduation, pursuing a graduate level legal education offers another opportunity to network. The University of Southern California Gould School of Law helps connect its students with 10,000 law school alumni across the globe. Approximately a quarter of its graduates are international students, according to the USC Gould School of Law website, thus it can be an excellent way to expand your network beyond the United States. Additionally, student organizations including the Armed Forces Law Society, Armenian Law Students Association, and Black Law Students Association all provide networking opportunities.

Mingle With People You Don’t Know at Networking Events

Kaziah Howard, Society 54’s director of business development, wrote for JD Supra that many lawyers feel they don’t get the results they expected from networking events. She believes this is because many lawyers don’t mingle enough with unfamiliar people. They sit with their colleagues and remove themselves from the event to take phone calls and check emails. This behavior limits networking potential because it closes lawyers off from new contacts.

Howard encourages lawyers to sit with unfamiliar people at networking events and use the opportunity to connect. If your law firm buys a table and you know everyone at it, you can strategically position yourself in high traffic areas like the bar and buffet. Speak to anyone unfamiliar, regardless of his or her position. While you should be discerning with your time, remember that people in entry-level positions may connect you to other valuable additions to your network.

Hand Out Business Cards

Business cards may seem old-fashioned in the digital world, but the Above the Law blog suggests there are several reasons to keep a stack of cards for distributing to new contacts. The blog explains that the act of giving out a card demonstrates you’re prepared to make a new connection.

Handing out a business card is also an excellent way to end a conversation, according to Emma Spitz, a director at the Executive Coaching Consultancy writing for The Lawyer. Ending a conversation can be difficult, but it’s crucial for ensuring that you and your contact make the most of an event’s networking opportunities. You should aim to get to know as many people as you can to make sure your professional network grows.

The act of handing out a business card also encourages your new contact to reciprocate and give you their card, according to Above the Law. Even if your business card does languish in a circular file, your new contact’s card doesn’t need to. You can follow up with an email indicating how nice it was to forge the connection. This will help your connection grow.

Seize Networking Opportunities in Your Daily Life

You needn’t wait for a networking event to practice your networking skills. In the article “Networking Tips for Lawyers,” FindLaw reminded readers that every day presents networking opportunities. Even something as simple as waiting for your coffee puts you among unfamiliar people who could become valuable contacts. This article encourages lawyers to seize these opportunities and talk to people around them.

The article also states that the modern habits of spending time checking emails and browsing social media is at odds with networking. While you’re looking at your phone and furthering connections with people you already know, you could miss the opportunity to form a connection with someone new.

Don’t Forget About Social Media

While using social media when you’re away from the office can close you off to real-life networking opportunities, this channel shouldn’t be dismissed. Social media channels can be valuable ways for lawyers to connect with others in their field and maintain these connections.

Katie Miller, the president of the Law Institute Victoria, says 85 percent of lawyers have social media profiles. She adds that most of these attorneys use LinkedIn, making it the most valuable social media channel for legal professionals. You should add people who’ve given you their business cards to your LinkedIn profile to monitor their careers and stay in touch, she suggests.

FindLaw also advocates the use of LinkedIn for lawyers keen to grow their networks. It stresses the importance of creating a complete, detailed profile. This should have an attractive photo and testimonials from some of your satisfied clients. These client recommendations can be more persuasive than your own words about your success.

FindLaw encourages lawyers to post daily updates to their LinkedIn profile for improved search engine optimization. Hari Prasanna, SlideShare’s engineering manager, suggests writing about your observations and experiences as a lawyer, your successes and failures (including the lessons you’ve learned from them), your career inspirations, and your reflections on news in your field.

Become a Professional Speaker

Casey C. Sullivan, Esq., writing for Strategist, noted the way people tend to rush to talk to the speakers at the end of any professional engagement. Rather than being one of those people waiting to connect to the speaker, he encourages lawyers wanting to network to become speakers themselves. You could contact your favorite conferences and ask whether they need any speakers or join a professional organization, like the Executive Speakers Bureau, to find speaking engagements.

Pursuing an advanced legal degree like an online LLM can help expand your networking opportunities and deepen your legal knowledge.

Recommended Reading:

Key skills for solicitors and barristers
What to Know About Networking as a Law Student
Student Organizations
Networking Done Right – 9 Simple Steps for Lawyers
Networking, Law Student Style
5 Best Ways to Network, When You Don’t Want to Network
Executive Speakers
8 tips for networking
Networking Tips for Lawyers
A lawyer’s networking guide for dummies (that’s me)