Most people entered 2020 with high hopes and big dreams. It was a new decade, a milestone year, the gateway to the future. Then, the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to our plans. We were locked down and left out, wondering how we would keep relationships alive, let alone make new connections.
Now that we’ve gotten more comfortable with an increasingly virtual world, we can refocus our ambitions and leverage tools that were seemingly made for this moment. The following tips can help you connect while physically distancing, as well as support your professional networking and personal branding goals over the long term.
Ease in with Facebook Groups
A search of Facebook will lead you to “Networking for Law Students,” which is a quick and easy place to start your online legal networking practice. Conduct additional searches for “law student groups” and “networking for lawyers” to bring up dozens of other pages you can follow and engage with. Of course, you should be careful with what you share and diligent in vetting any information you see.
Build Your LinkedIn Presence
Law360 reminds LinkedIn users to start at the beginning — ensuring that you have a complete profile including experience, education, pro bono work and more. Use a headline that features keywords which will allow you to appear in targeted search results and post a recent professional photo. Deploy relevant hashtags too. They can help you pick up more followers.
Legal marketing powerhouse JD Supra, which has built a reputation as a resource for expert content, also published an article on how to increase your LinkedIn connections while social distancing. Useful tips include joining industry groups that align to your professional interests, as well as the alumni groups of the companies you have worked for and the schools you have attended.
The piece also recommends viewing your friends’ connections and inviting them to join your network. Consider adding family and friends if you haven’t already. It is also a good practice to connect with anyone who follows you or responds to content you post.
The American Bar Association’s Student Division, “Before the Bar,” challenges law students to make multiple contacts on LinkedIn each day. That means sharing articles from people you admire, commenting on status updates from your network and even asking for a virtual meeting with contacts you’d like to get to know better. Also look on other platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, to see if any of the groups you belong to or people you follow have a presence there.
Attend Virtual Conferences
Early 2020 saw hurried activity as professional associations and organizations canceled their in-person events. As the pandemic lingered, events transformed into virtual meet-and-greets complete with keynote speakers and breakout sessions. Attendance costs became more affordable without hotel and travel fees.
For students, many conferences will offer special rates for attendance. A virtual conference allows law students to attend a number of different sessions on different topics. Fill in your knowledge gap by attending sessions on topics you may not be exposed to in your current classes. Be an active participant where possible and make sure you remember the information for speakers and attendees to use for connecting on platforms like LinkedIn.
There has also been a trend toward free seminars and webinars, which can be valuable networking outlets for lawyers. Many of these events end with a sales pitch to buy into a program, download a book or pay to join a private online group, but don’t let that dissuade you. Depending on the format of the event, you may be able to make new connections with other attendees. At the least, you can discover and explore ideas about how to expand your brand or your business.
Create Your Own Events
The Harvard Business Review suggests creating your own private legal networking events, inviting a handful of professionals that you would like to know better. These could be people who were scheduled to appear at canceled events, leaders from your alma mater and/or colleagues with whom you may have lost touch. Choose to meet separately or collect attendees from different places for a virtual meeting on common areas of interest.
Develop a Blog or Vlog
Find a voice for yourself and others who are having a collective experience during COVID-19. Create a blog (or video blog) for networking with lawyers or law students who are having the same challenges you are. Write with a shared understanding of how work and life have changed, and what you are doing to transform to a new normal.
The Student Lawyer shares tips on how to build a following as a credible authority with a strong foundation for future career growth. Tips include what kind of topics to share, how to optimize your posts to be found by search engines and more.
As for video blogging, it doesn’t cost much to set yourself up with a tripod for your smartphone and a ring light for professional lighting. You can also use your webcam, but you might find that your phone offers better resolution, filtering options and controls. There will be a learning curve as you become more familiar with recording and editing tools, but you won’t necessarily have to contend with the nerves that can come with public speaking.
Once you create content on your blog or vlog, share it on your Facebook groups, post it on your LinkedIn page, and add it to your Twitter and Instagram accounts. You can also send the links via email to people who you know will be interested.
Never Stop Learning
Don’t forget to continue to read works from the great legal minds you admire while you are busy building an audience of your own. You never know what might spark a new idea or inspire your passion. Take advantage of every opportunity that emerges and consider other networking opportunities offered through your education provider — like your Online LLM degree program.