In the legal profession, networking and building a referral base is incredibly important, almost as important as the legal work itself. While networking can seem like a daunting and sometimes uncomfortable feat, here are 6 tips and tricks to help young lawyers navigate this area:
- Take advantage of bar association opportunities. This could be as simple as joining and attending a committee meeting for an area of law you are focused on, or reaching out to a bar journal to find out how you can submit an article on a topic you are interested in. The more you put your name and face out there, the more your reputation will grow in the legal community.
- Be alert and always keep your business cards on you – you never know when you may get an opportunity to connect with a new, potential referral source. Strike up an interesting conversation with your Uber driver about his friend’s legal troubles? Give him your card. Talk with your hairdresser about her sister’s divorce woes? Give her your card. The opportunities are out there, you just have to remain vigilant.
- Connect with the senior attorneys in your firm and converse about their networking experiences. What worked well for them? What did not work? By hearing other perspectives, tips and tricks, you can craft your networking approach in a more direct and purposeful way. For instance, a partner suggested that I calendar the birthdays of former clients and their children. By remembering to send something as innocuous yet personal as a “happy birthday” email ensures that I remain relevant, and that client remains a referral source for years to come. In addition, senior attorneys can help connect you with other professionals, including expert referral sources, who may help tremendously during your practice.
- Join alumni associations connected with your law school or college. Most law schools or colleges will have their own chapters located in different cities throughout the country. These chapters offer unique opportunities to connect young professionals and other alumni through various networking, volunteering and other social events. Attending some of these events is a great way to build your network and profile with those who share a similar background and experience as you.
- Find a cause you are passionate in and start volunteering regularly. If you love animals, become a PAWS volunteer. If you are interested in battling homelessness for women in Chicago, join Deborah’s Place. Bottom line: there are countless opportunities for any interest. In addition, ask the organization if they have a Young Professional Board that you could take part in. This participation will inevitably connect you with other professionals, likely those outside of the legal profession, who can expand your network and potential referral base.
- Reputation is everything. Never post anything to social media (even if the account is private) if it could reflect poorly on you as a young professional. If a potential client or referral source were to google you, would you be comfortable with what they see? Bottom line: your online presence and reputation is just as important as your presence and reputation in real life.