Networking Tips for Boosting Legal Careers

I’m doing OK in my current job, but I think I  need to expand my professional network so I can take my legal career to the next level. I’m not exactly the extroverted type and could use some advice on how to improve my networking know-how.

You’re right that better networking can be a boon to legal careers. However, you don’t need to have 500+ contacts on LinkedIn to get ahead. Whether you’re an introvert or the life of the party, quality trumps quantity when it comes to effective networking. It’s better to nurture a handful of solid professional relationships than to have hundreds of contacts you barely know and who can’t vouch for your work. Here are some ways to build a strong and mutually beneficial network:

  1. Get on social media. Take full advantage of the power of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the legal-specific sites like ConnectedSocial media offers an effective way to meet new people, stay in touch with classmates and former coworkers, and strengthen relationships with those you admire. If you belong to these sites but don’t do much with them, now is the time to upload a professional headshot, complete your profile and post comments. There are many legal networks and groups out there, so follow some that look interesting and then start interacting.
  2. Meet people in person. Virtual interactions are easy and valuable, but to really make your network work, nothing beats a face-to-face. Legal conferences and other industry events are beneficial for increasing your knowledge as well as expanding career opportunities by putting you in the same room as hundreds of other professionals. Although it may not come naturally to you, take the initiative to strike up conversations. If verbal give-and-take is not your forte, showcase your listening abilities by asking well-placed questions or making well-timed comments and letting the natural talkers have their say. These events also provide ideal settings to reconnect with old friends over coffee or lunch.
  3. Follow up. Don’t let the first time be the last time you communicate with someone new. After you meet people you’d like to add to your network, jot down something about them on a business card or in a mobile app, such as what you talked about and their particular interests. Within a few days, send a LinkedIn invite and even a quick email saying how much you enjoyed meeting them.
  4. Be a giver. Legal careers are built on active, reciprocal relationships. Ask for help when you need it, but also be generous. When a qualified former colleague or employee asks if you’d serve as a reference, say you would be happy to. Come across a cool job opportunity that seems just right for a friend? Write a quick message and share the link. Your network will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your actions will likely be repaid in kind.
  5. Increase in-house networking. Don’t forget to look inward when growing your professional circle. Unless you have a solo practice, get to know the people in your firm or company on more than a superficial level. Also let them get to know you. Ways to do that include attending company-wide social events, going out to lunch with coworkers and volunteering to be part of a pro bono team. Boosting your profile leads to all sorts of benefits, including better teamwork and more recognition for your skills.

A strong network won’t happen overnight. It takes steady work, self-initiative and occasionally venturing outside your comfort zone when the situation calls for it. But robust legal careers are built on quality relationships, so your extra effort to build a first-rate network will likely result in knowing the right people in the right places to help you get to where you want to be.

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