Networking can seem like a daunting task at first. But once you learn to master the basics, you’ll find that networking can not only be enjoyable, but also invaluable in boosting your career opportunities.
Here are 5 networking tips for legal professionals:1. Build lasting relationships with your classmates
Perhaps the most obvious and easiest way to start building your network is by connecting with your fellow classmates.
By studying the same course, you and your classmates will inevitably share similar legal interests and be able to form instant bonds based on your like-mindedness and shared experience on the course.
And you don’t need to limit your network of classmates to those in your current course cohort. Utilise your school’s alumni network to expand your school network to include legal professionals from around the globe from a variety of disciplines. Queen Mary Online LLM graduates can join AFSIA, the Alumni and Friends of the School of International Arbitration.2. Research events to attend
The first step to successful networking is to do your research before you attend a networking event.
Find out which event is right for you. You can do this by speaking to your fellow law students, tutors or colleagues and getting recommendations based on your interests, or you can follow law firms and other organisations you’re interested in via social media to keep up-to-date with any relevant events.
Once you’ve found an event to attend, determine what you want to get out of the event. Look into attendees and speakers, and identify people you would like to meet. If there will be Q&A sessions or discussion panels during the event, prepare some questions in advance you’d like to ask panelists. Don’t forget to introduce yourself to the audience before asking your question.
3. Put yourself out there
As with most successes, being successful at networking events means stepping out of your comfort zone.
Don’t fall into the trap of sticking with your classmates or colleagues at a networking event. It might seem like the safe option, but it will leave you getting very little, if anything, out of the event you invested your time (and, in most cases, money) in. Networking events are all about putting yourself out there and meeting new people. Open up your networking potential by sitting next to people you don’t know when attending panel discussions and keynote presentations. Introducing yourself and sharing perspectives on what’s being discussed and presented is a great way to break the ice.
Another good tip is to spot any high people traffic areas during breaks, such as close to the bar or buffet table.
Don’t forget to keep your business card handy so you can exchange your contact details with any new people you meet during the event.4. Follow-up
Meeting new people at a networking event is a great start, but it’s important that you follow-up and engage with them to make the most out of your new connections.
If they’re in town, invite them out for a coffee or lunch meeting. Meeting new contacts face-to-face will create a more personalised, sincere, and meaningful connection than simply relying solely on emails. It will also leave them with a lasting impression of you – the ability to attach a face and personality to a name has a far greater impact than simply reading words in an email.
If they live too far away to make a face-to-face meeting feasible, then pick up the phone. It might not be as personal as a face-to-face interaction, but a phone call can still add a more personalised touch than an email can.
If you specifically discussed a job opportunity when you met at a networking event, then be sure to email them a copy of your CV with a short message referencing your conversation so that you can discuss the opportunity further. Even if you didn’t discuss a specific job opportunity, but you mentioned you’re interested in job opportunities within their organisation, you can still reach out with your CV and ask them to keep you in mind for any suitable opportunities that might become available.5. Utilise social media
Social media is an excellent tool for staying connected with legal professionals, law firms and legal career opportunities around the world.
LinkedIn is especially useful for legal professionals. By creating a detailed LinkedIn profile including your academic qualifications, experience, and client and/or employer recommendations and endorsements, you can be found and contacted by law firms looking for new talent. You can also follow any organisations you’re interested in to stay up-to-date with any relevant job opportunities they post.
LinkedIn is also a great tool for staying in touch with anyone you’ve met through the networking events you’ve attended. After each event, add any attendees that have given you their business card as a LinkedIn connection. Do this as soon as possible after the event, so you and your conversation will still be fresh in their minds.
Try to post something of substance (a short article) at least once a month, and share interesting posts on a weekly basis. When you post on social media make sure to use relevant hashtags and to tag people to improve your chances of your posts being viewed.
Queen Mary Online offers an online LLM in International Dispute Resolution that will connect you to a global network of like-minded legal professionals and expand your expertise in international dispute resolution.