A guide to networking for law professionals

Looking to climb the legal career ladder? The best lawyers in the business all have one thing in common: a vast and diverse professional network. Luckily, the qualities that make a good lawyer and a strong networker are not too different: both need to be confident public speakers as well asattentive listeners.

They also both must be able to quickly build a rapport with a perfect stranger. In truth, the art of networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone: it’s a skill that is perfected over time. Master it and your journey to the top will be greatly facilitated.  Whether you’re a budding law graduate or a qualified solicitor, growing your professional network should be a key priority. But where to begin?

1.     Building brand you

Before you dive headfirst into a deep pool of professionals, take some time to consider how you want to be perceived by your peers. Networking can play a pivotal role in bolstering your reputation, but you don’t want to be known for the wrong reasons. This advice is applicable to your online persona just as it is with your physical appearance: you wouldn’t want to approach an industry hotshot with some salad stuck in your teeth, but you shouldn’t start conversations without cleaning up your online presence either.

Personal branding is ultimately about how we make people feel about being around or working with us; it is the unique attributes that make us memorable after a conversation has ended. In order to understand and subsequently build on your personal brand, you must take stock of your skills, experience and interests. From here, you can determine the unique offering you present as a legal professional and which qualities to highlight to new contacts.

2.     Perfecting your elevator pitch

Picture the scene: you’re on your way to an industry event, and you happen to catch the lift to the floor that it’s being held with a well-renowned legal professional. You have 30 seconds to make a lasting impression: so, what do you say? Can you paint an attractive picture of your skills, experience and interests in 30 seconds? How will you express your personal brand eloquently? While salespeople must always be familiar with their “elevator pitch”, legal professionals are typically not as well-trained in this hyper-short interaction.

A strong elevator pitch should include three things: relevant background information such your education and experience, a summary of your career interests and an intelligent question that throws the ball back into the court of your new contact. Above all, remember to be clear and concise and try to cut down on any unnecessary “waffle”.

3.     Leveraging social media

As well as taking advantage of industry events and opportunities in the wild, lawyers looking to expand their network should delve into digital channels such as LinkedIn, where a swathe of professionals collect to catch up on industry news and views. While it may not feel as impactful as a face-to-face conversation, building a profile with both potential clients and useful contacts via social media will play in your favour if you commit time to it.

For those anxious about the elevator pitch, perfecting your social profile should prove much easier – but remember, it’s not a one-and-done exercise. If you are to grow your professional network, you must increase your visibility by taking part in relevant online discussions; you must engage with your connections, not just let them collect dust. The point of social networking is – you guessed it – networking, so neglecting this opportunity will only slow your progress.

4.     Following up

Networking isn’t about building contacts. It’s about planting seeds and nurturing them with care so they can grow to reach their potential. Professionals across all disciplines are guilty of turning a bag full of business cards into a hearty meal for the paper-shredder by failing to follow up. If this sounds familiar, you shouldn’t really be asking the question of how to grow your network: the opportunity is there, but you must make an active effort to communicate with your new-found contacts and start building a meaningful relationship.