A professional network can be a great asset to your legal career, and networking events are your way of building strong professional relationships. These events can provide a variety of opportunities for legal professionals, such as:
- Industry-specific speakers who can address topics directly related to your position or legal specialty.
- Roundtable events that provide open forums and discussions that might lead to new connections, as well as fresh directions.
- Opportunities to socialise with industry peers in a casual and relaxed atmosphere, where even those who may be uncomfortable networking will feel free to approach strangers.
- Educational conferences that can help expand your knowledge and escalate career growth.
When choosing a networking event to attend, ask yourself about your motivations for attending and what you hope to learn. Try to find out about the hosts, speakers and topics being covered. If you’re uncomfortable in large groups, choose a more intimate setting. Because the opportunities are likely to be widespread, particularly in an urban area, attend events that best suit your needs and preferences.
How to find the right networking events for you
If you’ve joined the legal sector via university, you’ve likely already met a number of people there who can serve as the foundation of your professional network, introduce you to their contacts, and inform you about networking events that they plan on attending. Law firms, particularly the larger ones, typically hold regular internal networking events and socials that help lawyers and their colleagues throughout the firm get to know one another.
But don’t confine your professional network to your own firm or office building. Professional networking events will allow you to identify those beyond your immediate peer group with whom you share interests. For example, The Law Society has a number of divisions to help lawyers who are living in a particular city grow their professional networks and branch out beyond their immediate comfort zones. Most areas have a Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) that provide educational as well as socialising opportunities for like-minded professionals, including lawyers unfamiliar with the area who want to make some new contacts.
Making the most of networking events – before you get there
Once you’ve found some networking events you’re interested in attending, go with an agenda and a strategy. There will likely be many opportunities for career advancement from people who don’t even know, but only if you lay some groundwork beforehand:
- Invite your current contacts to a get-together (hosted by you) prior to the event.
- Check out the speakers on LinkedIn to become more familiar with them, and send connection requests if you’re interested in getting to know them better.
- Review the agenda and if you notice that an important topic has been left out, contact the organiser and offer to fill in.
When attending a networking event, always have a plan. Decide what you want to achieve, the type of people you’d like to meet, temper your expectations and don’t overreach. And if you want to take it slow, never discount the value of annual repeating events. If you decide to attend just one networking event over the course of a year, just three or four contacts made there can means dozens over time – all from one single annual event.