Part I in Series: A Junior Associate’s Networking Plan

This is the first part of a multi-part series where I will lay out my creatively-titled "Junior Associate Networking Plan" for your information, criticism and suggestions. I am writing this series because I have found the task of figuring out what a junior associate can and should be doing to build her professional network to be a little daunting and that is perhaps because there is no way to know how much effort one should put into it or where one should dedicate that effort.  I do not claim to have the right answers or be implementing the perfect plan.  Instead, I hope to share my plan with Ms. JD readers with explanations and pros & cons and then hear from others on what they are doing and/or what I should be doing.

A little background to set the stage for this series.  As you may know from my earlier posts, I am a junior associate in the corporate department of a large national law firm, where I have my sights set on making partner some day.  I have little "free time" on my hands.  I am a little compulsive about making the most of the time that I do have.  Some may say that I am overly goal-oriented and/or too ambitious.

So here are the multiple steps (conveniently it is 7!) to my Junior Associate Networking Plan (or the "planks to my platform" to keep with the current highly political tones to society these days):

1.  American Bar Association

2. Local Bar Associations/Women's Bar Associations/Ms. JD

3.  Law School Network and Alumni Groups

4.  Community Involvement

5.  Pro Bono

6.  Online Networking (Facebook/LinkedIn)

7.  Local Industry Groups

Let's start with the American Bar Association. 

According to it's website it is the "largest voluntary professional association in the world" with "over 400,000 members".    I, like many others, joined the ABA as a law student in order to get the reduced rates at PMBR.  I've stayed a member, mostly out of convenience and a sense that all lawyers are and should be members but also because I feel like the benefits outweigh the costs.  The firm pays for my membership and this organization seems to be the one organization that just about any employer will pay for you to be a member of.

What are the benefits? 

  • High name recognition.  As I said, it seems to be the group that you should join if you are a practicing lawyer.  With that said, I seriously doubt that my membership is a factor for potential or existing clients.
  • Member discount programs from companies like Hertz and Dell.  I haven't taken advantage of these but knowing they are out there is nice.  I actually checked into the Hertz discount for a recent vacation but found a better deal through an on-line travel agency.
  • CLE.  I think this is a great benefit for those attorneys that have to find and pay for their own CLE credits.  I do not, so have not, used this benefit.
  • ABA Journal -- actually a pretty decent publication.  Most months I find something really interesting and relevant.
  • Specialty Sections.  This is perhaps the best part of membership.  I am a member of the business law section and the young lawyers division  The business law section has a regular magazine-type publication and also has a journal called The Business Lawyer.  The young lawyers division has a newsletter that is often very good.  Also, I recently received the book titled "The 101 Practice Series: Breaking Down the Basics".  This book, published by the YLD, is perhaps the best young lawyers guide that I have found - and I've read a bunch of them.  In fact, I may do a separate post on this little book in the future because I think it is really great.
  • Meetings, Events, Conferences, Symposium, Initiatives.  I haven't participated in this stuff yet.  But, the fact that they are plentiful is a good sign.  I have heard that the ABA programs are pretty good and a good way to network with lawyers with similar interests.

What are the costs?  Well, because I don't pay the membership dues the only real cost that I see is the cost of being associated with a group that has pretty liberal policy positions.  The ABA has come under some criticism in the past for being too left leaning, sometimes in areas that have little to do with matters of concern to the profession.  I do think that this cost is outweighed by the large membership and credibility of the organization.  The ABA is about as mainstream as a lawyer can get so I think the chance of having the group's policy positions imputed to you just because you're a member seem pretty low to me.

How does this fit into my networking plan?  In a very small way actually.  I use the ABA to keep up on legal trends.  I advertise that I am a member on my biography at the firm. I carry my membership card around in my wallet.  Further than that, I think it is just too large and too national of an organization to be something that is critical to my Junior Associate Networking Plan.  It's a small piece and I spend 0 hours a month on this part of my plan.

Stay tuned for Part II where I will discuss the next step in my Junior Associate Networking Plan.



 I enjoyed reading your post. I just wanted to add a few thoughts about my personal experience with the ABA.  In addition to the benefits you note in your post, there are numerous other benefits for young attorneys such as leadership positions, publication of articles, and mentorship.  I have found that if you want to take on a leadership role, the various committees within the substantive sections are more than willing to help you get involved.  The experience gained from these leadership positions, as well as the title to add to your resume, are valuable. 
 There are unlimited opportunities to write articles for the committees’ newsletters. While not widely distributed, these newsletters are a good way to get your name to an audience that is in the same field of practice as yourself.  And there are other opportunities to write for larger ABA publications, such as a section’s larger section-wide publication. 
 Another benefit is mentorship.  While not a formal program, I have found several attorneys who I would consider mentors.  They have helped me navigate the ABA and have provided insight and advice. They are always willing to meet for coffee or lunch even if it does take a few weeks to schedule it. 
  For young lawyers, as you noted, there is the Young Lawyers Division. Other substantive sections also have young lawyer-focused committees, such as the Section of International Law’s Young Lawyers Interest Network and the Section of Environment, Energy and Resources’ new committee, the Young Lawyers Forum, a committee that I co-chair.  Some sections have committees focused on women, such as the Section of International Law’s Women’s Interest Network of which I am chair. 
 I am looking forward to reading the rest of your series on networking. 
 Jennifer Wills  

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