By Peg Johnston • August 27, 2008•Firms and the Private Sector
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.