By Ingrid Evans • January 16, 2020•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector
Networking tends to be an over-worked cliché in many professions, and perhaps most of all in ours. But the truth is that strong professional networks are a real blessing for lawyers, especially lawyers in small firms or solo practices. Referrals, introductions and leads come to mind first when anyone mentions networking. That’s not surprising; referrals, introductions and leads are important gateways to new business. But new business opportunities are not the only silver lining to networking. In my experience, the greatest benefit of professional networking has been in sharing and gathering law, information, and litigation practice tips.
Choosing Strong Professional Networks
Optimal use of strong professional networks for ideas and information has helped my legal practice immeasurably. My practice is a small firm dedicated primarily to representing plaintiffs in insurance and annuity cases, elder abuse cases, and false claims and other types of qui tam actions. Following experience at the City Attorney’s Office for the City of San Francisco, I began a career in private practice, ultimately establishing my own firm. Early on in my practice, I joined professional organizations dedicated to the representation of plaintiffs. As time went on, I volunteered or was elected to leadership roles in those organizations and met and exchanged ideas with hundreds of lawyers over the years at meetings, conferences, and conventions. I encourage any lawyer to seriously consider participating in bar and civic groups aligned with their practice areas. You can do good by service and sharing with others and the relationships you cultivate will help your practice.
Online Network Resources
Back in the office, any online resources maintained by professional organizations you join can be a big help. The plaintiffs’/consumer bar groups I am affiliated with have online listserv applications for posting and sharing information requests and responses. Depending on the size of the organization, any listserv it maintains may hold hundreds, even thousands, of practitioners. The archived database may have the very information (or case) you need! If not, you can post a query that is likely to elicit helpful responses, cases, ideas and maybe even a template for what you need for a pleading or motion. You can also elicit information on the judge assigned to a new case so you can decide whether to use a challenge or proceed with the assigned judge.
Professional Organizations and Networking Now
Online services are fantastic, but there is no substitute for face-to-face participation in professional organizations and advocacy groups. Giving back has been a real priority throughout my life, personally and professionally. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s mostly what led me to the law in the first place. Finding the time to dedicate is not easy, particularly for practitioners (like me) with a small firm. Networking through volunteering is a practice in service, making connections, and expanding your knowledge and experience while giving back to the community. The connections you make might or might not lead to new business. But the knowledge you gain and the resources you will be able to access may be even more valuable. Studies show that most consumers select their lawyers online these days. A good presence on the web is the best way to tap into that trend. Professional organizations and professional networking are in turn the best ways to equip yourself for the legal work that follows.