Over 400,000 attorneys around the country belong to the American Bar Association (ABA), and many more are part of local or state associations. But lawyers are not the only legal professionals who can benefit from joining a professional association.
A wide variety of professional associations exist for legal support staff as well. Some of these include the National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS), the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), the Association for Legal Professionals (AALS), and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
But what are the actual perks of joining one of these organizations?
#1: Continuing education
Membership in a professional organization is particularly beneficial for those who work in the legal industry because these associations typically hold educational meetings that provide updates on the issues that affect their jobs.
From recent changes in the law to new technological tools that will make their jobs easier, events and trainings hosted by these organizations provide continuing legal education to help you stay updated on virtually everything happening in the legal world, often for free or at a reduced cost.
#2: Job prospects
Many legal professionals have experienced this scenario: “I can’t find a job because I don’t have any experience but how can I get experience if I can’t find a job?” Obtaining employment in the legal industry can be extremely challenging, particularly for a new graduate. But many professional organizations offer career resources to help members break into the job market or find a new position. Being a member of one of these organizations can help you get your foot in the door.
#3: Mentoring programs
One of the greatest benefits of joining a professional organization is the opportunity it likely provides to either be a mentor or find one. Mentorship offers the ability to learn the industry from someone who has been working in it for years. Or you can give back by sharing your expertise with someone new to the field. These authentic mentoring relationships beat paying money to some proclaimed expert any day.
#4: Networking opportunities
Professional associations usually offer numerous events throughout the year that allow legal professionals to network with their peers, including local events and annual conferences. Many of these conferences are intended as a way for members to connect with local and national leaders within the legal industry to expand their professional networks.
#5: Access to resources
Another benefit to membership in a professional association is the access you get to newsletters, magazines, and other publications that can offer helpful information about the legal industry. Such resources may also provide news about upcoming events, conferences, meetings, and even career opportunities not publicized elsewhere.
#6: New perspective
Legal professionals are often extremely busy and can get stuck in their own little bubbles. Being around other industry professionals with different viewpoints will expose you to new ideas and outlooks. This can have a very positive effect not only on your personal growth and development, but impact the overall success of your law firm as well.
#7: Professional development
Beyond the critical CLE offerings, most associations for legal professionals also provide some form of professional development opportunities. These come in the form of workshops, online classes, or member-only materials.
Your career doesn’t have to depend on what is available to you within your firm. Development opportunities from an association are intended for your personal and professional improvement, even if it doesn’t benefit your firm right away.
#8: Getting your name (and your firm’s) out there
Professional organizations can be a great way to increase your own visibility, as well as that of your employer. This increased visibility can be essential when trying to enhance your own professional brand, especially in the beginning of your career, and can help your firm grow, since potential clients like to do business with a familiar face.
#9: Certification Assistance
For those working on certification, another benefit of membership is the chance to enroll in a review course that will help them prepare for and ultimately pass the certification exam. Such review courses are typically offered in partnership with the educational institution hosting the review, so you’re more likely to become adequately prepared.
#10: Time to recharge
Late nights and weekends spent in the office are commonplace for legal professionals. But being a member of a professional community will get you out of the firm to connect with like-minded professionals who likely share at least some of the same interests. After all, you all chose to work in the legal industry, right? Take time to connect with others who have made the same decision and are facing the same experiences.
Do you know of any other benefits of joining an organization for legal professionals? Tell us about them in the comments!