Making connections has always been important for legal professionals, and the COVID pandemic has not changed this.
Even while the pandemic has drastically reduced in-person meetings, networking and relationship-building continue to be just as critical, if not more so. In our new world of masks and social distancing, you need to make the extra effort to reach out for networking opportunities.
Here we discuss some networking basics for legal professionals that remain essential, with or without a pandemic. We also talk about how you can upgrade your networking skills and evolve in a post-pandemic environment, including participation in virtual networking events.
Networking basics for legal professionals
There are certain networking essentials that legal professionals should remember, which were applicable even pre-pandemic.
Go where the people are
Finding and attending events is one of these networking essentials.
In the COVID era, many of these events will be either virtual or a hybrid of in-person and virtual. Seek out events for legal professionals that cater to your interests, whether those interests relate to specific practice niches, professional development, technology, or other areas.
Event attendance is not only critical for making connections: it’s also helpful for improving your networking skills over time.
Networking will never be effective if you are focused on yourself alone. Instead, look for ways to help others in your network.
You should actively listen to others for areas where they need assistance and you could point them toward an opportunity. It’s a very powerful thing to be the person that makes the right introductions. Pay attention to what people do and aim to connect them with others who need their solutions.
Not only will those you help be motivated to return the favor one day, they will likely be in a better position to do so.
This is easier to do when you shift your mindset. Instead of going to a networking event to generate as many leads as you can, focus instead on helping as many people as you can.
Improve networking skills
You can always improve your basic networking skills, such as active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication, and other “people” skills. These apply in virtual settings, too, though the way you connect might look different. More on that in the next section.
One way is to continually practice these skills in other settings, such as your social and work lives.
Another is to attend networking events with this goal in mind.
And remember the importance of honing an effective elevator pitch that succinctly conveys your unique value to anyone you meet. Practice often, especially if you go a long time between networking opportunities.
Special networking considerations for legal professionals
As a legal professional, you have some special networking considerations that do not apply to many other professionals.
For example, you likely need different networking approaches with prospective clients and other legal professionals. You should learn to make effective use of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Consider creating a digital business card to replace the paper cards often forgotten in desk drawers. Plus, you make a statement about your personal tech savvy when you offer a virtual card option. Look for a card that doesn’t require the other person to have a specific app to use.
Networking at digital events
In the COVID era, digital networking events are increasingly common. Therefore, you will need to understand how to network effectively as a virtual attendee, whether the event is pre-recorded or live.
Select the right virtual event for you
Be sure to choose a virtual event that caters to you as a professional and focuses on your goals.
For example, while many legal networking events may focus primarily on attorneys, InfoTrack’s own Legal Up is a virtual conference intended for all legal professionals, including paralegals, administrators, and more. It’s also free to attend, so it’s the perfect chance to practice the skills in this article.
Also note the topics and themes the event will cover, the speakers, and the overall format. What kind of audience do you expect an event to attract? You’ll find more relevant opportunities if your goals are closely aligned with the conference’s focus.
Your pre-event checklist
When registering for the event, be sure to submit all the information requested, such as a bio, photo, and contact information. Doing so enables you to create a compelling attendee profile, making you easily searchable and accessible as a networking target for others.
Also, be sure to publicize your attendance beforehand through social media, your firm or personal website, and your blog, if you have one. This creates more opportunities for people to find you.
Review the list of attendees yourself so you can identify your networking targets, potentially even making contact beforehand. One of the great things about virtual events is that you can attend and network asynchronously. That’s a major advantage for legal professionals who need to work around busy schedules.
Actively participate during the event
It is not enough to simply attend a virtual event — you must actively engage and participate for maximum impact.
This means sharing questions, comments or insights during discussions and breakout sessions. Make liberal use of the event’s messaging tools for real-time chats.
In addition, you should be as flexible and open to new approaches as possible during the event.
Many virtual events are employing a wide variety of innovative strategies and formats ranging from virtual escape rooms to scavenge hunts to mixology lessons, to name just a few. The key is to keep an open mind, change up your approach as needed, and enjoy the process.
Post-event actions to take
Your “job” as a networker is not over once the event ends.
Be sure to share your attendance on social media after the event. Search for other people’s mentions of the event on social media and reach out to others talking about the event. This is a great way to keep the conversation going and maximize your visibility.
Do not forget to follow up by email with any new connections you made at the event and nurture the relationships. What’s the point of investing all that effort to make a new acquaintance if you’re just going to ignore them afterwards? A simple, friendly message lets them know that you want to keep in touch.
How networking will look different in a post-Covid world
While virtual networking events are thriving, it is important to familiarize yourself with the new dynamics of in-person networking as the pandemic wanes.
In this new world, be respectful of others’ personal boundaries, such as whether or not they (or you) are comfortable with handshakes and hugs. Some people may choose to wear masks when restrictions are lifted, and others will prefer to go without.
Be aware that events will tend to have lower headcounts in larger venues, so the crowded networking venues of the pre-Covid era are not likely to be the norm. Tickets to popular events may be more limited than usual. If there’s something you’re excited to attend, it’s wise to buy your tickets early.
And remember that waves, smiles and friendliness still come through loud and clear when making connections, even if you are wearing a mask.
Remember: if you are looking for a prime networking opportunity in the near future, consider Legal Up 2022 on April 5 and 6.