Before the internet, the best way to grow your network was to carry a business card at all times and attend as many events as possible.
Many lawyers still do both, but these days, the bulk of our networking occurs online—just like so much else we do in life.
Online communities have become increasingly important to lawyers as the way we grow our careers has changed. Today’s sites and apps aren’t the free-for-all of days past, either; they’re well-moderated, popular, and full of professionals who genuinely seek to build up their networks.
Let’s investigate just some of the reasons why online communities are so important for today’s lawyers, as well as how to get started if you’re thinking of joining one.
They’re a Better Way to Network
Think about how you stay in touch with friends and family these days. We’re willing to guess a lot of it involves social networking sites and apps. The same is true for the way lawyers network today—technology has changed so much of what we do on a day-to-day basis, and the way we nurture relationships with others in our field is no different. Certainly, Bar Associations are still a great option, but online communities are where much of today’s lawyerly networking gets done.
You Can Engage When You Have Time
Trying to find time to meet up with a colleague, attend a scheduled networking event, or grab coffee with a former law school classmate can be tricky when you work as much as we do. Online communities allow you to engage with others when and where your schedule permits. Fifteen minutes on a Tuesday afternoon probably won’t help you attend a formal networking happy hour, but it’s plenty of time to skim through a networking site or app and contribute if you’re so moved.
They Can Help You Get Clients
No matter how busy you are, you’ll likely agree it’s important to meet other lawyers. This is the case for plenty of reasons, but one of them is definitely the possibility of getting leads on new business. Establishing an online presence can help you meet others who could either become your clients or introduce you to potential new clients. General social networking and review sites are also a big part of how lawyers find clients these days, so it’s a good idea to be active on those sites, as well.
They Help You Meet More—and Different—Lawyers
Think of online communities like virtual water coolers. They’re where lawyers can get advice, bounce ideas off neutral parties, and simply meet others they can relate to. Because they’re not necessarily regional, online communities can help you meet more lawyers that are both different from you and similar to you. For instance, if you’re a woman who wants to learn from other female attorneys, you’ll be introduced to many more online than you likely would at your firm. Or if your practice area is highly specific, it’s easier to find others who can relate to your situation when you have access to lawyers across the entire country.
So, You Want to Join in …
Want to get more involved in online communities? Spend time examining what’s out there and who’s involved in each community. Ask your friends and colleagues where they spend their virtual time. Get the sense of a group’s cadence before you jump in—but make sure you do jump in! The value of online communities is highest for those who engage.
Online communities also work best in tandem with actual in-person networking, so it’s best to consider them as a supplement to bar associations, volunteer groups, or any clubs at your firm.
Pick two online communities to become a part of. After getting a feel for the sites, begin participating. Post comments, ask some questions, and answer some questions.