So, you are the sum of your online LinkedIn profile and electronic CV document, right?
Wrong, but I can understand how it must feel that way when you’re at this stage in your career. Over the course of my experience in legal recruitment I’ve seen the introduction of, and increased reliance on, LinkedIn and Twitter as the main networking tools for young professionals. I’m in no way negating the importance of having an up to date LinkedIn profile, but here are some reasons why, as a trainee solicitor, networking should not just be limited to social media…
People do business with people
On your path to becoming a qualified solicitor you’ve probably lost count of the number of times you’ve been reminded about the importance of attending networking events, whether that’s by your lecturers at law school or by your supervisor at the firm you’re currently training with. I appreciate that the thought of entering a room of potential strangers and having to introduce yourself can seem daunting, but your mentors aren’t prompting you do so without good reason.
Legal careers are no longer defined by the ability to simply process work. In the ever-changing legal services environment we now work in, much more is required from legal professionals: the ability to build professional relationships and develop work sources is now considered part and parcel of your role and, from a personal point of view, building a professional network can be key to your success. Despite LinkedIn’s plethora of benefits, meeting people face to face is still the best way of getting where you want to be in your career.
There are countless blogs out there that very effectively lay out the dos and don’ts of professional networking. This piece is by no means a ‘how-to’ guide; more a reminder that it pays to build a network and establish contacts at this stage in your career. Networking can and does open up opportunities for newly qualified legal professionals.
A lot of firms I work with use a social gathering as part of their interview process – often it’s an informal meet and greet with key members of the team over a coffee, glass of wine or lunch, which is the perfect opportunity for you to connect with members of your future team. Remember, though: it’s still an interview, and if the event is an after-work drinks social, pace your drinking. I have had experience of a candidate having an offer withdrawn after having a few too many and the subsequent behaviour that resulted from this excess! Remember that the client is trying to ascertain your ability to mix, and how you might represent the firm at client networking events if you successful in securing the role.
On a more positive note, social gatherings can create a more relaxed environment for forming connections and making new contacts. Florit Brooke recently sponsored the Leeds Law Society’s annual dinner, which provided a fantastic opportunity for a trainee solicitor I have been working with to meet my client whom they were due to interview with. The event provided the perfect environment for my client to observe how comfortably the candidate was able to meet, greet and socialise with other professionals in a social setting – and, happily, my candidate got the job!
Networking as a trainee solicitor: our advice
So, what can you do to boost your networking potential? Make sure you’re involved with as many events held by law firms, JLD committees in your region, the Law Society, and other young professionals’ groups such as the JCI in Manchester or P100 if you’re in Leeds. And remember, relationships are the key to developing your professional profile and career.