2 Comments Published on December 4th, 2014 by Tonya Pierce
One key element of a successful career is a network of colleagues and contacts that you can call upon when you need assistance or support. Of course, one of the main reasons that professionals build a network is to have an advantage when you are looking for a job. However, having a well-developed professional network means that you have a group of knowledgeable individuals that you can call upon when you have questions, need a reference, need to refer someone or just need a little help to solve a problem.
For some paralegals, networking comes very easy. They are outgoing and they never meet a stranger. For others, networking is more difficult because they may be introverted or shy. Regardless of your personality, to grow your career and to be a successful paralegal, you must network. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and engage other professionals to build a network of knowledgeable, skilled professionals that you can call on when you have a need.
5 Ways to Network as a Paralegal
There is no one right way to network. Networking is something that you can do anywhere with anyone. Below are some suggestions of situations that every paralegal should take advantage of to build his or her career.
1. Paralegal School
Paralegals should begin to network while they are in paralegal school. Get to know your teachers, your classmates and guest speakers. You never know where you may run into these people gain during your career. Your teachers are excellent references when you are searching for your first paralegal job. A classmate may decide to pursue a Juris Doctor degree and become an attorney in a law firm where you want to work.
2. Continuing Education Courses and Seminars
CLEs and seminars and are a great way to meet new people and make contacts. Engage with the people around you and exchange contact information. In a couple of weeks, reach out to the people you met to meet for lunch, coffee or a drink. If you are not comfortable with this, you can shoot them an email to follow up on something you learned that day or ask a question about something the speaker said. Contact is the key to building a new relationship.
3. Social Media
Technology and social media has made networking almost effortless. Joining professional networking sites such as LinkedIn is a great way to meet and collaborate with other professionals. You can easily find and reach out to other professionals by joining discussions or groups. Groups for paralegals on LinkedIn include Paralegal Network and The Paralegal Group (almost 12,000 members). Other forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are also great ways to network but LinkedIn is the one of the best professional platforms for connecting with other professionals and building your career.
4. Professional Organizations
This is essential for every paralegal. You should join your local and state paralegal association as well as national paralegal organizations. Paralegal associations provide a wealth of information on topics that help you grow your career and become a better paralegal in addition to providing excellent opportunities to network. Most associations host CLE seminars, workshops, monthly meetings and conventions. Carry your business cards with you to all functions so that you can easily exchange information with paralegals and others that you meet. Become involved by serving on the board as an officer or volunteering to help with seminars or other functions.
Some national associations offer certification problems. Becoming certified is voluntary; however, it can give you a huge advantage in your career. Attorneys value the fact that a paralegal took the next step to become certified. It also gives you another means of networking by reaching out to paralegals who are also certified.
If you are unsure if you have a local or state paralegal association, you can check the list on Paralegal Today, contact a local paralegal school or check with other paralegals in your area. Paralegal Today also has a list of the various national associations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the American Alliance of Paralegals.
5. Join Other Legal Associations
You do not need to limit yourself to joining paralegal associations. Joining other professional associations related to your career is an excellent way to meet other professionals and expand your network. For example, the American Bar Association is a well-known association for lawyers; however, paralegals can also become members of the ABA.
Just a Small Conversation is All You Need
You may assume that you must put forth a lot of effort in order to network effectively; however, just a simple “hello” is often all you need in order to begin a productive conversation. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to introduce yourself and make a new contact by striking up conversations with those around you. Whether you are at a professional event, online, in class or waiting for court to begin, a simple “hello” will often result in a new contact that you can use to grow your network.
Tonya Pierce is a paralegal with over 24 years experience in several areas of the legal field (17 years as a bankruptcy paralegal and trustee paralegal).