This article has been written by Samarth Suri from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA and modified by Abanti Bose, pursuing from Amity University Kolkata, India. The article briefly discussed the need for developing good networking skills in the legal profession and also provides tips at how lawyers and students should develop these skills.
Law has been a field that has been there on this planet since society existed. The need for laws emerges from the need of regulating the society so that justice prevails and everyone has the same access to justice.
With the advent of the formulation of laws, there was a pressing need to demystify the different types of legal systems that would prevail. Upon scrutiny, two types of legal systems have been recognized throughout the world, that is, adversarial and inquisitorial.
In an adversarial system, the lawyers take the centre stage and the judge merely has to give the decision based upon the evidence provided by the lawyers of both parties. The lawyers provide evidence in the form of arguments and also engage in cross-examination of witness and evidence. This is in contrast to an inquisitorial system, in which the judge has a central role to play. In this system, the judge may even act as a police officer, wherein he undertakes the examination of the evidence himself and can also order for investigation of the accused.
Irrespective of the system Lawyers still have an integral role to play in the justice adjudication. For this, there is always a need for good and competent lawyers, but with the privatisation of legal education, the influx of new lawyers in the industry far outweighs the cases.
For this reason, lawyers must create a strong network for acquiring work and maintaining a good rapport.
What is networking
Networking isn’t merely the exchange of information with others — and it’s certainly not about begging for favours. Networking is about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet, whether you’re waiting to order your morning coffee, participating in an intramural sports league, or attending a work conference. You don’t have to join several professional associations and attend every networking event that comes your way to be a successful networker. If you take your eyes off your smartphone when you’re out in public, you’ll see that networking opportunities are all around you every day. Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful.
When you invest in your relationships — professional and personal — it can pay you back in dividends throughout your career. Networking will help you develop and improve your skillset, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development.
Career development, in its simplest terms, is the lifelong evolution of your career. It’s influenced by several things that include the jobs you hold, the experiences you gain in and out of the office, the success you achieve at each stage of your career, the formal and informal education and training you receive, and the feedback you’re provided with along the way.
Ideally, organizations would place more emphasis on employee development in the workplace. However, the reality is that we live in what Carter Cast, author of the book, “The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made,” refers to as “the era of do-it-yourself career development.”
Cast explains that in today’s workforce, the burden is on you to take control of your career development. Hence the importance of networking for career development, as one networks with people at his or her company, in and his or her industry, and even outside their field of interest, they will uncover opportunities to connect with different types of mentors and advisors, increase their visibility with senior management, further develop their areas of expertise, and improve their soft skills.
How to be an effective networker
You may assume that networking is an activity reserved for your time out of the office and off the clock, but nothing could be further from the truth. While there is much value in connecting with people who work at other companies or in different fields, don’t discount the importance of networking in the workplace. Whether you’re new to the company and want to get the lay of the land or you’re already established and have your sights set on a promotion, networking with your co-workers can be incredibly beneficial to your career progression.
As you develop relationships with those in your department and other divisions, be on the lookout for potential mentors, upcoming professional development opportunities, or new job opportunities that are not publicly advertised. The importance of networking cannot be overstated. But how can you improve your networking skills to ensure you’re networking efficiently and effectively? These networking tips will help.
Figure out what networking style works best for you.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to networking. Different people are successful in using different networking tactics. The key is to try out a number of different networking strategies to discover what best suits you. For instance, if you’re an introvert, you may prefer to network one-on-one over coffee or to attend more intimate events with fewer attendees. Once you’ve discovered your ideal networking style, consider where you can go to meet the right people who can help you achieve your current career-development goals.
Network outside the box
You don’t have to attend the traditional cocktail party in order to be a successful networker. Look for opportunities to network strategically in every facet of your life. Deena Baikowitz, Chief Networking Officer and co-founder of Fireball Network suggest choosing events and organizations that matter to you.
“Start where you’re motivated to meet new people with common professional or personal interests,” Baikowitz advises. Think about what you’re passionate about and the types of people with whom you’re most comfortable. This could be your alma mater’s local chapter, a community organization, or a swim team. Berkowitz also suggests volunteering to find a new job or to advance your career: “volunteering is an excellent way to develop your network, show your value, learn about different career paths and opportunities, and to give back and do good.”
Make a game plan
While you don’t need to know exactly what you expect to get out of each networking opportunity, it’s important to head into each activity with a goal. For example, you may attend an event to connect with three new people in your industry or bring back one new insight to share with your co-workers.
It’s a simple task, yet many professionals neglect this critical step in the networking process. The time you invested in speaking with someone new won’t benefit your career development if you fail to follow up afterwards. While you don’t need to send along, the heartfelt message immediately after meeting someone new, you should send a LinkedIn connection request with a personalized message sooner rather than later. Save the thoughtful message when you have something valuable to share or a specific reason to reach out.
How does a law student get inside the legal world?
A law student starts shaping his career the day he/she enters law school. After tirelessly working for an entrance, he/she gets their converted dream college. Irrespective of what rank one gets and whether or not they get into the college they wanted or expected, their journeys as a lawyer begins when they put a foot inside a law school.
Every little bit of effort that a student puts helps them shape their career better. Now a logical question that may arise would be that, what constitutes a career for a law student?
- Existence of proper theoretical knowledge is a prerequisite for excellence in any profession and same is the case with law.
- Besides the existence of theoretical knowledge, a lawyer that is in the nascent stage of his/her career is also required to have a good level of practical knowledge in terms of the working of court and the different procedures required in filing cases.
- Third, that is the most important nonetheless ignored by many is the networking of a lawyer.
Why is a good network important for a lawyer in the first place
We will take this aspect with special reference to India. With a population of about 1.4 billion, there are a plethora of people seeking justice through different judicial mechanisms. But for the profusion of cases, there is an adequate if not excess influx of new lawyers in the country every year.
The competition in the legal field is increasing day by day with people from other professions joining the field. Having a good network allows a lawyer to procure work and make a name for himself/herself in the marketplace. Knowing other people is a big asset in this field, knowing more people allows a lawyer to interact more and therefore gain more.
Networking skills help lawyers procure work, and once a sufficient amount of work has been procured in a specified field, to develop their specialisation in that field. All in all the imbalance between those who are seeking legal assistance and those who are providing it creates the importance for a lawyer to have good contacts for which having good networking skills is a prerequisite.
How should lawyers develop personal networking skills
Although networking is not something that can be taught or be compiled in some sought of book, there are some tips that if properly used may go a long way in determining the success of a lawyer:
- Law school Learning– As and when a law aspirant enters law school, they must understand the nature of the profession they are getting into and should be properly guided about the same. As tedious as it may be coping up with the pressure at law school, one must invest time in understanding the profession in isolation of its theoretical aspects. Students should be adequately informed about new developments in the field and should also be made to interact with reputed people in the profession.
- Internships and on the work training– Internships serve as a medium through which law students get to gain practical knowledge and also make good connections. For making such connections one should always try and communicate with people in the profession and take tips from them. This will not only benefit them in working better but will also portray the inquisitiveness of the student in learning more things. The impression goes a long way in deciding the fate of a professional relationship.
- Interaction with other law students– Law students should actively take part in inter-college moots and other activities that are held during college fests, by doing so they will meet and interact with students from other law schools and will even get an insight at what other similar people are doing in the field.
- Capitalising over social media platforms– Online platforms such as Linkedin, Twitter, freelancer.com, Facebook and Instagram will also help lawyers and law students alike to build up their connections. These connections will also serve as an audience for the work that they may do as students or lawyers. This will help them not only in reaching but also spread the word about what they do.
- Linkedin and the Legal profession– Linkedin, in particular, is a platform that has been made for facilitating professional discourse. Lawyers must strive to portray themselves in good light on such platforms. LinkedIn also serves as a marketplace where clients might be looking for whom they should seek legal assistance from, if lawyers have a presentable profile on such a platform, it will help them procure work. Linkedin also serves as a primary link between lawyers and law students, this way students can approach lawyers under whom they want to work, likewise, lawyers can also reach out to students, who they feel will serve as an assent to their profession. The benefits of Linkedin and other such social networking sites are many and hence everyone in the legal profession must aim at building up their profile. One should also post about their triumphs and struggles on such platforms to inspire others as well as endorsing themselves through this.
- Middlemen- Middlemen are people who serve as a link between clients and lawyers. India still has a significant population that lives in villages and is still not well equipped for analyzing the nature of their disputes and which type of lawyers they should refer to. Lawyers should have good relations with such middlemen so that they have a steady source of work they can rely upon. For maintaining good relations with middlemen, lawyers should give them a cut from the total fee that they get from the client.
- Entrepreneurship- Law students can open their startups when they are in college. These startups may be in content writing, blogging, coaching for aspiring law students etc. Having a startup of your own significantly affects the market value of that particular student when he/she enters the market. Having a startup of your own will serve as a platform for advertising yourself and also portraying your calibre to others in the field.
- Creation of brand value for a lawyer– Networking stems from the need to develop contacts in the profession, and unlike businesses, in the legal profession the person himself has the widest scope in terms of advertisement, meaning that a lawyer must promote himself as a brand and ups his name value in the market. This is even more important because irrespective of how much knowledge a lawyer might possess, only when he is allowed to portray such knowledge will he be able to showcase his prowess.
- Good communication skills– It goes without saying that good communication skills are a prerequisite for a lawyer to develop connections in the field. If one has the ability to persuade people and make them see reason or even change their perspective, it can be an unfathomable asset. Having a good hold over your language goes a long way in being able to meet and talk to new people in the field. For developing good communication skills, one must speak with humility and respect and also portray a genuine sense of inquisitiveness to know more than what one already knows.
- Seeking out for better opportunities– Law as a profession has no retirement age and a lawyer never stops learning, each day poses a new question for a lawyer, for which he seeks a newer approach. The Legal profession as a whole is fluid and keeps changing with changes in the society, hence it is important for a lawyer to be on a lookout for newer opportunities in the field this will help in building up a profile.
- Being a contact yourself– Being a successful lawyer there are years of hard work and once any lawyer reaches a pedestal they become a contact themselves, meaning that other lawyers and students will come to them for seeking help and guidance in the profession. But for this transition to happen it is essential that the lawyer himself works hard and makes himself/herself worthy enough to be a connection for other people.
Law since time immemorial has been an evolving profession, this is because the law is directly connected with society, the basic need for law arises from an urge to regulate society. Lawyers have a central role in being able to dispense justice and therefore it is important that they develop good networking skills.
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