Maximizing Memberships with Professional Associations and Networking Groups
In today’s environment, networking is a key factor in building professional relationships and an attorney can easily spend a good part of their day networking, if they don’t manage their time appropriately. It is important, therefore, that legal professionals choose wisely those groups that will make a real difference for his/her business.
In the professional services arenas, there are countless associations to join. Writing a check for annual dues is easy, but participating in an association’s activities requires more of a commitment. If an association offers various levels of membership, it might make sense to dip your toe into the water and start with the least expensive membership. Associations will often allow a guest free participation for a few events as well. Do some research into the association before joining. Most associations have mission statements. Read them. Just because an association comes recommended, does not necessarily make it a good fit for the needs of your business. Participants should remember that each association and networking group changes with its membership. Therefore, it is important to periodically review the benefits versus the time and monetary cost of each group. Local bar associations offer great opportunities for all lawyers in all sizes of law firms and their respective administrative professionals.
Offerings and Contributions
It’s a good idea to review the association’s offerings. They often include training, networking, professional certifications, and events. In addition to what the association can do for you, think about what you can contribute as well. The best way to integrate into an association is to provide value beyond the payment of its dues. Is there some area of expertise that you can share with colleagues? Your contributions will benefit them and promote you. If at all possible, volunteer for a board position or help with an event.
Membership offers opportunities to build and nurture relationships. You can get to know people who do what you do, people who use your services, and people you need to perform your services. Relationships are invaluable and can continue throughout a career. When appropriate, encourage others to join any association in which you are active. In meetings, keep these questions in mind:
- What is the attitude of the group (via body language, word choice, etc.)
- Who is setting the tone of the meeting?
- Are people supportive of one another?
- Do there seem to be strong cliques?
- Are the members of the association knowledgeable?
Many associations offer regional and national conferences, which can be costly; however, attending can enhance professional development and justify the time and money spent. Sometimes participating may make sense one year and not another. Though it may be tempting to blindly register for every event and conference scheduled by an association, the benefits of each event should be carefully evaluated to justify the cost.
It would also be wise to maintain a journal. This can be a hard copy booklet or something you maintain on your electronic device. Take the time to record what transpired at an event, who you met or should personally meet afterwards, and what your next steps are. This will help you to decide which associations and events are worthy of your time and money.
Many associations provide continuing education which is necessary for professional designations. Consider taking advantage of their offerings. These educational sessions are usually very affordable and very relevant to current issues.
In today’s environment, many networking groups have emerged via Zoom and other remote platforms. It’s okay to try a group for a few meetings to see if it’s the right fit for you. If it is not right for you, it’s okay to stop participating. Remember: you can make more money, but you cannot make more time. Therefore, make sure the time invested in networking groups doesn’t become too excessive. Currently, many networking groups have either ceased or reduced the frequency of their meetings.
Do Your Research
While participating in a networking group, jot down participants’ names. Research them on LinkedIn and other respective websites when applicable. This additional step will help you decide if the group is appropriate for you.
Be Careful What You Contribute
Many groups today have become very interactive and informal, so be careful what you share and with whom you share it. You don’t want to share confidential information or lose potential business due to an ill-advised discussion. When in doubt, don’t share.
Many times, participating in networking groups offers a diverse array of opinions and perspectives. Have an open mind. Often, stepping outside of one’s comfort zone results in growth on multiple levels.
Marketing and Business Development
By being active and available, people will remember you and your services. You will become “top of mind.” Nothing is as important as a good referral. Market when appropriate without overdoing it.
There are definite benefits for attorneys to participate in associations and networking groups. Choosing associations and groups that will provide the best fit for business objectives is immensely important. It is also important to evaluate the amount of time and money necessary to balance the benefits of networking with the performance of job functions. Taking the time to research and record will help in the decision of which associations and networking groups are worth the time and money.