Three Tips For Networking During The Pandemic

This week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt, to talk about how you can still work on your networking skills, even when you’re stuck at home during COVID-19.

Most of us know how important networking is, particularly when you’re in law school and aspiring to a legal career. Having good grades and published law journal articles will absolutely make a difference in your job prospects. But, having quality connections is a significant advantage.

If you are looking to get hired by a firm, agency, nonprofit, or other employer, having connections may help you learn of unposted job openings. Your connections may provide meaningful letters of recommendation. Your connections who are “in the know” may help steer you away from employers from whom you wouldn’t want to work. Or, they may help you and mentor you even after you get hired.

If you don’t want to work for someone else, but instead you want to hang your own shingle, maintaining professional connections is still important, maybe even more so.

As a new attorney starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know. Every court and every jurisdiction has its own set of procedures, its own culture. Other attorneys may provide you with document templates for various cases, discounted office space, or referrals to clients they don’t wish to take. Each of these situations has been a way that another attorney has offered to help me.

It’s one thing to see professors or colleagues regularly in class or at court. It’s another thing for schools and courts to be shut down.

During the pandemic, there simply aren’t the same opportunities to network the way we used to. How is a well-intentioned law student supposed to still network?

Stay In Touch With Current Contacts

Even if you can’t invite a colleague or professor out for coffee these days, you can still send them a quick message that simply lets them know you have been thinking of them. Ask how they’re doing. Ask if there’s anything you can help with.

You really never know what kind of reach a simple social media comment may have. For example, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about an issue in special education during the pandemic. I commented on her post. Next thing I knew, a friend of hers was reaching out to me asking about my law practice in estate planning for families with special needs.

That contact, that one simple comment on a friend’s post, led to a paying client.

Just by saying hello through a phone message, text message, or social media, you can stay top of mind and maintain some kind of relationship with your contacts, even at a distance.

Keep Participating In Organizations

When the pandemic first hit and states began shutting down, many organizations assumed they would not have much work to do. Turns out, many have actually been busier than ever adjusting to virtual meetings, virtual events, and all of the intricacies that go with those changes.

These events don’t even necessarily have to be law related. I happen to write poetry for fun and was invited recently to participate in a virtual poetry reading for poets in my local community. During my introduction, I mentioned my law practice. After the reading was over, I reached out to the other poets that participated to let them know I admired their work. One of them commented that she had recently quit her job to start a nonprofit and wanted to talk with me about how to structure her nonprofit.

By participating in a local poetry reading (virtually) I managed to retain a paying client and built upon several relationships with local community members.

Reach out to organizations in your community and ask how you can get involved. By volunteering and participating in your local community, even if only virtually, you will still build meaningful connections.

Reach Out To Potential New Contacts

A few weeks ago, I received a request to connect on LinkedIn from someone I did not know. She sent a personalized message with her request to connect explaining that she is attending my law school alma mater and is also interested in estate planning (the focus of my practice).

She and I have never met, nor may we ever meet, but by connecting on LinkedIn, I offered to help her in any way I could. Connections like this could result in internship opportunities, job opportunities, the opportunity to collaborate on research or articles, and so on.

Get active on places like LinkedIn and reach out to lawyers or professionals in your area of interest. You never know where that connection may lead.

Don’t Be Shy

Networking can be tough, especially if you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never met. Not to mention networking these days looks a whole lot different than it did only a few months ago. But, there are still ways you can establish and maintain meaningful connections that could serve you well throughout your law school and professional careers.

Stay in touch with current contacts, get involved in organizations, and reach out to new contacts online to keep networking during the pandemic.


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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