The Career Services professionals at my law school definitely sang the praises of networking as a must for a successful career, especially for new lawyers. And it’s advice that is almost certainly true — especially in a tight job market, of course employers start with people they know when hiring. But to be honest, I don’t know any law students who enjoyed hearing that advice: folks who came to law school connected didn’t need the instruction, and folks who didn’t often had no idea where to start.
One potentially novel take on how to go about networking virtually is personal branding. As Leah Eichler argues, “[w]hile entrepreneurs learn the value of branding quite quickly, it’s those working in a corporate environment, where too many profess to the same skill set, that the need for it becomes rapidly apparent.” This, to me, seems especially applicable to lawyers, even if a law firm or government office isn’t precisely a corporate environment. A LOT of folks graduate from law school with similar skills – reading, writing, legal research. So how to stand out?
I agree the answer isn’t a type of personal branding that’s “just a fancy way of saying you regularly update every social media site under the sun.” I do think it means having a useful LinkedIn page that contains updated and relevant information. I think it also means following up with people you do meet, even if those people may not be immediately relevant to your career goals. For example, I went to an event at my law school a couple of weeks ago. I was really impressed that one of them–who I had met before and of whom I have a generally good impression–took the time to connect with me following our meeting. Do I have anything to offer her career-wise right now? I doubt it. Do I think it matters to establish a network now that might serve you later? I do.
Eichler is clear, though, that a LinkedIn or Twitter account is not in and of itself a personal brand. Instead, “the term refers to finding your ultimate value proposition and ensuring that you convey that story in all facets of your work and public life.” And that’s where I think the hard work is, and something that especially new lawyers should spend time thinking about.
What do you think? Do you have a personal brand? How do you differentiate yourself in a market with lots of new lawyers with similar skills?