Building a strong professional network should be a key part of every freelance lawyer’s business model. A strong network will provide you with unlimited opportunities for work and development. Though this is a challenge, as working independently doesn’t give you as many opportunities to share ideas, find mentors and bring in new clients as does working in a traditional law firm firm or office setting.
As a freelancer, you may have to put in a little extra effort, but that effort can reap great benefits to you personally and to your practice. Here are our top 5 top ways to develop your professional network as a freelance lawyer:
1. Modern technology
Social media has become so ubiquitous that it can start to feel like a necessary evil. But from a networking perspective, it is invaluable; particularly when it comes to connecting you with like-minded people you might not be able to meet in any other way.
There are now a variety of networking apps that use the same interface popularised by dating apps (i.e. swipe right if you’re interested in connecting, swipe left if you’re not). Shapr and Bumble Bizz are two popular apps that can connect you to people seeking new contacts and opportunities. You’ll only be connected if both parties express interest. The beauty of most networking apps is that they are simple to use. If you connect with someone, meet them for a quick coffee and chat. It’s as simple as that.
2. Personal connections
Whenever you catch up with friends, family or neighbours, make mention what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. You never know who is looking for a lawyer. You don’t have to be pushy about it, just be open and honest about what you want and need and let the power of mutually beneficial situations do the rest.
Don’t forget to tap into other resources, such as alumni groups, former colleagues and friends of friends. LinkedIn is a great way to keep in touch or connect with people who you don’t see regularly, but who may be willing to help you. Perhaps your university has a Facebook group for alumni in your city – join up and introduce yourself. It’s far easier to network with people when there’s some a common thread between you.
3. Networking events
There’s nothing like good old-fashioned face-to-face networking event to get you out of the normal routine and out meeting new people. There are so many networking events in London and other cities that sometimes it can be hard to know which one to attend. We highly recommend exploring The Law Society’s calendar of events, and investigating different professional organisations related to your law practice area. For example, if you are an energy and commodities lawyer, you could attend events put on by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the International Energy Credit Association or the European Federation of Energy Traders. Networking within these industry-specific groups can be a great way to meet other lawyers and clients.
4. Connect with other freelancers
Even though freelancers can work from anywhere, we do tend to gravitate towards the same spaces. Whether you prefer to work from a coffee shop or a co-working space, take a look around and see who else is working there on a regular basis. Co-working spaces make this particularly easy, as many of them offer events or classes that appeal to freelancers and similarly business-minded people.
Co-working has become so popular that you can even now plan a whole trip abroad around it. Companies like Hacker Paradise and WiFi Tribe offer extended trips to places like Bali, Buenos Aires and Lisbon. Typically they provide housing and a co-working space, guarantee good WiFi, and then leave the work part up to you. Freelance.Legal team members can attest that this is an interesting and fun way to connect with like-minded people. You can find new colleagues, clients and friends from around the world with different interests, passions and careers.
5. Start your own group
All it takes is a little bit of planning and self-promotion. Pick a pub or coffee shop that’s conducive to small gatherings, and set up an informal meeting once a week, month or quarter. It helps to set a topic, whether you want to discuss something specific, or just want to find more networking opportunities in your city. Once you have a meeting time, place and theme, start promoting your group. You can use MeetUp, create a Facebook page to recruit other lawyers. And, once again, don’t forget to tap into your personal network! Invite friends, colleagues, etc. and encourage them to pass the word on to others. It’s easier than ever to find and connect with people who share your interests and circumstances.
Building a strong network is very important for freelancers, and can have more benefits than most people realise. Networking not only helps you get new clients and grow your career but also to combat the isolation of working by yourself or for yourself. Having a strong network provides you with opportunities to learn and grow as a lawyer, grow your business, and live the life you want to live.
Freelance.Legal is hosting a MeetUp event on Wednesday, 14 November to discuss the topic “How to work as a freelance lawyer?” There are just a few spots left, but if you’d like to join us you can sign up here.
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