Blessing Mukosha Park
There are many benefits to carrying a business card. However, most students consider this something that only working professionals do. The BPTC is a strange course because you are straddling the academic and professional worlds. For a Bar student building their legal network, being handed business cards by barristers, solicitors and other legal professionals is fairly commonplace. What isn’t as common is Bar students having their own business cards to hand back. In this post I explain why Bar students having business cards is a great idea and something that can really help you advance your legal networking.
Take control of your network
In a recent post on Blessing at the Bar about how to network effectively, I said: “It’s possible for you to get to know the right people who can propel your career forward without having a relative who is already within the Bar. The caveat is that it’s your job to get to know the right people in line with the goals that you hope to achieve.” To restate that point, building your network requires putting yourself out there and making sure that people can find and contact you in the future. The extent to which you successfully network may determine the direction of your future career. Taking control of your networking by ensuring that people always have information on how to contact you is extremely effective and beneficial.
Show that you are already a professional
While on the BPTC, you are going to be exposed to many opportunities to network with potential mentors, colleagues, employers and friends. The worst thing is when you find yourself scribbling down your email address or phone number on a scrap of paper that will be lost in someone’s bag or pocket. It may be fine for meeting a mate, but if you are lucky enough to have a good connection with a lawyer that you consider to be a potential mentor or future colleague, handing them a scrap of paper may not set the best impression. Handing over a business card with your details – and having a strong understanding of your personal brand – will work much better for you.
What to put on a business card as a BPTC student
The next matter to address is what exactly should be on a BPTC student’s business card. First, you want your name. This is especially helpful if you have a name that is often misspelled or mispronounced (I’ve been called “Blossom” far too many times). This also means that when someone tries to contact you in the future, they will remember your name and how to address you. Next you want your email address. This should not be your university email address! At this stage of the game, you should have a nice-looking professional email that is associated closely with your name so it’s clear who the person is trying to contact.
The next thing to have is a short (two to three words) bio about who you are. You do not have to commit to an area of law (eg, “aspiring criminal barrister”), but if you know for sure that you want to go into a particular area and you are hoping to build a network of lawyers working within that area, then it cannot hurt. Just be aware that if you happen to meet a lawyer who does not work within that area of law, it may not count in your favour. I settled for the straightforward “aspiring barrister”. I also wrote “content creator” because that’s something I do which fits into my personal brand. If, for example, you work part time as a caseworker you can say something like “aspiring barrister/immigration law caseworker”. Just think about whether what you’ve written speaks to you and your personal brand (if you have an idea of what that is). This is how people will remember you so think carefully!
Finally, you want to have your social media handles if you have them. In my previous LCN post on how to prepare for the BPTC, I discussed how your social media needs to pass the ‘grandmother test’ before you start the BPTC. Another important thing to note is that your social media can also propel your career forward. On an interesting thread started by @counsel_curious on Twitter, one solicitor stated that contributions on social media may influence their decision to instruct a junior barrister they had never met before. This is a worthy thing to keep in mind.
Regarding colour and design, remember that you are a professional. My blog’s branded colour is purple, for example, but anything that conveys your personality and aspirations should be fine. Avoid overly gaudy and kitsch fonts – you want to look professional!
Who to give your card to
Only hand your card to people who you genuinely had a good connection with and who you know will remember you. Sometimes, if you can only speak for a short moment, quickly handing over your card is wise. However, not everybody you speak to will contact you if you throw your card at them. If you know why you want them to contact you, they will know why they should contact you – especially if something comes up that they think you will be interested in.
Where to get business cards
There are many places to get business cards with pre-made designs so you only have to input your details. I like to use MOO because they make really cool and affordable cards with different designs and shapes. Click here for a code that will get you 25% off your first order. I tend to order small batches of about 25 cards. Vistaprint is also an old reliable with good, professional designs.
Good luck and happy networking!
I hope this post has helped you to understand how having a business card can help you supercharge your networking and build a strong legal network. Don’t be nervous about it. You are becoming a self-employed barrister and the ability to network and market yourself is vital to building a successful career. Good luck!