updated on 14 April 2020
While we are all currently living in a strange, dystopian-like period where face-to-face coffee meetings are off the cards for the foreseeable future, there is no better time to activate or continue to grow your online network via platforms like LinkedIn.
With 27,600,600 users in the UK as of September 2019, LinkedIn is a great (and probably the most obvious) tool to build your virtual network while practising social distancing.
And while they are not necessarily considered traditional networking platforms, if used properly, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can also be effective ways to:
Here are some tips to help you make the most of online networking opportunities while you’re stuck indoors.
Getting started: complete your profile
The first step towards digital networking is creating a professional first impression online. Try to think of your page as part of your application and interview process.
In our recent podcast, future Baker McKenzie trainee Harry Clark said “your LinkedIn profile is kind of like your landing pad, where everyone who visits and views your profile is going to get their first impression”.
So, alongside building your commercial awareness, exercising and learning a new skill, it is worth setting some time aside to create or complete your LinkedIn profile.
There are plenty of opportunities across the LinkedIn profile page to add various details about yourself, including a headline, current position, industry and about section – use these to your advantage and create a profile that is professional, succinct and offers a well-rounded picture of yourself. You can listen to our podcast with Harry for more advice on setting up a profile here, as well as this LCN Says.
I’m sure many of you already have a Twitter profile but if you want to start using it to network with legal professionals, consider the following:
If set up to focus on yourself as a professional, Facebook is also an effective networking tool. We’ve all been warned about the online search that recruiters do before inviting you to an interview, so why not take some time to ensure you are making the most of the various changes Facebook has introduced and create a more professional profile.
Much like LinkedIn and Twitter, Facebook also has the option to include information about your personal and professional life – for example, your university and degree subject, any training contracts or vacation schemes and your blog or website.
As with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, on Instagram there is also space to add useful information about yourself and your legal experiences so far, plus a professional photo and a link to a blog, podcast or YouTube channel where you are creating content relevant to the legal industry.
Much of the advice from Harry about setting up a LinkedIn account can also be applied to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Remember, these short bios and profile pictures might be the first impression that a recruiter will have of you – so make sure it’s a good one.
Connect with people you know
Once you have created your profile, it’s important to connect with people in your industry, as well as people you have previously worked with.
When connecting with a fellow LinkedIn user, you are given the opportunity to personalise your ‘invite’ – this might be useful if you’re connecting with someone who you have met previously at a networking event, job, work experience or university to reintroduce yourself and continue your professional relationship with them.
As well as connecting with others in your industry, Harry also advised that you ‘follow’ LinkedIn users – perhaps partners at law firms to “keep in touch with them and read all of their content”. This is a great way to keep up-to-date with what they’re doing in the industry and create an active network.
Unlike LinkedIn, you can connect with most Twitter users without having to wait for them to accept. As such, after you have followed the relevant recruiters, hiring managers and other legal professionals from the firms or practice areas you are interested in, you will start to see everything they post. This is a useful way to learn from those who are already practising law or are recruiting aspiring lawyers like yourself!
In order to connect with people on Facebook you can engage with online communities, groups and events.
While your Instagram feed might currently be filled with perfect pictures of food, cute dogs and hilarious memes (because whose isn’t), if you’re creating a professional account to develop your online network and presence, it is essential to follow accounts with similar goals to yours (ie, other aspiring lawyers), as well as leading professionals who are well known on the platform.
While building your digital network is essential, it is also vital that you select the most relevant people to follow, connect and engage with. Don’t just go through and follow everyone in law – think about whether they are professionals who are perhaps working at a firm (or in a practice area) that interests you; or aspiring lawyers who have taken a similar route to yourself (eg, non-law degree, law degree, solicitor apprenticeship or CILEx Level 3 Certificate).
Despite not being able to meet for face-to-face meetings in the current climate, we now live in a world where virtual meetings are becoming the norm – particularly with the number of people currently working remotely. As such, it’s important to think about the alternative ways you could get people from the legal profession chatting, without having to go out to a sit-down dinner and drinks.
There are several apps which can be used for professional video meetings, making it that much easier to stay in touch with fellow students, as well as contacts from work placements. It’s important that despite not being able to physically meet with people, you still stay in touch to ensure that those networking connections are not lost, nor your hard work undone.
Let the lockdown networking commence
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Once you have started to connect with professionals and students in the legal industry across your chosen platform(s), it is now time to start networking!
One of the main points that came out of our chat with Harry was his reference to ‘the 90-9-1 rule’, which applies to all the platforms discussed. He described it as meaning that “90% of people who use social media don’t actively engage with it at all – they just scroll through to pass time; there’s the 9% who are there interacting with content quite frequently; and then there’s the 1% who are creating it for themselves and the rest of the 99% to react with in some way”.
So, schedule time into your new daily routine to create content for yourself and your network and become one of the 1%. This might be in the form of articles – for example, your top tips for studying effectively, how you’re staying busy and focused during quarantine, or how to be productive in lockdown – or simply engaging with interesting posts by commenting and striking up a conversation with other students and junior professionals in your industry, as well as joining other online discussions. You can also share articles from other aspiring lawyers, junior lawyers, legal professionals and recruiters to initiate a discussion with your online network.
Creating regular content and responding to other’s content will show that you have a genuine interest in the legal industry and profession. According to Harry, this is “something you can talk about when it comes to an application or an interview. Especially if you have been creating stuff for a bit of time and sharing your insights into the legal industry. If you’re a law student, this can be impressive and recruiters might look at it and say ‘wow, you’re really interested in this area of law, can you tell me a bit more about this?’ or ‘why did you start writing on this topic?’”
You can also use contextual recruitment platform Vantage to meet leading law firms online. It takes just five minutes to complete your profile – quicker than the time it takes your pasta to boil – and is completely free. By completing a profile, leading law firms, including Ashurst, Eversheds Sutherland, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May can get in touch with you about incredible opportunities, such as:
The platform is innovating the way the legal recruitment system works by putting candidates from every demographic in front of leading law firms and enabling firms to meet a diverse range of top-performing students. So, while you wait for your pasta to boil, sign up to make the most of the legal opportunities that Vantage offers.
Although the past few weeks have been challenging – what with disruptions to exams and vacation scheme cancellations – it is important that you pick yourself back up, stay focused, be productive and continue to network.
Oliva Partridge is the content and engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net.