Trainee Blog: How to nurture your professional network

Trainee Blog: How to nurture your professional network

The journey to becoming a successful lawyer involves more than simply mastering the law, it is also essential to build a strong professional network.

A well-maintained network has the potential to provide invaluable support, bring in new clients, and offer a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Establishing and nurturing a professional network is often perceived as a tricky task. However, as with many things, the more you practice, the better you will be and if you have not already, the best time to start is now.

Whether you’re a law student embarking on your legal journey or a trainee solicitor looking to expand on your connections,  here are some tips from my own experience on how to develop and nurture your network.

Building your network at university

  1. Take advantage of your university careers service. Many universities offer students bespoke careers resources and connections for students interested in embarking on a career in law. These vary, but may include mentorships, career fairs and law firm open days.
  2. Connect with other students outside of your faculty. The connections you make at university, including those people not studying law, may well prove to be valuable later in your legal career as potential contacts, referrers or clients.
  3. Look for opportunities to make connections during work experience and volunteering.

Building your network as a trainee

  1. Trainees are often encouraged to ‘walk the office floor’ and get involved in cross-team and cross-office activities. These range from internal competitions, charity events, pro-bono work, sports, client events and graduate recruitment. These are valuable opportunities as a trainee to meet as many people from across the business as possible.
  2. Get involved in the firm’s networking events. These may range broadly from formal black-tie client events, through to training sessions or even five-a-side football on a Wednesday evening.
  3. Attend networking events aimed at junior lawyers. Exeter, Bristol and London all benefit from active junior lawyer divisions (JLD) supported by the Law Society. JLDs offer a range of networking, social and sports events throughout the year designed to build connections between junior lawyers in the area.

Creating a strong network

Developing one’s network goes beyond merely exchanging business cards or connecting on LinkedIn. The aim is to establish a meaningful connection with people in your industry and sector which you can call upon at some point in the future to support you, your colleagues, or your clients.

  1. It is important that you do your research before attending any networking event. If possible, ask for the guest list and make a note of the people you would like to speak to. Check if you have any mutual connections and have one or two questions in mind for each person.
  2. Often the hardest step can be having the confidence to get into the room. Networking events are daunting for many, but turning up means you have overcome the biggest hurdle. Now look for an opportunity to speak to the people you have identified and politely introduce yourself. A good conversation starter can be to ask the other person an open question about their background. Ensure you actively listen to their response and follow up from there.
  3. Finally, it is important to make efforts to follow up with your new connections after the event. LinkedIn continues to be the easiest and most popular way of doing this. Just remember to include a friendly message with your connection request and suggest a follow up coffee or catch up with your best connections.