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Remember a world without social media? If you do, you started your career pre 2003 when LinkedIn launched (Facebook launched in 2004 and Twitter in 2006) and you are at least 11 years’ PQE.
You are therefore now considered to be a senior lawyer. Areas you must focus on, whether you are in-house, private practice or a contractor, are adding value to your organisation and networking with your market and your peers.
To explain further, if you are in private practice you are required:
For in-house, you should still be looking to:
Whether in-house or private practice, these roles are in addition to a demanding day job – practising the law.
The issue for many is that just as you are rising to middle management, and more is demanded of you, your family life also becomes more demanding. As Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi recently remarked: “the biological clock and the career are in total conflict with each other. Just as you’re rising to middle management your kids need you”. Of course, it’s not just those with children who find themselves time poor. Many of us are looking for a better “work/life balance” and want to ensure there is time for pursuits outside of work.
So how do you find time to network, raise your profile, understand your industry and have a life outside of work?
You can look at ways to limit your role and the scope of work you do, but for most that will mean limiting your career. You have options – you just have to be smart, efficient and effective in how you balance the demands of your job. Embracing social media is one of the ways you can do this.
When it comes to networking in person, whether it is for business development purposes, to learn more about your sector or to grow your brand, events are great, but everyone’s time is limited –working parents often have childcare considerations in the evenings, plus there is a cost both to your employer and often to you personally.
So what is the next best solution? How do you stay on top and ahead of your game, make new contacts and stay connected without a dramatic increase to your workload?
For me, the answer is social media. You might be thinking – but I have a LinkedIn page; how does that help?
Let’s start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 300 million members. On a basic level it is an easy way to keep in touch with key contacts, old, new, domestic and international and track them wherever they move to – an electronic rolodex of business cards with the functionality for your contacts to virtually introduce you to new connections.
However, to gain real value from LinkedIn you need to engage on other levels, share news, get involved in debates in groups, opt or trial the premium service. Engage in it consistently and regularly and you will start to see tangible benefits in terms of opportunities.
For me Twitter has opened up a whole new world. I only started to use Twitter a few months ago and it has changed the way I work and view my market. I used to think Twitter was just noise and for “fun”. I was wrong. As a working parent of three young children, with a business in London but residing part of the time in LA, Twitter has been central in me being more effective – and I never thought I would say that.
The amount of change in the legal profession is vast and expanding; not only for legal service providers but for technology, legal structures, and legal opinion and news. Regular newsletters will keep you informed but Twitter provides real-time breaking news on new developments. You hear about client and recruitment opportunities, firm mergers and general moves within the market as they happen – as well as what others are saying about such changes. It enables you to engage with contacts and targets on an informal level, often resulting in a dialogue much quicker than traditional methods of networking and marketing. And if used properly and consistently it will make you more efficient for BD and marketing.
In addition to the interesting debate, you can get involved on a 24/7 ad hoc basis. This might appear to be stressful – more 24/7 work! Actually, you should see it as a more effective way of working; I can work on raising my profile within my timescale.
Social media has enabled me to connect with my peers, clients and contacts; it also helps me recruit and stay involved. I recently spoke at ReInvent Law in London and my BD manager, who is currently on maternity leave, was able to follow the various presentations and debates and engage with other delegates via Twitter. Who knew she was working from the passenger seat of her car?
This is revolutionary for working parents. This is how you grow “your brand” and create “your value adds” without leaving your home – and when you have the time. Via social media I am able to see my industry and market as a whole, which helps me “add value” to my business, my team and my clients.
So if your MO is to be more efficient and effective, to stay on top of your game and your market, social media should be one of your main tools. Be brave and take the plunge.
Janvi Patel is Chairwoman and co-founder of award winning alternative law firm Halebury.
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