Q: I’ve been a member of my local legal association for a few years. But aside from attending the annual conferences and chapter meetings, my participation has been limited. How can I maximize my membership to benefit my career?
A: There are so many benefits of joining a professional legal association. Unfortunately, many attorneys and paralegals only scratch the surface of what these organizations can offer. Here are five ways you can get more out of your legal association membership — and those annual dues:
- Network. Professional contacts are the key to keeping up with industry news, learning about interesting opportunities and discovering new strategies for excelling in your job. So, use those conferences and meetings as an opportunity to meet people and make connections. Rather than being a wallflower or sticking with colleagues, introduce yourself to at least two members at each event. Then follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn or Twitter — and meet up for coffee to deepen the relationship.
- Learn. Many associations offer continuing legal education (CLE) opportunities for free or at a reduced cost for members. So browse the course offerings and start attending webinars, watching archived lectures or taking on-site classes. If you hold just the fundamental certification for your field, you could work toward the advanced qualification through the legal association. Take advantage of these opportunities to broaden your knowledge base and beef up your resume.
- Publish. From blog posts to journal articles, your legal association likely prints a wide variety of content written by members. Share your knowledge with your legal community. What’s more, publishing your research helps to solidify your brand and establish you as a leader in your specialty area. Publications also look great on your legal resume.
- Save money. In addition to free or discounted CLE classes, many legal associations offer reduced-price books and preferred rates with partner organizations. Some groups even provide members-only financial support in the form of scholarships and grants. Contact your association to find out what’s available.
- Lead. Instead of simply attending events, why not help organize them? Join a committee or run for a vacant office position. If you have enough experience, volunteer to speak at a conference session. Doing so will develop your soft skills, gain you valuable leadership experience and help you become a more polished public speaker — vital traits for any legal professional.
Your legal association membership is worth more than a line on your resume. With a proactive attitude and a little work, you can use your membership to improve your standing among your peers and boost your legal career.
Robert Half Legal is a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets and offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting solutions.