Articles From the Team
Will networking help my legal career?
During your school and university days you will have probably crammed your time with loads of extra curricular activities that you were taught would 'look good on your CV.' When I was at school these achievements were filed away in a burgundy Record of Achievement folder, intended to allow pupils to demonstrate skills and achievements beyond their exam results (I expect students these days probably use an on-line equivalent?).
As your career develops, whether or not you were Head Boy/Girl, Captain of the Rugby/Football team or took part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award will have little significance to a hiring partner reviewing your CV to ascertain your suitability for their team - so what should you be doing now outside of your day to day job?
Law firms most certainly want lawyers who they can put in front of clients, who can manage client relationships and who can ultimately help them develop business, so any involvement in these areas that you can illustrate in your CV should be sought out and included.
Although there is an increased focus on trying to encourage a sensible work/life balance in the legal profession, the reality is that most of you will likely be working considerably longer hours than the general population. This has the knock on effect of allowing you very little free time and so it can be difficult to carve out the time to go to networking events but it’s really important to forge a strong network in today's legal market.
When competing for jobs against your peers who may appear pretty similar to you on paper; good academics, good training contract and post qualification experience, it is those activities that show you’ve gone the extra mile that will really stand out on your CV. They can also offer more interesting talking points for interviews. Business development and networking experience as well as your hobbies and interests are good indicators of your character, and so it’s important to demonstrate that you’re more than just your academic background and the current firm you’re at on your CV.
Your professional network can also open doors to future opportunities, even if just someone to put a good word in for you with a partner.
In Birmingham, there are loads of different networking groups to get involved with. As a trainee solicitor you have the Birmingham Trainee Solicitors' Society (BTSS) which holds regular events throughout the year, many of which we at BCL Legal also attend, such as the BTSS Winter Ball that we sponsored in November. This is one of the main events of the year for the BTSS and is held in Birmingham Town Hall with c. 300 attendees. We also sponsor events throughout the year with the group, during lockdown those ranged from online cocktail making and bake-offs through to sporting events and since returning to some semblance of normality they have included wine tasting and a big summer party on the Roof Terrace at The Mill in Digbeth.
As a qualified solicitor, the Birmingham Solicitors’ Group and Birmingham Law Society hold events throughout the year. There are also various other legal groups that promote diversity in the legal profession such as Birmingham Black Lawyers and Women in Property (which counts many female property lawyers as members). While it’s great to network with other lawyers, it’s also important to build relationships with professionals outside of the law. In Birmingham, Future Faces (previously BPS Birmingham) is a great networking group. It is a group for young professionals, many of whom will eventually become industry leaders.
Building relationships with these other professionals at an early stage in your career will provide you with many useful contacts for the future.
Birmingham Young Professional of the Year (BYPY) is an annual award ceremony which recognises the stars of the city's professional services sector. Every year hundreds of guests gather to celebrate up-and-coming talent aged 35 and under across six categories and it’s an event not to be missed. There is also an aspiring talent award for 16 to 24 year olds while a senior business figure is recognised as an inspiring leader. Any awards and recognitions will always help set your CV apart from the pack.
Networking is fundamentally about making contacts and building lasting mutually beneficial relationships as well as friendships. Historically, the law was one of those professions where there was a perception that it wasn’t what you knew but who you knew that mattered. We’ve come along way from that but a strong peer group and relationships with clients and other professionals really do help.
LinkedIn can also help with building that network – most lawyers probably spend more time scrolling through LinkedIn than Facebook or Instagram!
If you need advice about how to get involved with these groups and also how to structure your CV to best highlight your business development and networking activity, please contact Donna Jones at BCL Legal.
Donna specialises in the placement of solicitors into Birmingham and the West Midlands’ leading commercial firms.