It’s Time to Harness the Power of your Network
Being a woman in the legal profession is not easy, though I doubt this needs to be said twice. Personally, I’ve been mistaken as the “court reporter,” “receptionist,” or “client” more times than I’ve ever been mistaken for being an attorney. Over the years, even though I graduated law school, passed the bar, and have been successful in my career alongside my peers, I’ve felt as if I had to continuously prove myself to others that I was not only an attorney, but a great one. I’m now at the point where I’m comfortable in my skin. I know who I am, what I can do, and when applicable…I am a force to be reckoned with. This confidence came with time, experience, and with the invaluable support of my network.
For anyone in our profession who may dread the thought of networking, especially female attorneys, you may want to change your perspective and understand the Power of your Network.
Start with the basics: your network is a group or system of people who are connected to you, and you ultimately network every day. Every time you send out an email, post a photo online, make a phone call, tweet, or “Like” a Facebook post, you are networking. Every time you visit your relatives, see your doctor, or drive during rush hour traffic, you are networking.
To enjoy the benefits of networking, it is wise to keep a healthy mantra. Here is one that continues to inspire me:
“I come as one, but stand as ten thousand”
Does this sound familiar? Oprah Winfrey recites this mantra and embodies its message daily (check out Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast!) As female attorneys, it is helpful to recognize that we gain strength and confidence from those who came before us. Their triumphs and struggles paved the way for us and many other women in our field. We are not alone in this profession; as such, we should feel empowered when we connect with people who are willing to participate in and support our network.
Being an active participant in networking is the key. A network is a great source for referrals in different practice areas, to assist with projects and to help support other women in our community. For example, I am an active participant and Board Governor with the California Women Lawyers (CWL) association. The mission of CWL is to “advance women in the profession of law; to improve the administration of justice; to better the position of women in society; to eliminate all inequities based on sex; and to provide an organization for collective action and expression germane to the aforesaid purposes.” CWL puts these words into action, and through the hard work of its many participants, CWL is able to provide various programs to its members and to our legal community statewide (See http://www.cwl.org/page/Programs) CWL is just one example of the many legal organizations which support networking amongst female attorneys.
You can be an active participant in many ways. It’s worth vetting out organizations to find one that speaks to your heart and you can feel passionate about it. Your active participation comes in many forms such as joining a committee, planning or sponsoring an event, and promoting events. An active participant also includes those who just show up at an event to say hello (see and be seen!) It’s important to “follow-up” with people you just met as well as people you have known for years. People appreciate and are more receptive in an informal setting, so go and ask people out for coffee and lunch. Learn how you and your network can be resource for each other.
Maya Angelou said it best: “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” When you become an active participant in your network, you become part of the narrative and your presence will be always be appreciated by someone.
Once you have harnessed this power, you will see that there is no such thing as a “cold call” within a network of trusted advisors. Start off as one person, and with a good network you will stand as ten thousand. You will have paved the way for yourself and other women in our field. It’s time to harness the Power of your Network, and I stand here looking forward to meeting you.