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Writing columns that are supposed to describe life in a law firm while providing advice and guidance to other attorneys is a real challenge, because an associate’s life and what might be relevant to that associate changes. Sometimes I’ll write a first draft of my column from the perspective of an attorney who is delegating work to others, instead of remembering what it was like to be a junior associate. To help me out, I’ve prevailed upon a junior associate to review my work before it’s disseminated to the world. Luckily, he’s very good at keeping me grounded. I’ve become famous for roaming the halls of my law firm, asking people to suggest topics for my columns. So when someone at my firm asked me a follow-up question, I was thrilled. Writing is a solitary exercise and it was wonderful to know that I was reaching at least one person. Not to mention that I might actually be able to help her. My colleague needed networking advice. She had joined several groups that were of interest to her and her professional development, but now she wanted to take it a step further. She was attending every networking-type event that she could, but she just didn’t feel like she was making any real connections. As a very junior associate I had been told that I should try to create connections which would help me as an attorney and might someday help build my business. I was told to join bar committees and different legal and nonlegal organizations that interested me, even though at that point in my career I barely had time to sleep, let alone find time for anything besides work. But I had a lot respect for the person who’d given me the advice, so I went ahead and started joining different organizations. I listened to some panel discussions and attended several cocktail parties on a fairly regular basis. And even though I couldn’t attend everything, I kept trying to go to as many events as possible. Despite the time commitments that were required, I learned lots of useful information. Over time, I stopped attending events at certain organizations and began attending events at other organizations that I hadn’t even known about before. The time management skills that I’d learned at my job were beginning to transfer to my professional development skills as well. I focused my attention on groups or organizations that provided me with training or that addressed an issue that I thought was important. Eventually I realized that the usefulness of joining groups that were more specifically geared towards my practice area, but I still wanted to be a part of organizations that were providing for the greater good. My narrower focus meant that I started recognizing people at different events. But even as the faces I saw grew familiar, I worried that I wasn’t making the meaningful connections that I’d hoped for. At this point, my fellow associate pointed out that in prior articles I’d advised how to begin the networking process, but I’d never explained how to get past the point where the faces had become familiar but there didn’t seem to be any other opportunities for professional development. To push past this point and to make the networking process a meaningful one for your career, you have to get more involved with the organizations. Start volunteering your time and attention. Maybe even assist in planning an event. Then you will, by definition, have a similar interest with the other people who have volunteered their time. That way you can forge a real connection with the other people in your community. Another way you can increase your involvement in a professional organization is to present a paper or become a panelist in a discussion. A number of professional organizations also have committees or sub-committees that are more focused on an area that may interest you. There are thousands of ways to get involved more deeply with the organizations that you think will increase your practice skills and market your abilities. Some might say that I could have been making connections sooner if I’d volunteered my time earlier on in my career. That may be true, but I learned a lot from all of the groups that I’ve been a part of throughout my career and I don’t regret a moment of it. I’m just so thankful that there was a wise person who gave me advice in the first place. Thank you for letting me pass it along. Alison McKinnell King is an Associate at Kaye Scholer LLP.

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