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The importance of networking in the paralegal community

Submitted by UCS on November 12, 2018

In a span of 10 days in mid-October, my colleague and I traveled over 6,600 miles to attend the International Practice Management Association (IPMA) and National Federation Paralegal Association (NFPA) conferences held in Orlando, Florida and Seattle, Washington. This was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. The new relationships would primarily be for business purposes but could quite possibly turn into long-lasting friendships.

As I stood by my carefully staged vendor table, offering and taking business cards and asking questions to quickly get to know the conference attendees, all this activity reminded me of just how important professional networking is for career development as well as your sanity. So many of my interactions turned into learning moments and a chance to relate to someone who was going through something I thought was unique only to me. Five years ago through my networking efforts, I met Mariana Fradman, Vice-President of the New York City Paralegal Association. I admire Mariana’s commitment to the advancement of the paralegal profession and we have developed a relationship that benefits her organization as well as mine. I asked Mariana about the concept of networking and this was what she shared:

“When I was growing up, my father told me that if you want to be a professional, you have to belong to a professional association. Only by joining the New York City Paralegal Association, I did fully understand it. When I come home and say “I had a closing today, my family understands that I had a busy day. But only my fellow paralegals know how much work stands behind that closing; how many hours my team and I spent in preparing all the documents, clearing all the obstacles and making sure that all parties are on a same page.”

What are the benefits of actively networking?
Networking can help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn in 2017, almost 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success. Even more interesting was that according to that same survey nearly 70 percent of the people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a connection.

How do I get started?
Today there are so many ways to network. While there are hundreds of social media outlets (LinkedIn being the most popular) to connect with, in my opinion, there can be nothing more invigorating than spending time around people who are supportive and share a common interest. Whether it is in the office where you work or the person you meet at the grocery store, there is always an opportunity to network. Start by looking for a local group of professionals in your field who meet on a regular basis and provide opportunities for career advancement, training, and networking.

Mariana offers this observation and practical advice:
“In the first three years being a member of my local paralegal association, I met more people that I met through my entire career. Some of them became my mentors and friends. Some of them helped me to shape my career. The easiest way to start is by joining your local paralegal association and getting involved with it. Between joining committee or board of directors, doing pro bono or just attending local paralegal events and seminars, there are many opportunities for professional and personal growth for anyone who is interested in it.”

The elements of networking were on full display at both conferences. I encountered opportunities to learn through targeted seminars presented by experts in their respective fields. I observed meetings/debates regarding specific challenges that affect the workplace and advice on career advancement. I also saw colleagues from across the country celebrate the impressive achievements of their counterparts.

Despite traveling from coast to coast a few days apart, my colleague and I agree that we feel exhausted yet exhilarated for the opportunity to meet with such a diverse and passionate group of professionals who care deeply about what they do for a living. Being a paralegal myself I can certainly appreciate the commitment.

Do you have a networking story you’d like to share? Feel free to drop a comment on our LinkedIn page. You never know who it may benefit. While you’re at it, come join our LinkedIn group (United Corporate Services, Inc.) to receive more blogs like this one and to share your journey. We’d love to network with you!

About the author:
Keith Sheppard is the Project Coordinator at United Corporate Services. Keith received his Bachelor of Science degree in Paralegal Studies from St. John’s University. As a corporate paralegal and manager with over two decades of experience in the legal services field, Keith has developed an awareness for how to assist lawyers and fellow paralegals with corporate filings and due diligence. Have a question or a suggestion for a blog? Contact Keith at keith.sheppard@unitedcorporate.com

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