by Debra Hindin-King
How often have you heard that networking with other paralegals will enhance your circle of friends and make your life more rewarding? Paralegals routinely rate very highly the importance of networking within their profession. Numerous paralegals feel it is a top priority to enlarge their circle of friends, as well as a member benefit of their association. I have certainly found that to be true throughout my career, even today when I consider myself “seasoned” in the field.
My networking experiences have allowed me to become acquainted either virtually (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) or in person with so many talented and gifted paralegals across the country. Often times I am in need of a referral for a court reporter, process server or an office in which to hold a mediation outside my home state. Through my network, I routinely connect with my paralegal friends to request assistance with such matters. Getting a trusted referral is so much easier and quicker than having your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages or spending time surfing the internet!
Attending professional events such as conventions and CLEs will also allow you to widen your circle of professional acquaintances. Many of the exhibitors at a convention may be helpful to you in future projects. Even though you may not be the sole decision maker when hiring an exhibitor for a project, you familiarity with these vendors may make it easier in the future to reconnect when the need is ripe. Often times at CLEs, an opportunity to network with other attendees may allow you to expand your circle of resources. Get to know those who have similar interests and passions about the paralegal profession; no price tag can ever be placed on the value of this experience.
Consider joining a paralegal organization or another legal professional group. It is amazing how quickly you will get to know others with similar interests and passions. Don’t be afraid to take on a leadership role within the group. Working with others toward a common goal is extremely rewarding, not only for you but for the organization as well. At the end of the day, you will feel better about yourself, and that your time spent was worthwhile in helping the group to succeed. In addition, nonprofit legal organizations are always looking for committed volunteers and leaders, representing yet another resource to connect with people who may have similar interests!
Leadership Management Styles
Do you need a B12 shot to help you become an effective leader utilizing your newly acquired networking skills? Consider various styles of leadership. What differences exist among various generations of leaders, ranging from Baby Boomers right up to Generations X, Y and Millennials?
Typically, younger generations seek rewarding work, flexible hours, more vacation time, and continuous training—and they don’t like someone watching too closely to check their progress. These workers and leaders want a less structured approach to management, as opposed to climbing the hierarchy of the corporate ladder. Often, younger workers may be ready to leave one job and move into something better in a very short period of time. Compare that to Baby Boomers, who view long hours as evidence of hard work and loyalty, and who may prefer more structure within the work environment. Historically, Baby Boomers tend to be less likely to leave after just a few years with their employer.
Younger generations value teamwork and encourage collaboration on projects, which will hopefully lend itself to a more transparent and fluid management style as leaders in their respective organizations. Although technology plays a major role in all of our lives, face-to-face conversation continues to be one of the most valuable methods to convey ideas, exchange information, and formulate plans to allow organizations to pay forward the value of networking for future members.
The million dollar question is how to structure your association to ensure the new generation (“young hungry leaders”) want to stay. Consider some of these ideas: 1) offer ongoing leadership training; 2) increase benefits for those assuming leadership roles, (for example, provide greater recognition for an individual’s contributions by profiling emerging leaders in online association newsletters, local papers, or by sending a letter to a leader’s employer about his/her role in the organization, or by recognizing leaders at annual meetings and social events, etc.); 3) provide latitude in the decision making process; 4) gain the loyalty and respect from younger generations via transparent communication and ongoing support; 5) encourage all leaders and members to be “green” – we all want to protect our precious environment for future generations; and 6) grow and nurture talent by providing challenges to validate and show members loyalty.
Bridging the generation gap is and will always be a challenging situation as it relates to leadership within an organization. Effective leaders should encourage free thinking and sharing of opinions to ensure all members, particularly those in leadership roles, within the organization feel empowered, and are appreciated as valuable contributors. Successful leaders follow through on commitments and take ownership of their own actions, non-actions and mistakes.
Leaders are learners and like to help others succeed. As Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, leadership is “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” A leader often times leads by example, whether he intends to do so or not. Does that sound familiar to you in your organization? And finally, as Henry Miller declared, “The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way.”
The art of networking goes hand-in-hand with the development of the leaders of today and tomorrow. Seize the opportunities to retool your leadership skill-set to include the resource of networking with your peers – an experience that will provide you with a challenging path down the road in seeking leadership opportunities to pursue within your association.
Debra Hindin-King has been a litigation paralegal for 23 years specializing in oil and gas royalty and commercial litigation. She is currently employed at the law firm of Wheel Trigg O’Donnell LLP in Denver. She is member of the Advisory Council, Organization of Legal Professionals, Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Co-Chair of the Paralegal committee of the Colorado Bar Association and member of the Colorado Association of Litigation Support Professionals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted by permission of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations www.paralegals.org