Four Ways to Make the Most of Legal Conferences

If you’re like most in the legal profession, you probably attend at least one legal conference every year. You try to participate in as many of the seminars and workshops as possible, show up at all the social events and even take part in the recreational activities.

But are you taking full advantage of the considerable networking opportunities these conferences have to offer? When you’re at a legal convention, every single person you meet could be an excellent source of information, a potential referral or simply a valuable contact to have in the future.

Here are four tips to maximize your networking opportunities at your next legal conference:

  1. Plan ahead. Is there a particular eDiscovery expert, lawyer or some other leader in the legal profession you’ve been wanting to meet? Check out if he or she is planning to attend or even present at an upcoming legal session. Most conferences provide a list of speakers before the event, and some even publish a full attendee list. If this is available, sort through the list, take note of the professionals you’d like to meet and make a point to track them down at the conference. Better yet, reach out to these individuals beforehand. Contact them via email or LinkedIn and ask if they’d be willing to meet you for coffee during the conference.

  2. Hang out in the lobby between events. Between panels and workshops, you may be tempted to head to your room and check your email or take a quick power nap. If you do this, you could miss out on some of the best networking opportunities and career advice. That’s because a conference venue’s lobby, break room or trade show floor is often the ideal place to meet new connections in the legal profession. You might run into an in-house corporate counsel speaker who has arrived early for a panel, a law firm partner who has stepped out of a presentation for a quick cup of coffee or a litigation paralegal who is scanning the trade booths. Although most conferences offer formal networking events, these impromptu meetings are often more productive since you aren’t competing with hundreds of others for the person’s attention.

  3. Don’t just hand out business cards — gather them. While you’ll certainly want to bring plenty of business cards to give out at that next big legal conference, don’t forget to gather some from the other attendees and speakers. This puts you in control of the people you may decide to connect with later as opposed to waiting for others to contact you. Shortly after you collect a professional’s card, enter their information into your phone contacts and connect with them through LinkedIn or via email during the conference or a day or two later. Reach out to these new connections while you’re still fresh in their mind and start developing a relationship with them. People with whom you’ve developed a rapport will be more likely to think of you when an opportunity becomes available. For example, they may consider you when a position opens up in their law firm or corporate legal department, when they’re looking for an eDiscovery specialist to consult with their firm or when they need a paralegal to speak at their next event.

  4. Speak up. When you attend a conference presentation, try to ask some targeted questions during the Q&A session. If you ask the right questions in a professional and creative way, not only will you gain helpful insights but you might also impress the speaker as well as the audience. This could prompt speakers or attendees to approach you after the presentation and exchange contact information with you.

The next time you attend a legal conference, follow these four simple tips to open a world of networking opportunities.

How do you maximize networking opportunities in the legal profession? Share your comments and career advice below.