When I first started to practice law the internet was still ruled by home users dialing up AOL to hear “You’ve Got Mail.” In that environment, when I needed the expertise of another lawyer, I had to walk down the hall and talk to a colleague, or turn to my phone list (I kept mine [...]
When I first started to practice law the internet was still ruled by home users dialing up AOL to hear “You’ve Got Mail.” In that environment, when I needed the expertise of another lawyer, I had to walk down the hall and talk to a colleague, or turn to my phone list (I kept mine in a day planner). Many-a-lawyer in that era was valued by the size of his or her Rolodex contact list. Those found in these phone lists were befriended at conferences, luncheons or while rubbing shoulders in the court room–hard earned networks of colleagues whose connection usually started with a handshake.
Not long after that, office-based email became popular and people began keeping their contacts on their computers. These computers were networked and engineers developed software to allow the easy sharing of one’s contacts across a network. With the advent of high-speed internet and social networking, a new breed of lawyer evolved. There are lawyers now joining the ranks of this profession who do not even know what a Rolodex is. These new lawyer’s are building contacts in the same way as before, but now there are more ways to connect to more people more often. Networking, particularly the online type, now plays a very large role in the lives of most professionals.
I know I would not be comfortable practicing immigration law if I didn’t have access to the brain hive of thousands of other immigration attorneys across the globe who belong to the same professional organization I do and who regularly share their knowledge with every member of the organization. This particular organization also facilitates a virtual question-and-answer platform that allows an attorney dealing with a new practice area or situation to get advice from “the attorney down the hall”–or in this case, maybe that attorney is on another continent. Even better, there is a formal mentor program where you can request and be assigned a mentor, or you can just pose questions to the pool of mentors.
The type of online networking I find most valuable is that facilitated by a larger, focused organization of like-minded professionals. Social networking is great, but the contacts you make are less likely to be as motivated about a particular esoteric area of the law (like the one you need help with) than someone who has self-selected by both joining a focused professional organization and by participating in the online exchange of information with colleagues. These do-good attorneys generally get no pay and no referrals for these efforts–they do it because they are professionals who value raising the standards of everyone else in their field. Or maybe they just like sharing what they know. That’s someone you want on your team. Of course, you must ethically take responsibility for the advice you give your clients, which means you have to confirm what you learn from these sources before passing it on, but you are already miles ahead for having tapped into the brain hive of other attorneys practicing in your area.
I inform my clients that when they hire me, they are hiring not just a sole practitioner, but one who is connected to thousands of other immigration attorneys all over who can help answer difficult questions or point me in the right direction. Find a brain hive in your area of practice and tap into. Join the Borg.