Writing is one of the most effective ways to network. Opportunities for attorneys to write and get their articles, blogs and other pieces published in print or in an electronic medium are vast and growing. Demand for material about legal and law-related issues is intense, and this demand is not limited to legal trade publications, such as bar association magazines and newsletters and commercial legal journals. It goes far beyond these “insider” publications to the general media and to virtually every other trade press or specialty publication. It is impossible these days to open almost any magazine or e-zine, for example, and not find an article or opinion piece dealing with a legal matter. From Art News to Zoology Today, every profession, occupation, interest group, hobby, and human activity is saturated with law and legal controversy, and that gives attorneys who want to write for publication an enormous advantage and unlimited opportunities to network without fear.
Writing enables you to contact people you would not otherwise approach. Being an interviewer equalizes the “power equation.” Unlike a job applicant or job seeker speaking with a potential networking contact, there is no fear or intimidation associated with an interview associated with a writing assignment. These kind of phone calls or requests for “face-time” virtually always get through or get returned, because everyone likes being the center of this kind of attention. It is flattering to be considered an expert worthy of a media interview and possible quotation in an article. It is an offer few recipients refuse.
So, what to write about? Law is constantly in flux. In fact, today, there is more legal turmoil and churn than ever before, primarily because of the transformational changes wrought by the accelerating pace of technological innovation, which always leaves law and regulation gasping to catch up, and globalization, which is making the world a much smaller place and requiring that attorneys be cognizant of developments far beyond just their state capitals, Washington, DC and New York.
New practice areas crop up all the time, e.g., homeland security, e-commerce, e-discovery, climate change, digital assets, robotics law, cybersecurity, etc. Even old, staid, under-the radar practice areas are experiencing new life due to technology, such as privacy, and copyright law.
New omnibus legislation and implementing regulations create innumerable opportunities to write, e.g., Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank Act, Higher Education Opportunity Act, Food Safety Modernization Act, Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act, etc.
Landmark Supreme Court cases generate additional opportunities for legal exegesis and analysis, e.g., Citizens United, the same-sex marriage cases, etc.
Finally, the legal impact of social and demographic changes, e.g., the baby boom retirement wave, immigration policy, changes in family structure, also contribute to a wealth of possible material.
Selecting From Among Your Article Ideas
You may get excited about many or your ideas, but you need to apply a career-directed filter to help you select specific issues to write about. Keep in mind that the immediate purpose of this exercise is to permit you to do some serious networking. That means you want to write about topics designed to advance your job-search or career change. Identify topics compatible with your career goals, and save the others that get your pulse going for a later time. Select themes that permit you to talk with people who may be able to help you reach your goals. Be mindful that certain topics have a wider appeal than others and might give you a wider range of publications you can pitch.
Identify potential publication outlets. Determine where it is reasonable to think there might be editorial interest in your article. You may already have a good feel for an appropriate medium by virtue of what you yourself read regularly. To expand the possibilities, examine a good media directory, e.g., Literary Marketplace or Writer’s Market.
The medium does not have to be one that only lawyers read. Thousands of print and electronic publications publish pieces concerning the law and legal developments and prognostications. Even if what you write is never published, the effort gives you the opportunity to go back to the people you interviewed for your article at a later time and ask them to serve as networking contacts.
Interviewing Potential Networking Contacts for Your Article(s)
As with any professional interaction, you should prepare carefully for your interviews. This means coming to the meeting armed with sufficient knowledge of the interviewee, the topic, and how the two relate so that both you and the interviewee can have a productive–and memorable–session. Make certain that you send your interviewee a thank-you note. If and when your article is published, send all of your interviewees a copy and thank them again for their assistance.
You will now have added some very powerful punch to your network.