The number of organizations you can join is overwhelming, numbering in the tens of thousands. The number of legal and law-related membership organizations is also very large and diverse. Legal organizations are not, by any means, the only ones you can join in order to enhance your networking prospects and develop wider contacts. Civic associations, service clubs, religious groups, sports-related organizations, book clubs, babysitting groups, PTAs, etc., are all there to be mined by you.
However, the mere act of joining is not enough. You need to attend their meetings. It is also a plus if you volunteer to participate in some of their activities. You may also want to consider writing articles for their print or online newsletters, blogs or other publications, and participating in organizing events. All of these activities “embed” you in the organization and enable you to expand your networking possibilities.
Keep in mind that many membership organizations exist primarily to provide job and business development networking opportunities for their members.
Go to continuing education programs, conferences, seminars, and practice area workshops and update sessions. Virtually every profession sponsors a multitude of such events. As a rule, the speakers at such gatherings are good networking contacts. Get yourself on the mailing list for advance notice of such events. If you cannot attend, you can almost always obtain a copy of who did attend, which provides you with a targeted list of potential contacts.
Support groups are usually informal collections of similarly situated people, such as a “Forty-Plus” organization if you happen to have reached that age. They do not necessarily have to be job seekers. One of the most productive support groups I ever observed consisted of “sandwich” generation folks who were raising kids and taking care of their parents at the same time.
I have often spoken to groups of job seekers who share in common their recent graduate status from the same law school. I always encourage them to share “non-threatening” information during our sessions. For example, an attorney interested in environmental law knows of a small firm seeking an entry-level lawyer for its securities practice. In all, these groups typically exchange 10-15 bits of very valuable information, without sacrificing their own competitive edge.