(Updated November 9, 2020)
A lot of lawyers have asked me, "How do you keep networking and making connections during a pandemic?" I know it is definitely harder to maintain those relationship now. There are no in-person events where you can run into acquaintances and catch up on their practice, business and anything new in their lives.
But there are some alternative ways to keep in touch and one of those ways is through virtual networking events.
We've curated a list of some upcoming events where hopefully you can connect with some other lawyers to build your network and meet potential referral sources. Take advantage of the chat function and the break out rooms to meet someone new and make sure to follow-up after the event!
Check out some of the virtual events below:
NOVEMBER 4, 2020: 5:30pm-7:00pm. The Advocates’ Society. Virtual Mentoring: Facing the Fear Factor. TAS Members $10.00 + Tax.
NOVEMBER 5, 2020: 4:00pm-6:00pm. Hamilton Law Association. Women in Law: An Event to Encourage, Inspire, & Support Women in the Legal Profession. HLA Members: $85 + HST, Non-Member Lawyers & Other Professionals: $95 + HST; Articling Students, LPP Candidates, Non-Practicing Members & Paralegals: $70 + HST: Law Firm Staff & Clerks: $65 +HST.
NOVEMBER 6, 2020: 12:00pm-1:30pm (PT). The Advocates’ Society. 3rd Annual British Columbia Big Mingle: Virtual Edition.
NOVEMBER 12, 2020: 8:00pm-9:30pm (EST) The Advocates’ Society. Young Advocates’ Standing Committee National Social: Mixer & Mixology. TAS members: Free; Non-Members: $10 + tax.
NOVEMBER 16, 2020: 6:45pm-8:00pm. Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (Ontario). Not-So-Distant Connections: FACL Speed Networking 2020. Free.
NOVEMBER 17, 2020: 12:00pm-1:00pm. Hamilton Law Association. 19th Annual Sopinka Legal (Virtual) Luncheon. Registration fee: $25.
NOVEMBER 18, 2020: 5:30pm-7:00pm The Advocates’ Society. Class Actions Bench & Bar Reception. TAS Members: Free; Non-Members $25 + tax.
NOVEMBER 19, 2020: 8:00am. Women's Law Association of Ontario. Virtual Morning Meet & Check-In. WLAO Members Only.
NOVEMBER 19, 2020: County of Carleton Law Association. Virtual Trivia Night. More details will be provided closer to the date of the event.
NOVEMBER 19, 2020: 5:00pm-6:00pm. Hamilton Law Association. Drinks with a Trustee: Virtual Networking Mixer. Limited to articling students & 1st year calls. Register by November 12, 2020.
NOVEMBER 24, 2020: 12:00pm-1:00pm. The Advocates' Society. Anecdotes with Advocates. The arbitration and mediation advocacy practice group fall networking event. TAS Members: FREE; Non-Members $25 + tax.
NOVEMBER 25, 2020: Women’s Law Association of Ontario. Holiday Gift Guide Presentation. Registration opens soon.
NOVEMBER 29, 2020: 11:00am-12:30pm. The Advocates' Society. TAS Jolly Jamboree (virtual visit with Santa Claus and online family events). TAS Members only. FREE.
DECEMBER 1, 2020: 7:30pm-8:45pm. The Advocates' Society. The Art of Networking for Women Advocates' Today and Tomorrow. This event is open to TAS members and non-member lawyers from 8 – 22 years of call. TAS Members: FREE; Non-Members: $25 + tax.
DECEMBER 9, 2020: 7:00pm-8:00pm. The Advocates' Society. President's Festive Member Mingle. TAS Members Only: FREE
Know of any other upcoming virtual social or networking events for lawyers? Let us know! And we hope to "see" you at some of these events soon.
(Please double check dates/times/prices directly on the associations’ websites as this information may change).
Another successful solo-preneur has been kind enough to share with us her insights and advice for starting your own law firm. Read on for Michelle Fernandes' tips on what to do (and not to do) when starting out on your own:
1. Tell me a little about your law firm/practice.
I love what I do. I practice criminal defence law exclusively and have my entire career. It is the best of all possible worlds; no two cases are the same, nor the clients. I have the chance to delve into constitutional law, trial and appellate advocacy. From bail hearings to jury trials, I have the opportunity to defend all manner of charges and appear in all levels of court.
At my firm, my primary focus is on the vigorous defence of charges, but I take a more holistic approach to my clients’ cases. People who walk through my door are facing one of the most stressful periods of their lives. Some are at their lowest. Some struggle with issues that contributed to their case, so I suggest services to address those. It has a positive impact and puts them in a better position to fight their charges. Being able to provide a strong, experienced, and compassionate defence for these individuals…it’s just amazing.
2. Why did you start your own firm? How did you make this decision?
I was a partner at Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross, Gorham and Angelini L.L.P. (now Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, L.L.P.), a large criminal defence trial and appellate firm from 2011 to 2017 in downtown Toronto. In 2017, I left to open my own firm to better serve my clients because I wanted to provide a more holistic approach to criminal law. There are underlying issues and stresses that contribute to people winding up in the justice system. I wasn’t satisfied merely being another part of the revolving door, so I offer external resources to anyone interested.
Venturing out on my own took several months of consideration and working on my exit plan. I reviewed materials provided by the Law Society of Ontario and consulted with several lawyers of my vintage, who had already left to start their own practice. I amassed savings to cover business and living expenses for the first two years as well as to provide a psychological poultice against an uncertain income flow. I also established tenancy where there were others practicing criminal law.
3. What are some of the benefits of running your own firm?
I experienced all the benefits that would readily spring to mind: a more satisfying work/life balance; the freedom and independence that comes with being your own boss; as well as greater flexibility. What I didn’t expect were the cost savings, increased and upgraded client service offerings and improved quality of life that resulted from abandoning traditional forms of overhead. There are virtual assistants, virtual meetings, shared office spaces and staff that can be obtained for a fraction of the cost and time required to run a traditional brick and mortar style firm. COVID19 has highlighted the weaknesses of the old, outdated modes of practicing the law and forced change that should already have been ushered in a decade ago.
I can also cherry pick my colleagues and mentors. While working for a firm, you end up spending a lot of time there and consequently with the people who work there when you’re not in court. As wonderful as the people in your firm may be, to really grow as a lawyer you have to expose yourself to other ways of approaching cases and thinking about the law. Some level of groupthink and resistance to change is inevitable in long established firms and practices.
My work is, in part, my legacy, as it is with many other lawyers. At some point you have to ask yourself, what will be your unique footprint in this world? How are you shaping the law and the practice of it? The way “things have always been done” are rarely the best ways to do it and certainly not the only ways. Be brave. Be better. Challenge the status quo. Make your unique contribution.
4. What are some of the challenges of running your own firm? How have you tried to overcome them?
Starting out I was terrified I would not be able to make ends meet. That fear was unfounded, but you do have to learn how to effectively market yourself and not just throw money at the problem, or do what you see others doing.
One problem I did not anticipate was having new clients banging down your door when you are buried in trial work for weeks on end and unable to assist. I had great lawyers to refer work to, but who weren’t always able to return the favour due to the nature of their practice or other constraints in their lives. I developed a network of lawyers that I respected as colleagues and on a personal level, whom I could refer work and who would refer work back. Just like in your personal life, reciprocity is vital to a healthy, long term business relationship.
I approached more senior or established lawyers who had a lot of work, but not the staff to handle it. They used me on a case by case basis when they were too busy to prep their matters themselves, or as co-counsel on large, complex cases. It’s a great way to build relationships and your reputation when starting your own practice.
I also developed relationships with lawyers outside of criminal law. Often there are complementary practice areas which overlap with your own. Forging relationships with such lawyers brings needed diversity to your own work, allows you to develop alternative sources for referrals and support when you have queries that are outside your area of expertise.
5. What advice would you give to a lawyer thinking about starting their own firm?
Develop a network of lawyers you feel comfortable sending a text, email, or even picking up the phone and calling at the drop of a hat before you go out on your own. Be considerate when you reach out. Select times, days, modes of communication and time durations that work for them. Everyone has their own pressures and commitments, so unless a short deadline has been imposed on you that’s beyond your control, give others a lot of time to respond. Send a gentle reminder to them if they haven’t responded in a reasonable time period and always express gratitude. Appreciation and consideration will take you much further than an attitude of entitlement and indifference.
Expect to feel fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. It gets better as you go along, but don’t expect those feelings to ever disappear entirely. Everyone has them, whether or not they will admit to them. Find people in your professional and personal life to share those thoughts with so they don’t overwhelm you.
Most importantly be kind to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. This job is not without its stressors and detractors. Don’t be one of them.
Thank you Michelle for your honest and helpful advice and guidance. You can reach Michelle at email@example.com
ICYMI our previous posts featured Laura Chaves Paz, Diane Ulman, Sara Forte, Darielle Teitelbaum Darlene Tonelli, Amy Grubb, Emilia Coto, Karen Kwan Anderson, Shamim Ara, Mitchell Rose, Lisa Feldstein, and Ellen Low. Stay tuned for more profiles coming soon....
Do you have a busy law practice but you are not ready to make your first full-time hire? Let us help. Our freelance lawyers and law clerks assist on an as-needed project basis.
We are excited to welcome our fall intern/apprentice Umang Dhingra to Flex Legal!
Umang was matched with Flex founder Erin Cowling through FLIK, a program that connects "driven womxn with female founders and leaders for a 3-month remote apprenticeship".
Umang Dhingra is a high school junior from New Delhi, India who is passionate about applied social sciences and anthropology and aims to eventually pursue human rights and criminal litigation. She created Office of Dead Letters a community blog that aims to amplify the voices of GenZ in a safe, inclusive space. She presides over Girl Up Songbird and spoke at the Girl Up Global Leadership Summit 2020 with the likes of Michelle Obama, Megan Markle, and Priyanka Chopra. Umang also founded Project Destinytion that aims to uplift migrants, refugees, and international students by reducing the intense cultural shock and rather, celebrating cultural differences- a community that has reached 10+ countries in less than 3 months. She is also an Impact Incubator Fellow, a Nu School Fellow, and a Counter Speech Fellow with Instagram. She loves to read, write, and watch cute animal videos in her spare time.
We are excited to have Umang join us to work on some research & writing projects over the next few months!
Are you a busy lawyer looking for experienced help?