The Value of Collaborative Networks

I’ve sung the praises of inter and cross-sectoral collaboration here and here in terms of addressing the gaps that exist in access to justice across the country. But recently I was reminded again of the value of collaborating within my networks of legal colleagues across the country.

Wearing my Canadian Lawyers Insurance Association risk management hat, I met last week with legal malpractice insurance program directors and staff from across Canada. This group meets in person at least once per year and I always leave that meeting with pages of notes and numerous good ideas. Our in-person meetings provide opportunity to inform one another, share successes, learn about resources and work towards solutions to common problems. And through that process, we build relationships and trust in one another.

This week, I was invited to join another network of colleagues, these situated across Canada and the U.S. and working as legal practice management advisors. I was pleased to join their ranks based on comments I’ve heard from some in the group about the invaluable discussions that take place, largely through an email group but also through in person meetings that take place from time to time.

Whether it’s your local bar association, a national section of the Canadian Bar Association or a practice area focused group, getting involved in a network of professionals doing the same kind of work you do has enormous value. Participating in group discussions and attending group meetings provides ongoing learning opportunities that, in many cases, are more effective than any continuing education program you might attend.

Professional networks also create opportunities to nurture and build relationships with colleagues who may ultimately refer you work, provide you with introductions to others or become new friends. For those, like me, who practice largely on their own, the social aspect is particularly appealing; keeping in touch with those in my professional networks is not so different from stopping by the office water cooler or coffee station for a chat.

I suspect that, like CPD, active participation in professional networks may also function as a risk management tool. Relying upon practical information, tips or advice from competent and experienced colleagues across your network could potentially prevent you from making a costly mistake in your practice.

Opportunities to get involved in a professional network are plentiful, whatever your area of interest or expertise. But the benefits will only flow if you are actively involved and contribute regularly. I’m looking forward to my involvement in the practice management advisors group, but recognize that this will only be meaningful experience if I am contributing to discussions, learning from and responding to others and taking the time to form and build relationships with those in the network.

In my experience, it is usually worth the effort, but I’m interested to hear, what has been your experience with professional networks?

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