By: Nathan M. Ciulla, CPA Director of Marketing
As paralegals, we understand why it’s so important for attorneys to market themselves and network with colleagues. In my role at my firm, I’m responsible for helping our attorneys keep their bios up to date, promote speaking events and create engaging presentations. It’s vital to the future of our firms that our attorneys continue to connect and learn from each other. Many of the legal staffers that I talk to do much the same for their firms, but have not considered how they market themselves, and this means that the legal field is losing out on a wealth of knowledge from an important resource: paralegals.
There may be several reasons you haven’t considered the importance of self-branding. Perhaps you feel like you don’t have time, you don’t believe that what you have to say is important or you don’t even know where to begin. These are just a few of the reasons I’ve heard people give for not networking, and in the past, I would have felt the same way. I hope to help show you that all the reasons are misconceptions, and that you can successfully grow your network and share your brand.
As paralegals, we must start to see ourselves as a vital resource and that networking is important. Networking provides a way for us to share and learn from each other. While our days often seem full and tend to fly by, carving out some time for networking makes a big difference. Prior to joining the Chicago Paralegal Association, I did not belong to any professional organizations aimed at helping paralegals. Joining the CPA has made a huge difference for me and my career. The opportunity to share knowledge, to interact with others who know what it’s like to be in the same field and to just have fun together has made my work even better. Since joining the association, I’ve been able to have many candid conversations with our members and find volunteer opportunities to use my skill in a way that helps to resource neighborhoods that are traditionally under-resourced. I now feel like I have a more fulfilling career.
Before you can consider putting yourself out there, you must believe that your story matters. Knowing that what you’ve learned in life and in your career is worthy of being shared with others. As the producer of a podcast aimed at sharing stories of leaders in the Chicago region, I’ve learned that everyone’s story really does have value. The successes, challenges and lessons you’ve learned along your path are important and need to be shared. There is a high chance that if you’ve been through it, someone out there is currently going through a similar situation. Sharing our story can motivate, inspire and give hope to people who are in the middle of a tough time.
Sharing my story was something that I wasn’t very comfortable with for a good portion of my life. As someone who often felt very different than the others I saw around me, I didn’t think that my voice would matter as much as theirs. Many times I didn’t feel educated enough, old enough or skilled enough to contribute. It was actually the attorneys at the law firm I work at that encouraged me to use my voice to share my life lessons with others as a way to encourage and inspire others who may also feel different. Since then, I’ve had countless people reach out and share how hearing my story has helped them in some small way.
I know that it can seem daunting to think about how to start marketing yourself. Writing articles, attending events or joining a committee may not seem like something you can do. Like many other things we do, starting small is often best. Joining an organization like the Chicago Paralegal Association is a great place to start, because it gives you an opportunity to be as involved as you are comfortable, while sharing your brand with others. It’s like dipping your toes in the water: it feels safe but is also a step in the right direction. You will have the chance to attend several events, share your knowledge on a discussion board, attend webinars to learn more about the legal field, and plug into a larger legal community. As you grow, your involvement with the organization can grow, too. You can join a committee, write an article, or even join the Board of Directors! At the CPA, we value all our members and want to hear from you, we believe the more voices we hear, the better we all are.
I truly hope that you are inspired to share your voice and to join us in making our association an even better resource. If you feel like your voice doesn’t matter anywhere else, we can promise you it will matter here. We know paralegals are multitasking, wealth of knowledge royals and we value the time you give us. I would love to hear your stories, please share your story loud and proud with me at email@example.com!