PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: Helpful Resources for Career Exploration and Network Building
|Published in the September 20, 2011, AdvisorJoining a bar association or other professional organization can help you explore potential paths and connect with mentors as you begin your legal career. That’s why many of these organizations allow students to join. Don’t wait to pass a bar exam to join a voluntary bar association; doing so now – while you are a student – can be beneficial.
Membership in a professional organization offers several advantages to students at minimal expense. For instance, being a member helps you access current information about practice areas and the legal job market. In addition, membership provides opportunities to network with established professionals in the areas or fields that interest you most.
Consider your career goals as you evaluate which association to join.
Students focused on securing employment in a particular location might join an association based on geography. As a law student, you can join the Multnomah Bar Association (in Portland) for free. See https://www.mbabar.org/membership.php. You can do the same in Eugene through the Lane County Bar Association, http://lanecountybar.org/.
Students who hope to pursue a particular kind of practice following graduation can join a specialty bar association. Many practice-based bar associations exist. Consider, for example, the International Association of Gaming Advisors, the Copyright Society of the U.S.A., and the Maritime Law Association of the United States. Further, many larger organizations offer membership in practice-specific sections or committees.
Bar associations based on identity offer students another way to connect with the legal community. For $20, a student can join the Oregon Women Lawyers for a year; students can join the Oregon Gay and Lesbian Law Association for free. An Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association student membership is $15.
Once you join, take advantage of your membership to build your network.
Contact members and ask for informational interviews. Volunteer to research something for a committee. Better yet, attend a bar association talk or a conference; many organizations offer significantly reduced registration fees for students.
When you attend an event, capitalize on the opportunity. Talk to the speakers and ask for their business cards. Offer to buy them coffee. Speak with the person sitting next to you or behind you in line for coffee.
If you can’t make it to a far-away, expensive, or inconveniently timed event, send an email to the speaker and ask to meet the next time you visit the speaker’s hometown.
For your reference, here is a list of just a few of the professional organizations for Oregon lawyers that law students can join.