In a recent meeting with one of my coaching clients, we discussed her marketing plans for next year. She has been involved with several legal and professional associations and was trying to determine the one or two associations that were the most effective for her practice. Like most attorneys, she has a limited amount of time available for committee and board work, and wants her “free” time invested in an organization whose mission she supports.
One of the options we discussed, of course, is the California Minority Counsel Program. In addition to being a strong voice for diversity issues in the legal profession, the CMCP has a clearly defined mission and it attracts members from corporations, law firms and legal vendors. If you ask long-time CMCP members, they will tell you that they have benefited from being members, both personally and professionally. What you will probably discover is that the people who have given the most to the association have also received the most benefits.
If you plan to join an association as part of your business development plan, becoming a member is just the first step. To get the maximum benefit, you have to participate fully. The opportunities available through CMCP are similar to those in most associations.
In addition to having a Board of Directors, the CMCP has sub-committees that plan the annual conference, coordinate events, solicit memberships and produce the newsletter. By participating in any of these activities, you can learn how to manage projects, manage teams, become a leader, and improve your communication skills. And you can use all of these skills when you go back to your regular “day job.”
Find Speaking and Writing Opportunities
The CMCP annual conference and other events feature multiple speakers, and many of them are drawn from the membership. The presenters have a high degree of visibility in this community. You may be able to share your unique perspective by organizing a panel discussion, offering a seminar or submitting an article to the newsletter.
Connect with a Network
If you want to be connected with people who share your interest in diversity, CMCP provides an instant network. In order to maximize your networking opportunities, take the time to follow-up with your new contacts. Meet with them between events, invite them to become part of your social media networks and introduce them to your connections. You can also join the CMCP group on LinkedIn and participate in online discussions.
Consider Your Business Development Objectives
There are many reasons to join a particular association or non-profit organization. Here are some questions to ask yourself about CMCP, or any other group:
- Do you want to meet potential clients?
- Are your current clients members of an association that is important to you?
- Does your practice rely on referral sources?
- Will your involvement build your resume?
- What skills could you learn that you might not learn elsewhere (leadership, communications, team building, fund raising)?
- Are you looking for a community that shares your interests and goals?
Find the Right Community for You
Given that your involvement with any group will take a considerable amount of time, I strongly suggest that you identify an association that is meaningful to you. If you are committed to diversity issues, joining the CMCP is an easy choice. The work of CMCP is important and the conversations you have with other members are likely to inspire you. Of course, there are thousands of other groups that need volunteer help, including bar associations (local, state, national, special interest), professional or trade groups, community groups and non-profit associations.
Before you commit to one association, attend programs at multiple associations and evaluate the members, the programs and your own interest. Plan to become actively involved in just one group, rather than diluting your efforts in many. You can make or break your reputation by the work you do in your free time, so it doesn’t make sense to over commit yourself. When you are truly connected to the mission of an association, you are more likely to make strong connections with a network of people who share your interests.