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February 20, 2024 Get the SciTech Edge

The Care and Feeding of Your Legal Network

Joanne Charles

The Care and Feeding of Your Legal Network

As we embark upon the new year, we look to our calendars for the events that will mark the milestones of 2024. If professional development features high on your list of New Year’s resolutions, make networking the heart of your plans. Networking can feel overwhelming, but with thoughtful planning, your next networking opportunity may yield satisfying engagements. Below are tips to help you build and improve your networking skills.

Utilize conferences. Establish a conference calendar and attend programs that support your educational goals. Before any conference, research speakers and panelists by visiting their professional social media page or firm website. Your research goal is to enable thoughtful engagements with the presenters you speak with and conversations that go beyond superficial comments or questions. These conversations have the potential to start a long-term relationship, so invest time in getting prepared.

Get involved. Join a local chapter of your state bar association and take advantage of opportunities to contribute. Volunteer as a mentor, or host pro bono working events for more impact. Working on pro bono events builds practical experience and connects legal professionals to like-minded colleagues. Developing these relationships can be as fulfilling as your community service.

Leverage technology. We get bombarded with ads for apps promoting the latest AI or efficiency product. Some are useful. This year, make networking part of your professional schedule. Digital tools can set meetings and reminders for check-ins with those already in your network and note colleagues’ work anniversaries or birthdays. These tools can streamline the networking process, so don’t skip them.

Communicate authentically. After you’ve met new colleagues, establish and maintain consistent communication. It’s not enough to send one “nice to meet you” email. These communications shouldn’t be transactional, but instead should focus on relationship development. Consider using these communications to facilitate knowledge sharing or introductions to those in your community or your existing network.

The ABA Science & Technology Law Section will host its inaugural Spring Meeting and Privacy Institute in Washington D.C., April 17–19, 2024. This three-day event offers a place to network and learn about the latest legal developments in scitech law. We invite members to join us and come ready to take advantage of the networking opportunities the conference will offer. For more information, visit More ABA in-person events are at

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Joanne Charles

Gilead Sciences

Joanne Charles is chair of the MAD Committee and associate general counsel at Gilead Sciences. Her work focuses on AI, privacy, and data ethics. Prior to joining Gilead, Joanne was senior corporate counsel in Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs Department.