COVID-19: A Yr Later – The best way to Community and Thrive in a Disaster with Anjie Vichayanonda
“I woke up feeling that maybe I could run for president. Even if there is no precedent, I’ll toggle the news. I’m about to add a little estrogen.” – Lizzo
This week, in honor of International Women’s Day, I had the opportunity to reconnect with Anjie Vichayanonda, founder of Leg Up Legal, whose mission is to disrupt and revitalize the legal industry pipeline by providing meaningful care to everyone.
We covered a wide range of topics, from her latest co-authored book to how to deal with COVID-19 a year later. Every time I connect with Vichayanonda it always matters – as she gives both strategic and tactical advice to our audience to act on.
Without further ado, here is a (slightly edited and condensed) summary of our conversation:
Renwei Chung (RC): You recently published a book called #Networked: How 20 Female Lawyers Broke the Boundaries of Social Distancing from COVID-19 to Connect, Community and Build Businesses amid a global pandemic. Can you give our ATL audience a brief overview?
Anjie Vichayanonda (AV): Yes, I had the privilege of co-authoring #Networked with 19 amazing lawyers. We all met on LinkedIn and at the beginning of the pandemic we joined a group DM with 30 other women. Our group differs in age, ethnicity and geography. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I chatted almost every hour with all these ladies in our group DM.
It was fascinating for me to hear the stories of how the pandemic affected our daily lives, our legal practice and our businesses. We found comfort and support in one another and found we were building something very special, so 20 of us got together and wrote #Networked, a compilation of our stories about the early days of the pandemic.
RC: Did any of you know each other outside of LinkedIn?
FROM: No, as far as I know, none of our members knew each other offline before joining our group DM. That’s part of what made this whole experience so impressive to me because I realized that you can build really strong connections through LinkedIn. To get to know each of the women in our group better, I had individual Zoom calls with many of them, interacted with them at Group Zoom events, followed their posts and content, and participated in group chat every day.
I now feel closer to many women in our group than to many colleagues and friends from professional circles offline. I laughed with them and cried with them. We celebrated birthdays and professional successes. Many of us have supported each other by collaborating on podcasts and events and connecting new businesses. I’m just so surprised with the whole experience because I’ve never had a tight group of girlfriends and found my sorority in the strangest places during a pandemic – LinkedIn.
RC: Some of my mentees recently asked about networking after networking. Do you have any tips?
FROM: My first tip is not to wait until after graduating from law school! Especially in times of social distancing, you should expand your network and find support now. My advice is to reach out to lawyers for informational meetings. Identify attorneys you want to connect with through LinkedIn, professional associations, alumni associations, or bar associations. Invite them to a 30-minute informational interview on Zoom (and use a planning tool like Calendly or Appoint.ly to make planning easier for them).
During the informational interview, build a relationship with the lawyer by asking them questions about their journey instead of just asking about their job responsibilities. Ask them questions like why you went to law school? How was your experience as a lawyer? How did you find a job while studying law and how did you choose the areas of activity that you would like to pursue? These questions will help you learn the lawyer’s motivations and understand their interests. Seek advice from the lawyer and use that advice as an opportunity to follow up. Ask them which organizations to join that are focused on their area of activity, or ask them if there are any upcoming CLEs or events to attend to learn more about their area of activity.
If you take this advice, write back to the lawyer and let them know the result. Keep a table or notion file of your contacts to keep track of the last time you spoke to each contact. Use calendar reminders to remind yourself to keep track of your contacts. For follow-up, you can send updates on your milestones and achievements, request more advice, offer to connect your contacts with other people, share relevant articles or events, or praise your contact for a recent achievement.
RC: What are your recommendations for law students and young attorneys to deal with this pandemic?
FROM: Be more careful about maintaining relationships. Most people crave connectivity and belonging, so keeping in touch with others is important for your wellbeing. Ask a classmate or coworker to prepare a Zoom standing lunch every two weeks. Find events to attend and take an active part in the event.
It’s really easy to attend virtual events, turn off the camera and try to multitask during the event, but you won’t meet anyone that way and you won’t lose much of your value. So if you’re attending a virtual event, at least introduce yourself in the chat box or jump in front of the camera to ask questions and, if possible, connect with people at the event.
RC: What have you learned about yourself and others over the past year?
FROM: I’ve learned that one of my superpowers is connecting people and teaching them how to build relationships. Everyone talks about networking like it’s a natural skill, but it is very cumbersome to build professional relationships. And almost everyone feels intimidated by networking at first, especially if you don’t have a lot of work experience.
I’ve learned that many people are afraid to seek mentoring or guidance from other professionals, and even when they build up the courage to get in touch, they find it difficult to find ways to keep the connection going.
RC: I enjoyed our last Zoom meetup. What made you start this series?
FROM: I started our weekly Zoom Meetups to help build a community of Prelaw students, current law students, and attorneys who can support one another in these times of social distancing and provide our community with information and resources to help them advance their careers improve. Each week, we invite guest speakers, including attorneys, legal admission professionals, consultants, career counselors, and more, to share some wisdom with our community.
We always reserve time for an open Q&A at the end of each meetup so that the participants can interact with the speaker and with each other. To create a special networking opportunity, we host a virtual happy hour on Zoom every two weeks for all Prelaw students, current law students, and lawyers. During happy hour we split everyone into individual breakout rooms so they can have higher quality interactions. We then come back together as a group to share information that we learned in the breakout rooms.
RC: A lot of the same topics came up in our conversation: “Finding Your Tribe”, “Connecting” and “Intent on Your Career”. What tools do you specifically use to achieve these goals?
FROM: Fortunately, we now have so many tools to use to nurture our relationships and stay connected. I started creating social media content and hosting virtual events last year to help law students and attorneys stay connected and have networking opportunities.
My content started adding value to my connections so they have shared that content through LinkedIn and my network and have grown very quickly. When you share content on social media, it helps to keep you updated on your professional relationships. If you don’t have the time to reach out to each of your contacts on a regular basis, social media can be a great tool for reaching much of your network at once. Specifically, I post on LinkedIn at least three to five times a week and use a post-scheduling tool so I don’t have to log in every day to post. I also post about our events on Instagram and Facebook.
I use LinkedIn and Zoom to connect with new people and invite them to meet up with me so I can learn more about them and find ways we can work together. LinkedIn will help you expand your network, and video conferencing will help you deepen your connection.
My co-authors at #Networked all use a group DM on LinkedIn to stay connected and chat every day. I speak to a lot of lawyers who just don’t think LinkedIn is worth the effort or that they don’t have time to use social media professionally, but it’s the same lawyers who tell me they are isolated and detached from theirs Feel community and colleagues. Like it or not, our personal and professional lives have increasingly moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, and people have started to build real online support communities. So, if you don’t feel engaged, consider stepping up your social media game.
RC: Thank you for your time today. Is there anything else you would like to convey to the ATL audience?
FROM: If you’re interested in getting a raw and honest perspective on how other lawyers, especially female lawyers, have balanced their work and personal lives and found ways to connect with others during the pandemic, check out #Networked. It’s available on Amazon here:
And if you want to get in touch with me and the other women at #Networked, you can find me on LinkedIn.
On behalf of everyone here at Above the Law, I’d like to thank Anjie Vichayanonda for taking the time to share her story with our audience. We look forward to following her successes and wish her further successes in her career.