Why Networking Is Still Important After Law School
May 23rd, 2017 | By: Walker Advertising | Posted in: Marketing
As a law student, you may not think it necessary to network during your time in school. But mastering the art of communication and creating strong relationships early in your career is key to learning about great opportunities. Whether you are a first-year student looking to land a summer internship or a practicing attorney ready to move to a bigger firm, the chances of achieving your goal through networking is greater than submitting your resume blindly to job board postings. Networks expose to your people, ideas, and openings you can’t get anywhere else.
As a student or newbie networker, there are some behaviors that you should never partake in at any professional event. Desperately begging new contacts to give you a job, talking to the same person all night, and handing out your resume (unless the event specifies that you do so) are all actions that make you seem immature, unpolished, and unprofessional.
While the importance of networking after law school is undeniable for launching your career in the right direction, follow these guidelines during your time in school to sharpen your skills:
Invest in a simple business card and take them to all events, seminars, and conferences you attend.
Handing out business cards shows attendees that you are prepared and confident. It also prompts the other person to give you theirs, which is the real goal. While a person may not keep your business card, getting theirs allows you a means of following up, thanking them for their time and advice, and even setting up coffee or lunch meetings in the future. Even outside of law-related meetings, it’s a good idea to always keep a few cards in your wallet. You never know where you will meet someone who can be a great resource to you in the future – coffee shops, bookstores, sporting events, etc.
Resist any urge to talk about yourself first.
While you ultimately want to express what you are studying and your future goals, networking is about making people feel comfortable in your presence. The best way to do that is to get them talking about themselves first. Also, if you are talking to someone more senior than yourself remember that they are looking to network with people who can make a difference for their career. Keep them engaged in conversation by chatting about topics that are interesting to them.
When you are chatting one-on-one with a fellow attendee, avoid breaking eye contact and overtly scanning the room.
As boring as a person may seem, keep eye contact, smile, nod your head, engage in follow-up questions, etc. Scanning the room to scope out whom you are going to talk to next is distracting and rude. If you want to move on from the current conversation, thank the person for his or her time, present your business card, and express an interest in following up.
Do not cling to the same person all evening.
As the conversation runs its course, or if others interrupt you to join in, shake hands, meet the new group, and move on. Unless the person you are clinging to is a good friend, chances are you will be getting in their way because they probably have goals in terms of whom they want to talk to.
Many law school events provide food and alcoholic beverages.
You are not there to eat and drink! You are there to meet people. Avoid holding a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other because you will create an awkward situation when you need to shake someone’s hand. If you need some food to reenergize yourself, have a few snacks near the food table, ensure you have nothing in your teeth, wipe your hands clean, and get back out there. Try to limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage.
Talk about topics that make sense given the situation.
While you’ll meet attorneys in various places throughout your stint as a law school student, it’s not always appropriate to talk legal matters. Avoid politics, religion, and insulting someone’s favorite team.
When meeting experienced attorneys, use them as a source of knowledge.
Discuss the type of law you want to practice, give examples of your strategy for finding your ideal job out of law school, and ask them if you are on the right track.
Approach events with a relaxed mindset.
The more you network, the more comfortable you’ll get. That may sound hard to believe as a first-year law student, but by your second or third year, you’ll be a pro.
Follow up within a day or two of the event.
Remind each person who you are based on specific conversations with him or her. If you have the opportunity to mail a handwritten note or thank you card, you will stand out from the crowd.
Networking even after law school is important because most people find jobs through contacts that are outside their immediate network. The people that you talk to on a regular basis and socialize with are likely to have access to the same information. However, breaking out of your comfort zone allows you to be exposed to information you wouldn’t normally have.
As a newly practicing attorney, you may want to put your head down and accumulate as many billable hours as you can. While great work speaks for itself, it can undermine the importance of networking. Work comes from partners and associates who are involved in community affairs, legal associations, and who actively promote the firm’s practice areas. Once you are ready to move on to another firm, you’ll need a circle of people with whom you associate with both inside and outside of the legal field.