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Networking Advice (From Someone Who Hates Networking)

Networking is like the unofficial class you will take in law school (or in pretty much any school)--you won't get a grade for your efforts, but your ability to network will be essential to your success after graduation.

However, if you're like me, then talking to people you don't know about an industry you barely know anything about sounds like one of the top 5 worst things I could do. But, like anything, practice makes perfect. Here are some things that have made the process a bit less intimidating for me.

1. Make a Google excel sheet of everyone you meet.

Do this! Now!!!! One of my friends advised me to do this and it has been so helpful. Put column headers like: Name; E-mail; Phone: Where/When we met; Company (if applicable); and Notes about them.

Every time you meet someone that could be a potential future resource or connection, put them in your spread sheet. I have found the notes section to be helpful because it makes me a more active listener during the conversation. If they tell me they did law review in law school and now work in aviation law, for example, I'll write that all down in my notes section when I get home. Then, if I ever have questions about law review or aviation law, I can reach out to them about it. It also is easier to keep a spread sheet than remember their names in your Contacts or keep a bunch of business cards in one place.

2. Follow up IF you actually enjoyed meeting them or learned something from the conversation

I don't mean this to be rude, but if you talk to someone for 30 seconds and don't know or really care what they do, there's probably no need to further establish a relationship. I think this is especially important when there's a panel speaking to a large audience. Some panel members may have provided valuable information to you, and those are the ones you should follow up with. If others didn't really spark your interest, then maybe give others the chance to meet with them.

Especially follow up if you meet someone that you genuinely enjoyed talking to, or are in an area of work that you are interested in. People love to talk about themselves and what they do. I have also found that people are very willing to help guide students, but the student must reach out first. Send an email or Linked In message and ask questions you didn't get a chance to discuss, or ask if they'd be willing to meet for coffee.

3. Have questions prepared in the back of your head

In college during sorority recruitment, every once in a while a girl would come through rush and talking to her was like talking to a wall. But, I'd be stuck there for 30 minutes asking question after question. Networking is similar. Sometimes, you will ask a question and the other person will tell you everything you've ever wanted to know. Other times, you will be controlling the conversation.

Some good questions are: What type of law do you do? What do you most enjoy (or dislike) about your job? What was your career path to get to where you are? What were you involved in in law school? What do you think has most helped you be successful? Do you have any advice for students who are job searching?

Alternatively, people like talking about things outside of law. Ask them how their holidays were, what they like to do when they're not working, etc.

4. Attend every networking event you can

You never know who you're going to meet. Although there's probably lots of other things you'd rather do with your Thursday evening/Sunday morning whatever day it is, you're only going to build relationships with people by talking to them. Attend alumni events through your school and events put on by various Bar associations. Some will even be cool and less scary, like yoga or bowling. Like I said, practice makes perfect!

5. Always be gracious, humble, and polite

Working attorneys generally do not need connections with law students to be successful, but students do need to build such relationships. What I'm saying is, this is likely benefitting you much more than it is for them. Make sure the attorney knows that you appreciate any advice or time they give you. If you are looking to set up a meeting, over coffee, for example, always offer to drive to them.

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