Last month, we covered some of the things we wish we knew before applying to Law School. (If you missed it check it out here.) We decided to expand on that post by engaging other professionals and brining you targeted and more specific advice.
The below guest post was written by Jen the JD
Shoot your shot. Networking is scary, or maybe that’s just the introvert in me, either way it is not something that comes naturally. However, it is essential for your legal career. But how do you get started? Start simple.
Realize that the people you know are in your network. Foster those relationships. Keep in touch with people. Develop genuine relationships and connections with people.
Use organizations to build your network. Are you the first lawyer in your family? Don’t worry – student organizations provide many opportunities for you to meet legal professionals. I was member of the student division of the Arkansas Association for Women Lawyers. Once a month, lawyers from the community would come and speak at our meetings. Don’t just get their cards, but contact them shortly after and ask them to lunch. Send periodic emails or text messages (if appropriate). I have kept up with at least two of the speakers I met my 1L year. Also, leadership opportunities in student organizations help you network as well. Organization leaders often communicate with the legal community. As President of my school’s chapter of the Black Law Students Association, I interacted with many professionals in the legal community. Perform your duties well and people will notice. This includes promptly responding to emails and inquiries and carrying out well executed events.
However, do not make the mistake of over committing yourself. Only take on leadership roles when you are certain that you have the time to do the job well. Also join organizations that your are passionate about. If you are passionate about the org, you will be able to network with others with similar interest, potentially helping a natural relationship develop.
Do not forget about your professors. While your professors may not practice law, they are members of the legal community and know people. Get to know your professors. Strive to make genuine connections with some of your professors. Ask them about networking opportunities. If you are introverted and uncomfortable with the idea of networking, ask them how to properly network. I have had a professor send me multiple job announcements. I was interviewed for all but one position for which she was listed as a reference.
Your classmates/colleagues will also be a part of your network .When looking for your first job your classmates can serve as a valuable resource. I had classmates sending me job postings frequently. Those who have graduated just a year or two before you may be in positions to advocate on your behalf. However, people can tell when your are trying to connect with them because of what you think you can get from them. Networking with classmates should happen organically.
Which brings me to my next point, your reputation from law school will follow you. It matters whether or not you are known for your work ethic or known as a slacker. When someone recommends you for a position, their name is implicated as well. If they cannot speak to your ability to do the work, they will be less likely to recommend you for the position.
Networking requires extra work outside of studying. The legal market has changed. The factors that guaranteed jobs in the past do not provide the same assurances today. It takes courage to walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to lunch, but do it. Grades are important, but I would argue that developing a solid network is of equal importance. As the cliche goes, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” People can’t help you find a job, if they do not know you exist.
— Jen the JD is a recent law graduate of the William H. Bowen School of Law, an Assistant City Attorney and blogger.
What are your thoughts on networking? What techniques have you found that are effective? Let us know below!