Networking is a critical part of being successful as a law student, and eventually as a lawyer. When I started law school, I had no idea what networking was or how to actually network effectively. It took me until just recently to learn exactly what needed to be done and what benefits there are to networking effectively. I’ve divided my How to: Network into three parts since networking isn’t something you can do just once and be done. It’s a long term commitment and there’s always more work to be done.
1. The first thing I did to get an understanding of networking was to make a list of who my network currently was. I’ve held a lot of jobs in my life and have friends that live all over. My parents have introduced me to people and I’ve met people on my own. Not all my “contacts” at this point are law related; in fact, most aren’t. My list started a little bit like this:
1. Liz _______-Supervisor at _________
2. John _______-Professor at Ball State
3. Sam _______-Chapter adviser for __________
Absolutely none of these people are in the legal field even remotely. They may not be direct contacts to finding a job or figuring out things in the legal world, but they are still people to keep in mind.
2. I started thinking about what big built in networks I had just based on what I’ve done in my life. I’m a Ball State alumni, a Phi Mu alumna, I’ve held plenty of jobs, I’m a law student; there had to be something there. I did some research and found groups on Facebook and Linkedin that related to these things. I’m in a facebook group for Phi Mu alumnaes; I’m in a Linkedin group for Ball State Alumni; etc. I recently decided to learn how to use these networks effectively, which I’ll discuss in Part 2. Joining networks you are already a part of is a very easy way to stay connected to network connections and make new connections based on what you’ve done in your past.
3. When you first get to law school, there’s a big activity fair (or at least there is for us) and a good chunk of it is Bar Associations and local legal organizations. My 1L year, I was too afraid to join a lot of these. This year, I decided to take as many offers that came my way as I was able to. I’m a member of the Dayton Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, and am in a mentoring group put on by the Ohio Women’s Bar Association. Frequently, these groups have networking events that students are able to attend and meet lawyers from the area. Even outside these professional organizations, organizations at school are a great way to make contacts. You never know when you’ll be in court against someone you were in law school with or when you may have a question that directly relates to their specialty. There’s also a chance that the organization you put on your resume may be the organization your future employer was the president of while he was in law school. You just never know.
4. Finally, you’ll find contacts in the most obscure ways. I’m the Executive Vice President of Administration for our school’s volunteer organization. I’ve gone to clinics in the area and sent thank you letters to firms who have worked with us. I’ve met contacts while I’m at work at my non-legal job just by having a conversation with someone about what is going on in their life. I’ve run into people at coffee shops who see me reading contracts and ask if I’m in law school. To find these contacts, you have to be observant of the world around you and not be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone. The worst that happens is you have a conversation with a stranger.
5. I had to add another to the list because it occurred to me but I haven’t actually tried this method so I’m not sure how well it actually works. I recently finished reading #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, the founder of NastyGal clothing (BTW: I LOVE her line) In her book she talks about how it’s completely appropriate to message someone on Linkedin and say something along the lines of “I saw your resume on Linkedin and am very interested in learning more about what you do. Would you be willing to meet with me to discuss your career?”. I’ve always wondered how this goes over when someone actually gets a message like this, whether it be through Linkedin or email. If you have any idea, let me know because I still don’t have the courage to try it.