How to: Network, Part 3

The whole purpose of networking is to be able to use your connections when you need them. Networking in the legal community is critical to getting a job offer after graduation and being successful as a lawyer. Now, I’m not an expert on using your connections to get a job because I haven’t been in a position to need to get a job yet. I’ve used connections to get help with something specific or to get advice on something, but never for an actual job.

Figuring out the best way to use a connection is highly dependent on who it is and what your relationship is like. If you have a close, personal relationship with someone, asking about jobs available isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If you have a professional only relationship, it may be a little bit odd to just point blank as about a job. For example, two of my professors work for law firms in the area. I think I do pretty well in their classes and would consider them a network connection. But, as professors, I feel awkward point blank asking about jobs or resume help. That doesn’t meant I won’t apply to their firms, I’m just not going to go through them to do it. On the other hand, I currently intern for the public defender’s office and am very close with my boss. I would have no problem asking her directly about a job or for resume help.

Using your network connections in an interview is extremely helpful, too. I’d have no problem saying “Oh, I took X class with your associate/partner Y. I really enjoyed it…..”. It gives an employer someone to ask about you and your work ethic and it’s someone they know they can trust. Using your connections to get an interview is also helpful. While I’ve never done it because I don’t have a lot of connections in the type of law I want to practice, I’ve seen cover letters saying “My professor X suggested I reach out to your firm…” or “I spoke with Y about your firm and am very interested in….”. It’s a little name drop-y but hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Just because you use your connection to get a job or an interview doesn’t mean you get to slack off on everything else. If anything, it should be a motivator to work harder. It’s not only your reputation on the line, it’s your connection’s too. Imagine if a professor vouches for you as a person and says you have a great work ethic and you turn around and don’t work nearly as hard as you should. That makes you look bad, but it also makes your professor look bad too.

Networking is incredibly valuable in the legal field, as I assume it is in many careers. Create a network, maintain the network, and use the network. There is never a downside to knowing more lawyers or judges in the area.

How to: Network, Part 2

Now that you have network connections, keeping a good relationship with them will ensure you can use the connection later if you need to. What’s the point of connections if you aren’t actually going to use them or maintain them? As a law student, I’m always a little afraid that I’m going about things the wrong way when it comes to connections but so far, everything has turned out fine.

Learning to talk to someone to make a network connection is not something that comes easily. I’m still learning how to perfect a conversation (though I don’t think you can) to make an impression on someone. There are usually a few topics I stick to when I’m talking to a potential connection regardless of where I’ve met them:

1. What is your job?

2. How did you get to your current position?

3. What do you like about law? What do you dislike about law?

Questions like these open up a lot of potential to further your conversation. If someone says “oh, I was in the military and decided after to go to law school”, you can ask about their military background and how it has helped them in the legal field. The sorority girl in me is really helpful for talking to connections. During recruitment we’re taught how to ask questions to hopefully get a person to open up. I use the same formula for networking, too. Another sorority rule that still stands is: Don’t talk about the 4 Bs: Booze, Boys, Bank Accounts, and Bush. Never talk about alcohol, relationships, money, or politics when making a network connection. The last one is a little bit more flexible depending on the situation. If you meet at a political event, you’re pretty safe to bring up non-controversial political issues.

After you have a connection, you have to maintain it. LinkedIn is great for maintaining network connections on a general level. It allows the connection to see what you’re up to and you can see what they are doing. I like to go with a more personal connection depending on what came out of the conversation. If I have a business card, I may thank them for meeting me. If we had a connection over practicing, or wanting to practice, a certain type of law, I may ask to have coffee. Maintaining connections is important because you don’t want to be forgotten when it comes time to get a job.

I think the most important rule to remember when you’re trying to make a connection is to be yourself. Don’t lie about who you are or what’s on your resume. Don’t lie about your interests or try to be who you think they want you to be. In the end, it doesn’t do anyone any good. In the professional world, it’s well known that people have different interests and beliefs and in my experience, those differences are respected. You’re more likely to be respected if you are truthful and yourself than if you are fake and lie. Never be ashamed of who you are and be proud of your accomplishments!

How to: Network, Part 1

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.