By: Genesis Monserrate
What is effective networking?
I will begin by saying what I think effective networking is not about. Effectively networking is not about making a connection with every attorney or judge that you meet. Keep in mind that, as you network, you will connect with some legal professionals and not with others. It’s normal.
But, you should not feel discouraged. Networking in law school is crucial to both post-graduate employment and years after. You might hear about how important networking is, but the reality is that networking can be awkward and/or intimidating. On this post, I hope to provide non-exhaustive tips on how to effectively network and maintain those contacts.
First,how do you find contacts (and a potential mentor)? Generally, a school or a conference will host a networking event and you show up to a room full of strangers with no knowledge of who’s who and what their background is. Although these networking events can be helpful, they can also be awkward.
I believe the best way to effectively network is to take control of who you reach out to and what events you choose to attend to network. For example:
(1) Join bar associations and organizations that specialize in a legal area of interest:
—Search within the Member Directory to connect with lawyers. Most bar associations and organizations have a Member Directory that you can search through. Within the directory, you generally have access to their e-mail and place of work. Thus, you can do a quick search on their background to learn more about their work experience and interests. Reaching out to a member attorney is an automatic conversation starter because both share a common interest. Further, knowing about their background gives you more to talk about.
— -Events: In-person events can be awkward. However, it may not be so at an organization’s event that focuses on a specific area, i.e. a communications law conference where you at least know about the person’s area of expertise. You can then begin by asking about areas within that field to learn more.
Unlike networking events, where you may be unaware of anyone’s name or background, LinkedIn is a great tool to search legal professionals that work in a particular field of interest or specific workplace.
Although there are more effective ways to search on LinkedIn, I generally go to the employer’s website and I click on their website’s employee tab. You can also type in the practice area or employer name on the LinkedIn profile.
Connecting through LinkedIn gives you many conversation starters. Assuming the attorney has updated their LinkedIn profile over time, you can look at their experience and, if they include it, their job duties.This can give you a general idea of the work they do and can help you brainstorm more specific questions to ask.
(3) Get new contacts from your current one:
Once you have set up a time to talk with your contact, feel free to ask them about local or national organizations that you can join and ask if they can refer you to any other person who can provide additional insight.
Maintaining your contacts:
Effective networking is also about keeping in touch with your contacts. Although your contact may reach out to you to check in, you should remember that they are busy and you should always attempt to reach out first. Further, you should understand that not hearing
from your contact does not mean that they do not care, but that life gets in the way. Always remember that it is your responsibility to reach out and keep them updated about you. It can be about interesting classes that you have taken, a news article of interest that you came across, etc.
As to how often you should reach out, I personally think that there is not a specific time frame, but once or twice a month is ideal (depending on your relationship with your contact).
Many students think that they are burdening their contact when they reach out. But, keep in mind that many legal professionals want to help and it’s always good to remember that if they did not want to serve as a point of contact or as a potential mentor, they likely would not have attended the school event or offered to participate in a career networking event for students (to name a few examples).
Finally, given that legal professionals can get busy with work, if they have not responded to your follow-up e-mail, be persistent. Sending one will be appreciated and will not be seen as bothersome. However, if you have sent a second or third email and there has been no response, you may want to wait more time.
Lastly, remember to actively and persistently connect with as many people that you believe will support you and will serve as a resource. It will pay off.