Networking Tips

Happy Monday! I hope your week is getting off to a good start. I thought I would begin the week by sharing a few things I’ve learned over the past five weeks. I am by no means an expert at networking, but I find that a lot of articles I have read on networking really aren’t that helpful. So here is my two cents:

1. Go to Bar association meetings in the geographical areas as well as the practice areas you want to work in.

You will hear this from every attorney that you meet, but it is really important. I have been pretty surprised – I have not met a single person who graduated from last school this year at any of the meetings I have attended. There were over 900 of us that took the Bar exam in July, so I find myself wondering where all of them are!

Do not just show up to the event – talk to people. Ask them about their practice, what they like and don’t like, if they have any advice, etc. Mostly, people do not need prompting. Just smile, introduce yourself, and when they find out you are a new lawyer, they will give you lots of advice. Some of it you will hear numerous times, but you will hear a slightly different version from each person. And, you might learn something new! For instance, I met a woman who does solely post-judgment work. I had never heard of anyone who focuses their practice on this area of the law, so I thought it was interesting.

2. Print business cards.

I used Moo.com because I wanted something that was colorful and fun (legal business cards can be sooo boring). (Note: In the interest of full disclosure, the link I posted is a referral link. You will get 10% of your first order, and I get a discount as well. Win, win! The prices should not be different from Moo’s regular site.) I have had several people comment on the fact that I already have business cards, and it has allowed several people to get in touch with me after the fact. Typically, you will also get a business card in return, which is super handy for following up and meeting one-on-one to ask questions later.

3. Know that this process is draining.

I am an introvert, so this process is definitely more draining for me than for those who enjoy being around lots of people all the time. But do not underestimate the toll that this process will take on you. About two weeks into the process, I hit a wall. I had only been three or four events, but I was dead tired.

Make sure you pace yourself. When you’re tired, take some time off to rest. The job search process will likely be long, so you do not want to burn out. Focus on quality, not quantity. Pick the meetings that sound the most interesting to you. Hint: I have found that the solo/small firm practitioners tend to be more friendly that big-firm lawyers. Yes, this is a generalization, but it has been my experience.

4. Add people on LinkedIn.

I didn’t even think about this until someone else added me. I do not really use LinkedIn that often, but it’s a great way to learn a little more about the person you met, and can help you stay in touch with that person.

5. Look at what other people are wearing.

This may not be as big of a deal if you are familiar with the area in which you are looking. I moved from Texas (with a focus on jobs in big cities like Dallas, Houston, and Austin), to Colorado, where a majority of the practitioners are solos or work in small firms. It is not uncommon to show up for a happy hour event and find multiple people in jeans. Some people show up in full suits, but not many. I have been noticing what people wear (especially the women), and adjusting what I wear accordingly. It may seem like a small thing, but I’m always terrified I’m going to over- or under-dressed. 🙂

6. Start early.

Do not wait until after you finish law school to start networking. If you are going to the school in the same area you want to work in, start going in your third year of law school (unless your law school likes to make your life hell like mine did, in which case, focus on survival). Obviously, that is not possible for everyone, and you will survive if you do not start until after the Bar like I did. But I am definitely wishing that I had met some attorneys when I was here last summer.

7. Remember that people will want to help you.

The first couple times, I felt really awkward when people would ask me, “Where are you practicing?” I felt like a faker when I explained that I was actually still looking for a job. However, the other attorneys have been really helpful. Most attorneys do not know of jobs, but they are more than willing to give advice or introduce me to other attorneys at the event. Everybody seems to love new attorneys, and you are doing the right thing by getting out and meeting people.

I hope that these tips are helpful to someone. The job search process is hard, and I do not think my law school adequately prepared me. It is difficult, awkward, and discouraging at times. But don’t give up. You are not the only person who has felt like this. And eventually, your hard work will pay off (I’ll let you know when mine does).

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