Nothing in law school scares me more than networking. Literally, I am more afraid of networking than I am of cold-calls, the curve, gunners, and the dementors.
Sure, great grades, involvement, and references can land you a great gig, but the secret to getting ahead is often knowing someone.
Given that I struggle so hard at networking, I’ve tried to find non-traditional, and more comfortable ways, to network with professionals.
Traditional Way: Networking Mixers
This is obviously how most people make their contacts. It seems scary (spoiler: it is), but the more you do it the more comfortable you get. It feels so weird to just approach strangers, but I swear it’s not. It is as easy as walking up to someone and saying, “Hi, I’m blah blah, what type of law do you do?” Unsurprisingly, lawyers are interested in talking about themselves, so once you break the ice you can usually have a good conversation. Here’s a couple of a general networking tips I’ve picked up:
Bring a Friend: having a buddy really makes you feel less awkward and can help keep the conversation going.
Have a Glass of Wine: I’m not trying to encourage drinking, but a glass (read: one) helps the nerves a bit and gives you a place to put your hands.
Get a Business Card: honestly, most lawyers won’t remember you from the mixer. But they will remember if you follow up with them. A great way to keep the conversation brief is to say “wow, your practice area/project is so fascinating and something I’m interested in. Do you have a card? I’d love to take you to coffee and talk to you more about it.” Nobody will tell you no, it ends the conversation smoothly, and coffee meetings are so much easier.
Typically I make the rounds and try to schedule as many follow-ups as possible and then dip out of there.
Non-Traditional Way: Genuine Connections with Attorneys/Professionals
I obviously hate networking and while I’ve had some luck with it, making a genuine connection with an attorney is much easier because it feels less forced. And all you have to do is be involved!
Professors: Getting to know professors can be a great resource. Most of your professors will know attorneys in the area they teach and are usually happy to put you in touch. They also know who would be a good person to talk to in contrast to the randomness of networking mixers. Professors can also speak to your intellect/etc. which can be helpful in trying to meet with attorneys.
Student Orgs: Some of the best contacts I have made are through student organizations. Most groups have a variety of speakers and you can usually introduce yourself afterward. However, you can take this a step further and be in charge of scheduling these speakers. I find it is easier to talk to someone when I have a purpose for contacting them (other than I need a summer job). Contacting someone to speak with my organization, and then following up with them after has helped me make a lot of great contacts.
Volunteering: This is key. Instead of stifled interactions at mixers, get out in the community and show people that you’re a hard worker. I got my internship this summer soley because a girl I volunteer on an organization with recommended me. In addition to getting a great contact, the judge had a huge commitment to the organization and always looked to hire people that volunteered there. The nice thing about volunteering is you don’t really have to sell yourself. People will notice how hard you work and assume you’re a caring person. (Also, it looks great on a resume- volunteer more often).
I hope these tips help y’all, good luck out there!