Networking in law school usually conjures up the image of students desperately trying to hand out their résumés to a room full of uninterested attorneys. But networking doesn’t have to be that awkward, and it isn’t only limited to finding a job.
Networking is simply about connecting with people, and if your goal is to have a flourishing career as a lawyer, start building your network and acquiring networking skills now. If you haven’t realized it yet, your law school offers numerous resources at your fingertips. Not sure where to start? Read on for Lateral Link’s top three tips on how to effectively build your network as a law student…
1. Put together a panel discussion. Nowadays all kinds of student organizations are cropping up at law schools all over the country. So there’s no excuse not to join one that suits you or create one if it doesn’t already exist. One of the greatest benefits of joining a campus organization (besides the free food and the blurb on your resume) is that it gives you a good excuse to talk to practitioners with interests or backgrounds similar to yours.
For example, as a member of your school’s intellectual property association, take the initiative to organize a panel to discuss recent developments in patent law or to learn about what a trademark practice looks like. A good place to start is to contact former members of your organization. They are usually willing to help out current students by participating in panels themselves, or at least referring you to other knowledgeable attorneys. The more ties you have to a person, the easier it is to initiate a conversation and invite him or her to speak at an event. And in the process of putting together a panel, you will likely build a rapport with the speakers. This way, following up and staying in contact with them in the future will come more naturally.
2. Talk to your professors. Professors are a valuable resource since many of them are well-connected to attorneys through their diverse work experiences and their standing in the legal community. Although you may feel intimidated to approach them at first, remember that the vast majority of professors are happy to talk to law students. Start off simple -– ask thoughtful questions about a topic that came up in class. Engage them in a lively discussion about a controversial decision. Over time they will see your interest and motivation in learning the subject matter.
But don’t feel limited to only talking shop. Ask them about their career path and tell them about your career aspirations. If you need help finding a job and have developed a good relationship with your professors, they will likely go to bat for you by making phone calls on your behalf.
3. Be nice to all of your classmates. This should go without saying, but some law students get too wrapped up in looking out for themselves, and they forget to make friends. Your classmates can be some of your best resources later on in your career when you need a referral or are looking for a job. Regardless of what you think of the person who snores in the back of con law class or who shows off in torts class, you never know where any given student will end up working or who they will knows. So be careful not to burn any bridges.
If your classmates remember you as being a jerk or a brown-noser, or if they just don’t remember you at all, don’t expect them to do you any favors down the road. Rather, be genuinely nice and respectful to everyone, treating them as future colleagues.