Networking Advice

Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at TristanTaylorThomas@gmail.com, and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

In law school, we all learn that networking is a valuable tool, especially in today’s vastly oversaturated job market. So now, as an underemployed graduate, I think back to what I could have done differently to make a better impression and really get noticed by a potential employer.

Sometimes I can be a little too shy and reserved, which can be perceived as a lack of self-confidence. I have a tendency to ramble on about minor details, and potential employers hate it when you can’t see the big picture. When I am put on the spot or get too nervous, I can lose my internal coffee filter and begin to say things — things which may or may not be completely inappropriate — without fully thinking them over.

With amazing characteristics like these, isn’t it shocking that I had to resort to working in retail?

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Ed. note: This column will be about entertainment, the law, and the intersection of those two things. If you know of a law-related personality you’d like to see interviewed here, please contact us.

Staci here. This week, Sam was lucky enough to attend the Emmy Awards out in California. From that experience, he learned that in order to get a foot in the door in the world of entertainment law, you have to be a networking star. Go to as many networking opportunities as possible, because if you’re just starting out, showing your face is how you’ll be able to build your base, and let the entertainment world know that you’re available for legal representation.

For some fun footage from the Emmy’s, check out this week’s edition of Mr. Legal Entertainment….

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If you talk to recruiters, they’ll tell you that lawyers are terrible networkers. There just seems to be something about the personality of lawyers that makes them either afraid to strike up conversations with contacts or unable to proceed like normal humans when they do.

Some people I’ve talked to suspect that the problem comes from legal training: the adversarial nature of law makes people look at networking as a zero sum game instead of a mutually beneficial relationship.

I think there’s also something to be said about the way this generation communicates. If they send you an email or a text, they expect a response, immediately. If you don’t respond, that must mean you didn’t receive the message. So they either don’t follow up, or resort to networking by badgering.

I’ll tell you one thing, though — “badgering” won’t get you anywhere with the administration at Yale Law School. That’s a lesson a prospective student learned the hard way…

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One of the benefits of presenting to large groups of in-house lawyers is meeting large groups of in-house lawyers. I am happily ensconced here in my job, but I have never stopped networking. I never miss an opportunity to make a connection, or to make a friend. I try very hard not to burn bridges, and I always examine job opportunities when they come to me. You read that right. Look, things happen, things change, and things can go bad. If you haven’t kept up your networking simply because the economy sucks and the job market stinks, you’ve been doing yourself a huge disservice. I’ll say just two words: Kodak and Dewey. It sounds like a bad horror film ad but “no one is safe.”

When I started practicing law, the paradigm of one job for one career was already long gone. Most commercial lawyers today engage in a sort of pinball training, bouncing from one gig to the next, and picking up whatever knowledge they can before settling into a position with some semblance of permanence. I am very fortunate to have landed here, but even so, I am a much better in-house counsel now than when I started.

Let’s say that it takes a year to two to become fully capable of handling the job you have. If you have been practicing more than ten years, as I have, that’s around five or six years of hard core ability. I am not referencing simple knowledge of the rule against perpetuities, but the ability to use the RAP like Ginger Rogers — backwards and in heels. But, that’s the actual practice of law, and networking experience should only get better by the year. So, I have about twice as much experience networking as I do practicing. And so should you….

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It is hardly shocking that a woman who chooses to operate under a pseudonym is an introvert. If left to my own devices, I would stay at home watching television and looking out my window. I am talking Boo Radley here.

Unfortunately, momma’s got to earn the money to pay the cable bill, so I must force myself out into the world. Oh, and momma needs a new job, so I have to do the single most painful thing a girl like me must do. No, not hook. I must… NETWORK.

In the past, when attending networking events, I would bring a friend, get drunk on cheap chardonnay, and leave without speaking to anyone new. That is apparently the wrong way to network. So, recently, I decided to really put myself out there: I have started attending networking events (well, at least one networking event) alone. I got there late, hung alone in the corner awkwardly playing with my phone, drank cheap chardonnay, and left without speaking to anyone new. Alas, it was time for me to ask for help…

Luckily for me, I did not have to search far for advice on networking. There are thousands of listicles about how to network. Most of them were useless (e.g., they suggested foregoing chardonnay), and most were geared towards people who did not consider “fear of public speaking” as a scarier thing than death. (Yes, I am one of those people.) Thanks to my LinkedIn news suggestions, I discovered a subset of networking articles geared towards introverts. The advice was earth-shattering….

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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…

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Networking isn’t just for job seekers. And it isn’t even just for the rainmakers who bring in business. It’s what every attorney (and attorney-to-be) should be doing right now — whether you’re a first-year associate at a Biglaw firm or a senior attorney at a small regional firm. Too often, attorneys wait until they need something before they start networking. But by then, it’s too late to build an effective network from scratch. If you really want to make a go of having any kind of a long and successful legal career, learning how to network early on and effectively is key.

If you already have a network in place, don’t assume you are done because you keep in touch with a few friends from law school and attend MCLE seminars once every three years. Today’s tips, brought to you by the experienced recruiters at Lateral Link, will give you ways to improve your network….

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Although lawyers make up 43 percent of Congress, and 60 percent of the U.S. Senate, according to Governing magazine, “[s]ince 1976, the number of lawyers in legislatures has declined by nearly a quarter, from more than 22 percent of all lawmakers to less than 17 percent.”

There, of course, is a natural path from lawyer to legislator. But the low pay, travel, time commitment, and mud slinging that we see on TV and the internet turn many lawyers away from public service.

The current political landscape also causes lawyers to be uninterested in participating in politics at any level, whether it means lobbying, running campaigns, fundraising, or attending political functions.

It’s a mistake…

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In case you haven’t noticed, 2012 is going to be the year where I try to take a more critical look at the level of career service that law students are receiving from their law schools. The legal job market has been crappy for a long enough time that law schools and career service officers should have adjusted their game plan. Rolling into 2012 with 2007 career service programs is simply unacceptable.

A couple of days ago, I offered some networking advice to the functional alcoholics in the audience. Sure, my thoughts were a little bit outside the box, but they were better than the kind of standard networking tripe most law students get from their overmatched CSO administrators.

Case in point, take a look as some networking advice sent around by the Dean of Students at a New York-area law school just last week. The advice was perfect if the dean was trying to ensure that the students made no impression, and left all employers wondering why they bothered to show up for a silly networking event in the first place….

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