Networking

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Rob Jordan explores how good use of technology can improve your skills at networking events.

“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” — Bill Gates

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard attorneys and bankers initiate a networking conversation with the question: “What are you working on these days?” Given attorney-client privilege and/or other confidentiality issues, there is a strong likelihood that the recipient of that question is in no position to answer. And, so, the conversation is instantly uncomfortable and awkward. This is the professional equivalent of asking a potential mate “What do you do?” in a social setting — which is largely, mistakenly, and unfortunately the question of default (at least in New York City). Quite simply, many people either don’t or can’t define themselves by what they “do” or what they’re “working on.” So… don’t do that.

A better approach is to ask, “What’s interesting?”

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Over the last few weeks, I have been researching law firms and businesses with in-house legal departments. I checked each firm to see if they hired anyone from my alma mater or a comparably ranked school. I also checked the firms’ rankings both in certain specialties and their overall profitability.

Then I tried something more difficult – finding employee turnover rates and overall employee satisfaction. This information is important to me but is pretty much impossible to get without deeper digging and contacting people. The career counselor I talked to gave me some names of people who may be able to get more detailed information. If there was one thing I learned in law school, it was to find the negative information yourself because you should never trust the numbers on a company’s sales presentations and recruiting materials.

After the jump is a small sample of the prospective firms I researched, listed in no particular order.

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This is a real drink in a real glass with enough ice that it'll be appropriately watered down for networking.

Ed. note: This post was originally published on February 7, 2012. We republish it today as a public service to the law students embarking on their summer associate adventure, where social event drinking and small talk are the name of the game. Good luck!

There’s a list that’s been going around the past two days that purports to be A Drink-by-Drink Guide for networking events.

Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not really drinking advice for legal networking events. It’s regular advice for legal networking events that happens to use the word “drink” — instead of “level” or “number” — to demarcate the five tips in the article.

It’s fine advice, especially if you are so awkward socially that you can cool off a hot craps table simply with your inability to execute a high-five.

However, as a functioning alcoholic (emphasis on FUNction), I’ve got some real advice on how alcohol can help get you through these painful and boring networking events without being so terrified of not getting a job that your scent of desperation makes everybody want to stand three feet away from you.

Here’s how to look cool and confident while knocking back a few without getting so sloshed you end up on Above the Law in the morning….

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I begin my quest for a fulfilling job by revisitng my alma mater’s career development office (CDO). When I was a law student, the CDO was unhelpful. This was because during my law school’s annual on-campus interview period, even the small firms and local government agencies wanted only the top 10% of the class. So the CDO tried its best to help me and the rest of the peasants scrounge for whatever was left. At this point, the Biglaw dreams and in-house wishes ended, and we were preparing for our multi-season starring role in Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown, sponsored in part by IBR.

So I was not expecting much from the CDO as far as job leads were concerned. And since I am well past the all-important nine-month deadline for post-graduate employment, I expected the counselor to tell me the cruel truth — that there was nothing the CDO or my law school can do for me — EVER. So to ensure that my visit wasn’t a complete waste of time, I emailed the secretary ahead of time, telling her that I wanted to talk to the career counselor about a number of things other than any available job openings.

So, how did my visit go?

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I am making plans to attend several conferences and major bar association events for the remainder of the year. My primary goal for attending is to meet people who will provide job leads. But I also hope to meet potential clients, industry leaders, mentors, referral sources, and possibly a shopping companion. The problem is that attending these conferences can be expensive, especially if you are a solo practitioner paying with your own money. But I believe with proper planning, I can make the most of it without breaking the bank.

When I was a newbie lawyer, I dreaded going to conferences. This was because the costs of registration, travel, and lodging were high, and the lectures were boring, obscure, or both (which was mostly the case). I went only because everyone told me that I should introduce myself to the attendees, offer my services, and possibly get a job offer or referrals. So I went, tried my absolute best to stay awake and learn something, and gave my elevator speech and business card to everyone I met. I even paid extra for the dinner reception where I listened to the keynote speaker ramble on and on about her pro bono work. After I left, I sent everyone I met a follow up email and requested a meeting over coffee or lunch. Most ignored me. Others politely declined. And the few I met in person were genuinely good people but probably not going to help my career. After spending several thousand dollars with no immediate results, it can get discouraging and frustrating.

Now that I am more seasoned, I still dread going to conferences, but my approach has changed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back In The Race: Conference Connections”

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Rob Jordan gives advice to attorneys on how to best position themselves to clarify or confirm their career path.

“Better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than in the middle of some ladder you don’t, right?” — Dave Eggers, The Circle (affiliate link)

Everyday, many lawyers sit unhappily in their offices with little clarity about their professional futures. I know: I was one of them.

Today, the continued weakness and real-time evolution of the business of law merely compounds the uncertainty. In this environment, it is critical that lawyers regularly perform self-reviews to assess contentment and career trajectory.

These reviews will obviously be very personal. Some lawyers may simply conclude that their unease stems from the plain practice of law; that their law degree is a sunk cost; and that every day spent practicing law rather than pursuing a career acting, rapping, or starting a company is opportunity cost. Others, however, may not be fortunate enough to arrive at such a definitive conclusion; rather, they may be stuck in a state of inertia, unclear whether they like or want to continue to practice law.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Everybody tells jobless lawyers to “network” in order to find employment. Nobody tells them how. Nobody tells them how to pay their bills while they’re spending their free time crashing cocktail parties and trying not to look so desperate that it’s off-putting. Nobody tells them what to do if they fail.

For one California man, the networking situation has left him completely befuddled. He’s unemployed and lives in one place, but can’t afford to keep driving the other place where he is trying to network for a job. But he doesn’t have money to move (see: joblessness above), and he’s overqualified for the positions he’s applying to even though he has no experience.

Now he feels like he might have to give up his dreams of a legal career entirely, or risk moving to a homeless shelter. Well, I could have told him that…

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Conventional wisdom says that solos and smalls should join a bar association — either the American Bar Association, a state or local bar, or a practice-specific bar (such as an association of telecommunications or criminal defense or real estate lawyers) — as a way to generate clients. Here’s but one recent article that recommends pounding the pavement at bar events to find clients.

I disagree.

I’m not suggesting that solos and smalls steer clear of bar membership entirely; after all, bar associations provide a myriad of practice benefits, including substantive information on practice trends, affordable continuing legal education (CLE), and advice on starting and running a law practice. But if lawyers think that they’ll find business through bar membership, most are sure to be disappointed….

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Social media is no longer new. This month, Facebook turns ten, joining LinkedIn, which hit the decade mark back in May. Lawyers have been blogging even longer than that, with the earliest lawyer blogs launched fifteen years ago. Even the book on Social Media for Lawyers that I co-authored with Nicole Black has been out for nearly four years.

Yet after all this time, social media still has limited traction in the legal profession, with few firms using social media for its “best and highest use”: engaging and interacting with colleagues and clients. Instead, large firms treat social media as another marketing channel to disseminate firm news and press releases, according to a recent ATL study, while solos and smalls treat social media as a poor man’s search-engine optimizer.  It’s no wonder that many practicing lawyers deride social media generally as a waste of time and counsel their colleagues to focus on traditional in-person networking, like meeting colleagues for lunch or getting involved in bar associations, to generate visibility and referrals.

Still, I wouldn’t give up on social media yet. The fact that so few lawyers understand how to use social media correctly makes it a powerful tool for solo and small firm lawyers. Here are three ways to use social media to get the most out of traditional, in-person networking, and to create new opportunities for yourself:

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Ed. note: This post is written by Adam Gropper, author of Making Partner: The Essential Guide to Negotiating the Law School Path and Beyond, a recent release by the American Bar Association. Making Partner provides guidance for maximizing performance while in law school, securing the dream law firm job, excelling as an associate, and moving on the fast track to making partner. Adam Gropper is also the founder of www.LegalJob.com, a blog that provides practical advice for current law school students and law firm associates.

Other than attending a top ten law school and being in the top ten percent of your class, there is not just one way or one big secret to obtaining a dream legal job. Many people, for example, especially top law students, just fall into their practice area, and are doing what they are doing by accident. Accordingly, for this group, focus and planning ahead are not as crucial.

This post speaks to all others who are not quite sure what they will do when they graduate law school and are interested in planning ahead. For these folks, it may be helpful to have a practical plan with specific, mechanical steps.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

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