Law students need to hone a number of different skills during their studies. In addition to getting a great base of legal knowledge, they need to focus on getting a comprehensive sense of the field of law they wish to practice. Another important thing to focus on is networking.
Many people do not like networking because it often feels disingenuous. However, within the context of law school, you should be able to find professors and professionals who have similar interests and goals as you. Networking with these individuals can help you get great advice as you launch your career, not to mention professional connections and potentially even a wonderful letter of recommendation.
For most people, networking does not come naturally, so it is important to think about the best strategies to employ. Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to networking during law school include:
1. Set goals for yourself.
Before you begin networking, you need to have a clear plan. Think about what you want to get out of networking, whether that is a potential job upon graduation, career development advice, or even just an exciting summer internship. Once you have these goals in mind, set benchmarks for yourself.
For example, you may want to attend one networking event each month and meet at least five new people at it. From there, you may want to connect virtually to three of those people and set up an in-person meeting with at least one of them.
Setting these sorts of specific goals will help make networking a habit. When first getting started, it can be helpful to have an accountability buddy, whether that is a classmate who attends the event with you or a mentor with whom you can discuss goals and expectations.
2. Have an elevator pitch.
The term elevator pitch is generally used for entrepreneurs trying to sell an idea, but you should also have one as a law student. In the course of about 30 seconds, you should be able to describe your goals and what you are looking for in a career. This short speech should leave space for questions to be asked while also speaking to your value as a legal professional.
With this pitch, you can quickly see if your goals and values align with the person you are meeting. Ideally, a person with a similar background will ask some questions to get more of a sense of who you are, but the elevator pitch is a great way to introduce yourself and give a general sense of your qualifications. As a student, your pitch will likely focus on your motivation for pursuing a particular field of law and the types of opportunities you would like to find based on your background and goals.
3. Do the necessary research.
Networking often involves a great deal of research. Prior to attending a networking event, try to get a list of the attendees and spend a few minutes googling each one. Doing this will give you a sense of the best people to seek out during the event based on where they work or the type of law they practice. With social media, it has become even easier to look up people and figure out who they are.
If you look up recent news related to the person or the area of law that they work in and incorporate it into the conversation, you will demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to the field. While you do not want to be overbearing or obsequious, having a few important cases or news events up your sleeve can help keep the conversation flowing and lead to genuine points of connection.
4. Network in unconventional ways.
While law schools and local organizations will hold a number of formal networking events, you should not limit yourself to these options. After all, learning how to network on your own will only help you throughout your career. Within the context of law school, you should feel free to reach out to professors, speakers, or other individuals to ask for a few minutes of time.
Having a coffee with someone is a great way to break the ice and discuss professional goals. You could even ask someone you only know from social media to meet in person if you find yourselves in the same area. Another way to network is over food. Especially while in school, avoid eating lunch alone. You also need to network with your classmates, as they are your future colleagues, so ask someone to join you and start forging a relationship.
5. Make use of social media.
Not long ago, networking took place completely in person. With social media tools like LinkedIn, it is easier than ever to find people with similar interests and get plugged into key professional circles. In the legal industry, LinkedIn remains the most commonly-used network, although more people are turning to Twitter and even Facebook. Creating a Twitter specifically to share professional information is a great way to get involved with the industry, as are posts on the LinkedIn platform.
Figure out the relevant hashtags on these sites to find information related to your interests and join in on the conversation. Doing this keeps you up to date on developments while also making it more likely that people recognize your name. Once you have started to engage, you can connect more directly to people via social media and then eventually meet in person with key individuals.