Networking for Law Students

Although not a lawyer, Jimmy Fallon may have some good advice for law students like you. After all, in the space of five years he went from Saturday Night Live to replacing Jay Leno in one of the most respected and sought after late night slots. The secret to his success – developing relationships.

Networking is a skill that applies in any industry, but perhaps more so in the legal field. As a practicing attorney you’ll need to foster good relationships with clients and future clients. You’ll also need to build relationships with fellow attorneys, even opposing counsel, as they can serve as your go-to experts for unfamiliar areas of the law and also your referral sources for future clients. This networking doesn’t start once you pass the bar exam. Instead, there are important steps you can take while in law school to strengthen your networking skills and also to build up your professional network. Read on to learn more about networking for law students.

Networking Venues

Law school is a unique place for many reasons, but more than anything, it’s a great starting point for professional networking. After all, you’re surrounded by a large pool of ambitious future lawyers every day, who will soon be practicing in all areas of the law. Law schools also offer great networking venues, such as:

  • Guest Speakers Events
  • Symposiums
  • Internships
  • Summer Programs
  • Alumni Events
  • Bar Review
  • Career Services Events
  • Student Government Events
  • Student Representative Positions (such as Westlaw Student Representatives)
  • Events through the local bar association or American Bar Association

With all of the academic demands of law school, don’t feel as though you need to attend every event you come across. Also keep in mind that networking doesn’t require a formal venue. Some of the greatest professional interactions you have may be in unexpected, one-on-one encounters, like bumping into a judge on an elevator. The key is knowing what to do when you’re in that situation.

Networking Tips

Before a networking event, there are steps that you can take to improve your chances of making helpful contacts. These include:

  • Having ready-made contact materials available such as business cards and résumés
  • Learning more about who might attend an event and what you could talk to them about
  • Reading law periodicals and journals for conversation topics
  • Thinking of questions ahead of time
  • Being prepared to highlight interesting aspects of your life/background

During a networking event or encounter, it’s always helpful to:

  • Be approachable (studies have shown that people who smile are thought to be friendlier and likeable)
  • Ask questions and actively listen to answers (paraphrasing or summarizing another person’s points can be effective)
  • Use open-ended questions (think direct examination)
  • Identify another person’s area of need and try to help solve a problem for them
  • Ask for other people’s opinions
  • Go out of your comfort zone
  • Ask other people for their business cards or contact information
  • Be ready to hand out business cards, but avoid handing out resumes unless requested (you don’t want to appear desperate – even if you are)

While making a connection is a necessary first step, it’s what happens after the encounter that builds your network. Specifically, you should:

  • Follow up by phone or email shortly after an encounter while a conversation is still fresh
  • Forward helpful information or legal updates tailored to the other person’s interests or practice
  • Ask for professional advice in specific areas (e.g. what law school courses to take)
  • Ask if you could meet the person for lunch or for a mock interview to practice interviewing
  • Maintain a list of your contacts with notes about their conversations and interests

Looking Ahead

When it comes to networking for law students, like everything in life, practice makes perfect. Always remember that networking isn’t a transaction, it’s about building relationships. You can find more tips and law school advice at FindLaw for Law Students.