When I was in law school, the career service office did a good job of regularly having events that brought different types of lawyers to the school to meet students. I’m actually going to a new student/alumni event at my law school this week. (Yes, I’ll be wearing my signature Legal Rebel high tops.) A lot of firms also hosted mixers at their offices and invited law students – usually 1Ls – to visit at the beginning of each year.
Meeting local lawyers is a great way to learn about different areas of practice, the local legal industry, and to build a network of contacts that can help you find internships and a job after graduation. These will hopefully be people who will eventually refer work to you, but if they’re in the same area of practice, they’ll only refer cases that they can’t take or don’t want to take.
Many law schools don’t stress this, but it’s imperative that you have a life outside of law school – for personal and professional reasons. This is especially true if you plan to live where you’re going to school after you graduate.
1. It’s important to remember what typical life is like. From what I can tell, the lifestyle of a law student or lawyer is not normal.
2. You’ll need things in your life that help you stay balanced and healthy – recreation, hobbies, exercise, spiritual life, etc.
3. Get involved in the community that you think will be your future clients. Understand what their lives are like – on a professional and personal level. And don’t “network” in the shake hands/exchange cards kind of way. Form real friendships with these people. This is your community – be part of it. Someday you may be in the running to become a partner or you may open your own firm and you’ll want a strong network of connection to build your book of business.
4. You never know where you’re going to discover a niche. You may become the go-to lawyer for football fans who need help with their child support arrangements or members of your church who get in car accidents. I never would have considered flash mob law as a career path until I got involved in the flash mob community.
5. Lawyers are everywhere. It may be easier to meet a lawyer at a legal networking event, but you’re more likely to form a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with one if share mutual interests. Some of my best lawyer contacts have come from introductions made by my non-lawyer friends. One of my favorite fellow lawyers is a guy I met at the dog park. We both have basset hounds.
One more thing – as you network with people, you’re going to need a way to keep track of your contacts. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a stack of business cards of people you met once and after a few months you won’t remember who’s who to do any effective follow up. You can probably make due with a spreadsheet, but I recommend getting a contact database like ACT! by Sage. It’s the only way I can keep track of my 1850+ contacts (only 333 of which are lawyers).
If you want to chat with me more about effective networking, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, or send me an email. Or if you really like me, tell your school you want them to be part of The Undeniable Law School Tour – happening in the spring of 2015.