Hey, Law Students: Here’s How You Network

mail-1102034-mAlison and I travel around and talk to law students quite a bit. At various events we hand out a lot of business cards. We offer to help students, if they will only just follow up with us. And do you know how many people actually do follow up after these events? Almost no one. 

Now this could be that they just don’t want to talk to us (which is totally valid) or, I have worried, that law students are lazy. (Sorry, folks, but it is a logical leap.) However, through the grapevine I have heard that law students don’t follow up because they don’t know what to say in a follow-up email or they are worried their email may not come off as professional enough. It is possible that you are being told (by your career services offices perhaps) that you shouldn’t follow up unless you have something really worthwhile to say, want to ask someone to have coffee, or can craft a wonderfully memorable email. But you know what? I think that just isn’t the case.

Want to know what makes an email memorable?

Sending one! I was at my college last week, where I was taking part in a women’s leadership event. It was a fabulous and fun event full of undergraduates studying various disciplines. When I got back to my hotel, I already had an email from one of the participants whom I had met. Over the weekend, I got a few more follow-up emails. Some of them did include specific questions, but some were just notes to say, “Great to meet you and I hope I can follow up with you at some later date.”

Now these students have made a connection with me, so when they want to ask me about something later and send me a follow-up email, they can say, “Hi Lee, I saw you speak at the Women in Leadership Event on February 9 and I wanted to follow up to see if we could speak further about law school” or whatever it is they want to talk to me about. And when I look at the email, I will recognize that they have emailed me before—which makes it more likely that I will remember them and respond.

Get the point? You need to follow up to capitalize on connections you make at events!

Now comes the tough part, what to say in the email

The email doesn’t need to be remarkable. It just needs to be nice and professional. Here are some handy templates you can follow.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to follow up with me after you have met me at my Catapult Conference (shameless plug, being held in SF on March 1, 2014—get your ticket now!).

Dear Lee,

My name is [insert name] and I [met you/heard you speak] at Catapult 2014 on March 1. I really enjoyed the panel you moderated on the ethical pitfalls of using cloud computing in a legal practice. I am considering starting my own solo practice after graduation, and the advice from the practitioners on the panel was very helpful. Thank you for putting on a great event and I hope to connect with you again in the future.

Sincerely,

Your name

Law School Class 2015

Is this an incredibly long or complicated email? Nope. It is short and to the point. The formula is simple:

  1. Who are you?
  2. How do you know the person you are writing to?
  3. Say something nice about that person.

If I got this email, it would make me feel good to receive it, and if at a later date you want to ask me another question, the door is now open to you. It is a win-win.

Now what if you actually want to ask a favor from the person you met (like an opportunity to meet over coffee). Again, here is a template for someone wanting to talk to me after meeting me at the conference.

Dear Lee,

My name is [insert name] and I [met you/heard you speak] at Catapult 2014 on March 1. I really enjoyed the conference and learned a great deal from the speakers and attendees. I appreciate the work that you and Alison do to help law students and young lawyers find the career that they want.

I am considering taking a non-typical entrepreneurial path after law school, and I was wondering if I could chat with you sometime about the lessons you have learned starting and building your own business. I am located in San Francisco and would appreciate the opportunity to grab coffee with you. Would you have time to meet me for coffee in the next few weeks?

Sincerely,

Your name

Law School Class 2015

You can see again that the formula is quite simple:

  1. Who are you?
  2. How do you know the person you are writing to?
  3. What do you want?

Now just be personable and professional and it is likely that someone will write back to you!

Remember, emails should be nice, friendly, and sound like you. Oh, they should be professional too. 

Sending an email doesn’t need to be something to be fearful of. The worst thing that can happen is the person will ignore it (often because he or she is incredibly busy). The best thing you can do in your email is to be nice, friendly, and sound like yourself. It you are overly formal or awkward, that doesn’t give the person you are writing to a very good impression of you.

One more thing: You must proofread your emails. Don’t send a networking email with typos in it. That is unprofessional. Read the email at least twice. You will be thankful you did—the very first time that you catch an incredibly embarrassing typo.

Has anyone had networking success after sending emails following an event? Please share your experiences in the comments.

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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.

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