Now that finals are over you can (somewhat) breathe, right? You are probably being bombarded with emails from firms and your CDO about various winter receptions. Networking events can be scary and intimidating, but don’t fear!
They become more manageable and enjoyable when you prepare for them. First, it’s important to know why winter receptions are helpful. These receptions help you to get an inside look at the firm and the type of people that work there. Although many of the firms will seem the same, they each have a different culture. Some are more easily noticeable than others.
Most importantly, they help you to prepare for your interviews because you can gather information that will be useful for the conversations you have during OCI. Receptions are low-stakes environments, so you can be observational while also practicing having conversations.
Now that you know why receptions are important, here are three ways to prepare for one:
1. Do your research
What practice(s) and cases are the firm known for? What does the specific firm office specialize in? What sort of clients does the firm work with? In Houston, TX for example, many large firms have robust energy, oil, and gas practices. Some firms are known for working with smaller and middle-market businesses, while other firms work primarily with Fortune 500 companies. This is information you can glean from the firm’s website but also sites like Vault, Chambers Associate, LinkedIn, and Above the Law.
You should also research partners and associates who work in industries you may be interested in. If you happen to see the associate at the reception, asking about their growth in that practice area would be a great conversation starter. Read about the managing partner for that firm’s office as well as any recent news about the firm.
Research helps you to start and engage in conversations with the attorneys you meet. It will also help you to learn more details about your potential interests or concerns. Your conversations with various attorneys will reveal some information about the culture of the firm too. You can then use this information in preparation for your OCI interviews.
Most importantly, knowing about the space you’re stepping into builds your confidence and gives you pointers about what to observe.
2. Ask Non Law-related Questions
Yes—you will be conversing at a law firm with a lawyer, but this doesn’t mean you’re confined to speaking about the law. Attorneys are humans too! Ask a partner about her community involvement and whether she has a passion project. What is she most proud about? What is she looking forward to in the new year? What is on her bucket list? What are her thoughts?
Questions like these will help you to break the ice a bit and get to know the attorney you’re speaking with. After all, being a great attorney is about building and maintaining great relationships through service. What’s even better is that these questions make your conversation unique and memorable to the attorney.
3. Manage your Expectations
Networking is not about getting a job. Networking is not about getting your slice of the pie. Having the wrong expectations will probably lead to disappointment or an embarrassing blunder. Networking with a professional, regardless of whether it’s in a formal reception setting, is about establishing a connection and building a relationship.
A networking event is merely the first step to advancing in any career. It may lead to a cup of coffee or a golfing day invite. Networking is sometimes strategic, but it is always intentional. Instead of thinking about what you can get out of an event, think about how you would like to form 2-3 genuine connections that have the potential to grow into solid relationships.
This is the most important step. It’s difficult to stay in touch with someone you don’t follow-up with. You can ask for a business card or get their email from the firm website if you forget. Try your best to follow up the next day with a genuine and concise email about your conversation.
It was a great pleasure meeting you yesterday evening at the 1L Winter Reception. Thank you for sharing your insights about the future of energy and environmental law. I also enjoyed learning about your preparations for your daughter’s wedding as well as your upcoming vacation.
I hope to stay in touch.
See, that was pretty easy right? You can even add a sentence about next steps and scheduling time for coffee when the partner is available. Feel free to connect with the attorney later on LinkedIn as well (be sure to include a quick personalized request).
Networking is important, but no one just wakes up as a master networker, aka “relationship-builder,” as I like to call it. Some networking receptions will be fun, and others won’t be as memorable. That’s okay. Practice makes perfect!
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.