As the first semester of law school winds down, there are usually three things on everyone’s minds: getting that memo done, making it to and through finals, and summer jobs. Once recruiting season opens, you’re going to find yourself bombarded with invitations to panels and networking events. Navigating the end of the semester is tough enough academically, but what about networking on top of everything else? Here are some tips to help set you up for success during this chaotic time.
1. Be deliberate in what you attend
It can be tempting to attend every single event you get invited to – how else are you supposed to meet people and figure out what you want to do and where? But if you spend every evening at events, you lose study time. And the grades you get this semester will be a significant portion of what determines your job next summer and potentially beyond. No pressure or anything, right? So, be deliberate in what you choose to do. If you know for an absolute fact you want nothing to do with litigation, you probably don’t need to go to a litigation firm’s event. Talk to upper division students who’ve attended these events, many of which are annual, and see what they say is worth attending. Ask classmates who do attend these events about what you missed. Even if they’re full-on bankruptcy transactional, and you want to do immigration litigation, their input can help because if they think that firm would be a great fit for them with what they want to do, it might not be for you.
2. Have thoughtful questions
Many times, you can research the attorneys and firms who are participating in the events beforehand and read more about them. If you can do that, absolutely do it. Attorneys typically love talking about their specific work so if you have a question about a particular case they worked on, they’ll be more likely to remember you than someone who asks “so what do you do” when they could have looked it up. If you can’t look it up ahead of time, they’ll almost certainly mention what they do when they’re introducing themselves. If it’s a panel format, take notes on what they say and try to ask a question related to that to open the conversation.
3. Do not monopolize an attorney’s time
Unless you’re somehow the only student who shows up to these events, there will be multiple students and far fewer attorneys to go around. Don’t be that person who tries to steal one attorney’s entire time. Even if they do exactly what you want to do when you finish law school, give other students the opportunity to speak to them too. If you want to have a more in-depth conversation with them, speak with them for awhile and then ask for their card or contact information to set up a follow-up where you can ask all the burning questions you have. But when an attorney says something along the lines of “well it was great meeting you, good luck!” it’s time to move on.
4. Follow up!
Sending a follow-up email or LinkedIn connection/message is a great way to stand out. Even if all you do is thank them for their time, you’ll stand out more than the person who sent nothing. This is also a great opportunity to establish a rapport with them by asking thoughtful questions, or even asking to meet either in person or over zoom. The typical timeframe to do this is within 24 hours of the event, but of course if you can’t do that then something is better than nothing. Especially if you have a good reason for the delay – maybe you got sick and were just trying to stay afloat with course work, or there was a family emergency. Don’t lie, of course, but they do understand that life happens and, especially as 1Ls, life can be hectic at this time of year.
5. Present yourself in the best light possible
The short version is do what you can to stand out in the best way possible. Follow the dress code – it’s usually better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. Be aware that dress codes mean different things across the country. Business casual on the West Coast is very different from business casual in New York. If you’re not local, ask someone who is for their suggestions, or better yet, your school’s career office. Wear clothes and shoes you’re comfortable in. These are not the events to be breaking in new heels because you may be on your feet for hours. If alcohol is being served, know your limits. Don’t be that person who over drinks and needs a cab called (I’d probably stop at 1 drink if any). Try to have something positive to say about all of your classes and professors. Oftentimes the people at these events are alumni of your school so they may have had your same professors and may even have a professional relationship with them. The last thing you want is word of you bad mouthing a professor getting back to them.
Networking is hard work, and it’s a skill that takes practice. These tips should help you navigate the waters, and if you have any specific questions or concerns, CareerDicta is right here to help you!
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