I remember my first major networking opportunity in my first year of law school. I was awarded a scholarship by the American Bar Association’s Health Law Section to attend their annual conference. I traveled from New York to Arizona and brought my contracts course materials with me so I could also study for the midterm. During the allocated networking hours, it was common to hear someone say to you, “I want to introduce you to an attorney looking for an intern!” A law student’s dream, right?
When the pandemic hit, I initially felt disappointed for the law students who wouldn’t get that same experience. However, that changed when I saw how quickly the legal profession including the courts, the national and state bar associations, universities, and YOU adapted to a new way of doing life! Networking is one of those vital things that changed. This article points out the benefits of networking in today’s world and ways you can be successful!
1. Greater Accessibility
Everyone has been affected by the societal changes due to the pandemic and this includes you and networking. I have heard firsthand from seasoned attorneys who expressed their empathy for the future generation of lawyers, while also acknowledging the resilience and innovative approaches students are developing.
When you identify an attorney that you hope to connect with, I recommend initiating communication with an introductory email. For example, you could start breaking the ice with, “I am currently a [1L] student with an interest in [health law]. I learned about you through [your website]. I am highly interested in hearing about your legal career journey by phone or virtually.” I believe that more than ever, legal professionals will be most receptive to networking with students. Additionally, this kind of initiative leaves a lasting impression. Furthermore, meeting by phone or virtually are increasingly the norm now, as it’s safer for public health. The up side is that this arrangement works for you too, as you are also juggling a busy class schedule and extracurriculars. Lastly, if you are typically shy about in-person networking, the awkwardness of face-to-face is eliminated. All in all, you are saving time, money and energy—all useful for law students!
2. Cast a wide net
In my final year of law school, I landed my dream internship, in Washington, D.C. Arranging the logistics was certainly challenging, and it almost deterred me from participating altogether. I had to find a short-term place to stay and figure out the cost of living and transportation.
Today, internship sites are responding to the new way of life with remote opportunities expanding for law students nation-wide and internationally. What might not have been previously possible for you due to geographic location or cost is now, for the most part, a barrier of the past. This is especially great news to those who have an unpaid internship opportunity!
Don’t be shy! Expand your reach, apply and go for it!
3. Diversify your experience
Saving more time overall can open up availability to engage in a variety of opportunities. For example, working at your law school clinic gives you an opportunity to interact with clients, which is essential for many employers. You can engage in projects with faculty, some of whom may be your future references for jobs and character and fitness down the road. Writing and sharing a blog, or article on a topic of interest can increase your social media presence, which can develop your network. The best part is that diversifying experiences can all help direct your career path, introduce you to some great people, add to your resume and give you enriching experiences to discuss at interviews.
4. Building relationships
LinkedIn is a great networking platform to join if you are not already connected. I use my LinkedIn page to remain connected to my previous internship supervisors, colleagues, and mentors. I like to share updates with them and check in on how they are doing. The pandemic showed many of us the importance of maintaining connections, building community, and reaching out to see if your contacts are safe and healthy during challenging times. Building on contacts you may have met at a conference and maintaining those relationships over time is what makes a network special.
Importantly, your network can play a major role in how you learn about upcoming virtual conferences, webinars, and other networking events. The best part is that many of these are free for law students and may only require you to register as a law student.
5. Networking Resources and Support
Plug into your local bar association and attend virtual webinars and events, which likely include topics on networking, as this is a hot topic affecting the entire legal industry. Additionally, connect with the American Bar Association’s Law Student Section that are here to be a support and resource for you as you grow your virtual network. Specifically, the ABA’s articles on job hunting and also networking as a law student during covid-19 are relatable pieces that are written just for you! Consider ways you can join the ABA groups as a student liaison or member so you can be a resource and share your experiences as well!
Remember that taking the steps to build your network virtually, is also teaching you how to adapt in an ever-changing environment. Your resilience and ability to adapt are excellent skills to have as a future attorney!
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