Creating Your Legal Network

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Building your legal network takes time. The saying goes “in 1L they scare you to death, and in 2L, they work you to death.” It is easy to see how this is true. While we survived 1L, 2L not only has many of the same pressures of preparing for class but add to that writing and researching your note or substantive paper, running or participating in student organizations, working in a clinic or externship (maybe both!), moot court or mock trials, and of course finding, securing and then participating in work events for your summer position… Whew. It is a lot, and it can be exhausting. But… there is one more thing you should not neglect during your 2L, and that is creating your legal network and becoming a part of the legal community, outside of law school.

In many ways, you are already on this path. Here are three tips to help you to begin and continue to build your legal community through networking:

Attend Co-Sponsored School Events

Law school hosted events can range from lunchtime speakers to hosted events in the evening. Even though it can be overwhelming with our current workload, begin to RSVP and attend these events, especially the student mixers. This week at my school, we had two of these special student mixer events. The first was with the Federal Bar Association (FBA). Here, we were able to mingle with lawyers, clerks, and judges of the Federal court system.

For many of us, it was the first time directly interacting with this community. One of my friends made it a goal to speak to at least three people he did not know. While he found it challenging, he was able to make connections. It can be that simple. If you already feel comfortable talking to people at these events, take the next step and try to set up a coffee meeting to learn more about their work, or arrange for a court visit. At this event, the FBA also offered attending students a special (subsidized) membership that will allow 2Ls to have 3 years of membership, at half the normal membership fee! This leads me to my next tip.

Join Professional Legal Associations

SBA (Student Bar Association) is likely our first exposure to a legal association, and perhaps you have joined the ABA (American Bar Association) with their free student membership offer. But there is so much more… and so many more acronyms.  At my school, during orientation, we were offered a free membership to the local Bar association. But as a 1L, this was easy to overlook. I am sure your school provided a similar offer, so check in on that now. Your local bar association is a great way to become connected to local lawyers and judges. They usually host CLE (continuing legal education) seminars, and networking/social events once a month. In addition to joining the local chapter, if you know you are going to practice in another region or county, consider reaching out to that chapter now, and join their association.

For example, I joined both Maricopa and Pima county bar associations, and try to attend events whenever possible. Just like the FBA (Federal Bar Association), many of these organizations offer an additional year of membership after you graduate (as long as you signed up during law school). This can save you a few hundred dollars! Plus, within these organizations, there are often specialized groups like the YLD (Young Lawyers Division). There are also specialty associations that you might be interested in joining, this can be a great place to find a mentor! For example, here is a link to various Women associations throughout the US.

Become Actively Involved in the Community

There are many ways to do this, but I want to focus on the theme of legal associations for this blog. In addition to attending events hosted by these organizations, you can also join committees. The ABA offers student leadership opportunities, and many of the bar associations have positions for student liaisons. This involves usually attending a monthly meeting and reporting on events at your school and possible partnership opportunities.

For example, my school hosts a weekly CLE on criminal law, and until late October U of A will offer a weekly CLE on legal skills building and social issues. These free events are great for lawyers. It allows them to earn required CLEs for free but also brings them to the law school, to create stronger connections with students. Being a student liaison, also helps you become better known within the legal community and a “go-to person” for those already in the profession. Plus it can be a great addition to your resume!

How are you becoming involved in your local legal community and creating your legal network? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter or Instagram.