Three tips to begin and continue building your legal network

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Building your legal network takes time.

During 1L and 2L years, you have the same pressures of preparing for class but now add in: 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 finding, securing and then participating in work events for your summer position. It is a lot, and it can be exhausting.

But there is one more thing you shouldn’t neglect 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 begin and continue to build your legal community:

1) Attend co-sponsored school events

Law school hosted events can range from lunchtime speakers to virtual evening socials. Even though it can be overwhelming with your current workload, begin to RSVP and attend these events whether in-person or virtually.

For many, this can be the first time directly interacting with the legal community. You can try to make it a goal to speak to at least three people you did not know previously to get yourself out there. While it can be challenging, you will be able to make some valuable connections. It can be that simple, if you have a plan and take initiative to meet-and-greet.

If you already feel comfortable talking to people at these events, take the next step and try to set up a follow up meeting to learn more about their work or arrange for a court visit.

2) Join professional legal associations

The Student Bar Association (SBA) is likely your first exposure to a legal association and perhaps you have already joined the American Bar Association (ABA) through their free student membership. But there is so much more out there … and so many more acronyms to navigate, too.

At many schools, during orientation,  some students may be offered a free membership to the local bar association. But as a 1L student, this can be easy to overlook. Your local bar association is a great way to become connected to local lawyers and judges. It usually hosts continuing legal education (CLE) seminars and networking/social events once a month. In addition to joining the local chapter, if you know you’re going to practice in another region or county, consider reaching out to that chapter and join their association in advance.

Just like the Federal Bar Association (FBA), 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, there are often specialized groups like the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) and specialty associations that you might be interested in joining (and finding a mentor, too)

3) Become active in the community

There are many ways to do this, but let’s focus on legal associations. 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 usually involves attending a monthly meeting and reporting on events at your school and possible partnership opportunities. 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.

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