Law school networking tips to build your legal connections

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Networking doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. In fact, in many cases it can be as simple as sending an email, talking with a professor or speaking to a professional after they have spoken at your school. As you go through law school, you’ll encounter numerous opportunities to network. Whether these are traditional networking events or mixers, or smaller opportunities such as lunches or a LinkedIn message, networking is a vital part of your legal profession.

The following tips should help you make some new connections as well as maintain and build your network so you can become fully entrenched in the legal community.

Refine your “elevator” speech

By now you’ve probably heard people talk about the importance of an elevator speech. If not, an elevator speech is an introduction to promote yourself in a short amount of time, usually about 30 seconds. Your elevator speech will evolve as you gain more legal experience, but for now, think about the attributes that set you apart from other students. It could be your grades, clinics, work experience or previous educational achievements like an IP degree. You want to make your speech brief but memorable.

Be genuine and respectful

This is more of a friendly reminder, but an important one. Your time is valuable but so is the person you’re talking to. Make sure you’re respectful of someone’s time (don’t be late to an event and don’t try to keep someone who is busy). Be genuinely interested and present in your conversations. Ask thoughtful questions and truly listen to the person’s answer.

Once you have the right mindset and confidence, then it’s time to start looking for opportunities to make relationships.

Find contacts

The first step to networking is to make the first move. Your law school will no doubt have various events, speakers, presentations, lunches, virtual evening socials and other opportunities to connect. Take the time to attend these events. And remember, valuable contacts aren’t only those who can immediately hand you a job. They aren’t even people who may be able to directly help you. The best type of networking is really just forming relationships and becoming part of the community.

  • Talk with speakers and presenters at events:You aren’t the first person to want to talk to them, nor will you be the most engaging part of their day. That’s okay, though, because your goal shouldn’t be just to speak with them that day. If there’s someone you really want to connect with, your goal should be to get permission to email them later with a question or to set up a quick meeting or coffee date.
  • Use the resources at your school:Your law school has a whole host of various departments, many of which extend beyond the law school buildings. By making relationships through these avenues, you have the luxury of being selective with opportunities for interviews, conference calls and more. Remember, any of your contacts might open the door to legal internships or clerkships that can pave the way to landing a job.
  • 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. Look into your local bar association, as it is a great way to become connected to lawyers and judges in your area. If you’re considering practicing in another region or county, consider reaching out to that chapter to join their association in advance. You may also want to look into the Federal Bar Association (FBA) and specialized groups such as the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the ABA. Plus, many legal associations have additional perks and resources that you can tap into.

Build relationships and break the ice

In trying to be the “networker” you want to be, you may come to realize just how simple networking really is. At the end of the day, most people will be happy to connect if you’re genuine in your presentation.

No one likes to feel awkward or disconnected with others, but few put themselves into a position of being the “ice breaker.” This doesn’t take any special kind of skill or charm, just the willingness to be the first to extend a bit of hospitality to another. When it comes to professional networking, this often manifests itself as the ability to get to know the person behind the title first. It can be as simple as making an attempt to share a common point of interest, such as sports, or a personal hobby, book or movie.

Keep the ball rolling

No matter how interesting you may appear or how good of a relationship you’ve formed with someone, law school is demanding, and it’s easy to lose touch. It’s important to keep up with your contacts and continue to build your network. This includes keeping up with both your law school contacts (your classmates and professors) as well as industry contacts you’ve met through events, networking and jobs. Try sending a quick email or meeting occasionally for coffee to help cultivate and maintain your valued relationships.

Networking in law school is vital. And while you’re juggling a myriad of other deadlines and tasks, remember that in the long run, the connections you build will help you learn and grow. Your network can provide you with everything from a sense of community to advice to even opening the door to your next professional opportunity.

Learn more about how networking can lead to internships, clerkships, and legal clinics here. 

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