Essential Networking – You can Do It!

Author: Lauren Love

Eighty percent of jobs are landed through networking, ABC News reports. Notre Dame Law School’s Career Development Office can’t stress enough to first-year law students just how important the skill is — and 2L and 3L students described this week just how to do it.

In an afternoon panel discussion, six students — each of whom obtained summer internships and post-graduation positions by building relationships with people — said they found networking to be much easier than many think.

Pat Manion, 2L and summer associate at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough; Kyle Maury, 3L and summer associate at Jones Day, Christine Bannan, 2L and legal intern at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Becky Steephenson, 2L and legal intern at Pfizer, Bobby Thalman, 2L who will be a summer associate at Hogan Lovells; and Hannah Weger, 2L and summer associate at Norton, Rose Fulbright and judicial extern with Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, were asked to share their most valuable networking tips with students looking to get their foot in the door at a firm, government agency or public interest organization. Here’s what they had to say:

Build Relationships
When networking, keep in mind that getting a job interview is not your immediate goal. If you approach networking expecting your contact to offer you a job, you will likely be disappointed. Instead, try to meet people who can offer advice for your search, answer questions about legal interests and provide you with the names of more contacts who may be able to help you get further along in the process of finding a job. They can give you a closer look at the practical aspects of their own jobs and provide details that you may find critical when deciding where to apply.

Do your research
If you’re dying to work at a particular law firm, do your homework. Did that firm just successfully complete a big merger? Have they recently established a new practice group? The more you know about a firm, the more insightful your questions will be. You will come across as genuinely interested in that particular workplace, and representatives will probably love you for it

Don’t be weird
Have an actual conversation with the people you set up meeting with. If you feel like you’re doing all the talking, that’s a bad thing. Yes, you need to let potential employers know what you have to offer, but people who can’t stop taking about their achievements are a real turn off.

Also lawyers don’t necessarily want to talk about legal and political news all the time. Get a hobby so you have something non-legal that you can talk about passionately with lawyers who have similar hobbies. This could be as easy as making sure you budget time in your study schedule to catch that Notre Dame football game.

Follow up
Send thank you emails. Be sure to keep your note brief and friendly. Find a reason to stay relevant and stay connected to the alumni and lawyers that have given you their time. As you move along in your law school career, give them updates about your grades or ask them for advice about a course or professor.

Be yourself
Don’t try to be the person you think others want to meet. Be genuine. The people you connect with when you are authentic are the ones who will want to stay in touch with you.

Don’t limit your network
Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to, even those who are not attorneys. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles. Someone you meet may “just” be a clerk, but they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you’d dismissed them.

Practice. Practice. Practice.
Just do it. And do it again. The more you network, the easier it will be, and the better you’ll get at it. Before you know it, networking behavior will become second nature. You’ll gain confidence along with new connections, both of which will help you gain business.