Friday, September 30, 2011

Networking advice for law students

Apropos to the story below.  From National Jurist Magazine:

Getting your resume into the right hands has never been more of a challenge than in today’s current job market.  If you blindly mass send your resume to a number of law firms, you will be lucky to get your resume past whomever they entrust to sort junk mail from pleadings.  Most law firms, like ours, receive several unsolicited resumes a week. Rarely, if ever, do they make it to my desk — and only when word has been spread that we are hiring. 

Today, the best way to get your resume into the right hand starts with figuring out where and how you would be the best fit for the potential employer. This starts with a long, hard look in the mirror and some hard-answered question. Ask yourself if you really, truly want to be a lawyer, and if so what kind. Like most recent law school grads, you probably know very few real lawyers, if any. So, meeting real lawyers is the first step and the sooner that starts the better.

In my book, “Make It Your Own Law Firm,” I provide a detailed road map as to how to acquire and keep meaningful contacts that can and should become your mentors once you graduate. The bottom line is you have to meet lawyers. Take a look at your state’s bar journal or your city’s or town’s local bar association web site and find events that you can attend now.  Most have weekly or monthly luncheons, meetings or cocktail parties that you can attend for little to nothing as a law student or recent graduate.

Dress the part: wearing whatever you would wear to the finals of your moot court competition. If you select an event that is atypical, like a charity event or legal clinic, call or contact the organizer to get a feel for the dress code. Always take a few minutes to make sure you look like a lawyer and not a law student. Come equipped with your own business cards that have your name and email address (choose a new one for your professional identity such as, as opposed to what you may have used for the last ten years) and plenty of pens.

As you meet people take a moment or two to find out what kind of work they do, how they like it and if they would ever be interested in discussing it further.  Don’t look like you are desperate or in need of a job.  Rather, project an image of genuine desire to learn about and know people in the legal community and the best way to stay in touch.  Do they say “just call me” or “send me an email” or “don’t?” After each meeting make notes about the person and what you discussed on the back of the card.

That night, go home and do further research on you new-found contacts. Enter or scan each card into a contact management program (Google has one for free)  and input where and when you met them and on a 1 to 5 scale the “vibe” you got as to whether this potential new contact can become a friend, mentor or employer--sometimes all three, sometimes none.

If you like the person, send a nice note and follow up within twenty days. Hey, the longer you go, the less they will remember you or even care. When you do follow up, it’s a time to come prepared for real questions (don’t bring your resume) about advice they can give you as to whom, when or where you can find a job.  These people can give you real advice, real contacts and real leads.  They may even be willing to forward your resume for you. Find out what events, groups or associations they would recommend for you to join. Many people are scared that they don’t have a job out of law school. Use the valuable free time to network and meet as many different lawyers as you can.  It will pay dividends--not just in getting and keeping your first job, but for your entire career.


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