I hate networking. It is one of my least favorite parts of the law school experience. And that’s saying a lot. I even hate the word “networking” and especially hate people who talk about “growing their network.” Unfortunately, networking is an essential part of the law school experience, and it is a great way to foster important relationships. If you’re an extrovert who loves engaging with people you don’t know, then this post isn’t for you. This is for my fellow introverts.
During my tenure as a summer associate at a large law firm, I have heard time and again the value of networking. Partners often tell us that, down the road, our best sources of client development will be our friends and colleagues from school. We’ve heard stories about the firm getting staffed on matters based on the higher-ups personal connections. As much as I don’t want to admit it, it does seem that networking is a vital part of the process. I have already seen the benefits in my own, albeit fledgling, career. I’ve received interviews and gotten offers based on the connections that I’ve fostered in undergrad and grad school. All this is to say that this isn’t just something that people say you should do — it is something you actually should do.
Fortunately, the opportunities for networking are constantly present at law school. Speakers from firms and organizations will come to your school, firms will host events, and you’ll meet people with attorney siblings and parents. You can use all of these to your advantage. As I mentioned earlier, networking really isn’t my cup of tea. I often find myself having to grit my teeth and bear it. You should go to the events, talk to the speakers after their presentations, and take a genuine interest in the opportunities available to you. Think of it as part of your education. Law school is, after all, professional school, and you should do everything you can to help succeed in your chosen profession.
In terms of concrete guidance, I think the best way to try to improve your networking skills is to educate yourself. Whether you need to learn more about sports, food, current events, or arts and entertainment, try to brush up on some conversation topics that can be readily at your disposal. It goes without saying that everyone is different, so having a breadth of understanding will help avoid those awkward pauses. You should also prepare some questions that you can ask any attorney. For example, “why did you choose x firm,” “what was the most helpful class or clinic that you participated in at law school,” etc.—think of it like prepping for an interview.
At the end of the day, networking at a large event is a lot like speed dating. You want to come across as interested and engaging, but you don’t want to know too much and come across as a stalker.
Networking isn’t just for the extroverts. As long as you motivate yourself properly by understanding the benefits, and take the time and care to become marginally interesting and memorable, you’ll be fine. Just please, for the love of all good things, don’t talk about “growing your network.”