Networking is particularly relevant to the world of law – not only because of the aforementioned desirability for people skills in this profession, but also because lawyers are expected to collaborate with each other. After all, there is not a single lawyer who is a specialist in all areas of the law; help Is often needed – and when you have the right connections, it is much more accessible. But how does networking actually work?
Networking involves making new professional connections – be it virtually or in-person. You could network with a goal in mind. For instance, if you are a newly-qualified lawyer looking for a job, you might try to network with someone who might be able to refer you. Otherwise, you can also network in order to get your name out there, and to gain contacts in the field. Moreover, polishing your people skills is always a great thing to do, and the more you make yourself known to law firms and peers, the more likely you are to hear back from them in case any new opportunities crop up!
Not sure what skills you need to develop as a lawyer? Check out the most important abilities you should cultivate here.
Networking is primarily done at events such as law fairs or career fairs, as well as during any networking sessions that your university or company might set up. However, that does not mean that you could not network in other situations if you wanted to.
For instance, you might be going to a social event you know a lawyer will be attending. In this case, you could ask someone who knows them if they would be happy to talk to you for a bit. Of course, there are times and places where networking is not appropriate – but if it feels right, you should go ahead and network when you get the chance!
If you know you’ll be attending a law or career fair, the first step should be to research who else will be attending. Check whether any specific firms have been advertised, and whether there will be any speakers. Based on this, you can research specific questions you might want to ask. In the case of law firms, you might want to know more about their culture or training contracts – or even about their current job openings. If you have the chance to network with one of the speakers at a conference, ask them about their own career journeys and whether they have any advice for those just starting out.
Take your time to talk to some of your peers as well – is there anyone who seemed interested in the same firms as you? Even if that is not the case, there is no harm in simply introducing yourself to a stranger – chances are you will have sone things in common, and they are likely trying to network, too!
Networking does not need to necessarily be in person, either. LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for networking – look for people doing the same degree as you, or who have undergone the same internship. You can also join age and career-specific groups on LinkedIn aimed at sharing opportunities and advice. Discussion groups are also popular on other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook – have a look and join what interests you.
Another efficient way of using LinkedIn is advertising yourself. Use the #opentowork filter on your profile in case you are looking for new opportunities, as this immediately stands out to any recruiters. You can also post regarding your achievements and career-related questions, and people are sure to respond if you make your post public! You can also look at popular posts and engage with discussions to gain more visibility.
The prospect of going up to a complete stranger and talking about yourself can seem pretty daunting. But that is not at all abnormal – even seasoned lawyers get nervous sometimes when talking to someone new! It’s a case of actively pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to better this skill; and unfortunately, you cannot get better at networking without talking to others.
To start off, you want to feel confident – or, as confident as you can feel – before actually having to network. Dress appropriately for the occasion; a smart suit or business wear is what is usually expected at these events, so go for something smart casual. How you present yourself matters during your first encounter with someone, although it is not nearly as important as what you say.
A big part of networking is actually listening to others. You should be looking to forge an actual connection to a person rather than simply asking and answering questions – this way, they will actually remember you later on.
When networking, make sure you ask questions about the other person’s interests and passions as well, and not just about their career. Here are some examples you can use:
When it comes to introducing yourself, make sure you outline what you learnt from your past experiences. This way, you can highlight your development and growth. Also, when describing an experience, mention why you did it, not just what you did. This will add depth to your conversation and give the other person something to relate to. And remember – confidence comes with practice!
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Firstly, make sure you have your contact details on hand when networking. Whether that be your LinkedIn QR code, phone number or email, you do not want to be wasting time looking for your details during an event. Similarly, be prepared to take pictures or note down others’ details.
After exchanging details, follow up a few days later with an email or text. This is especially important if the person you networked with mentioned an opportunity or job you might be interested in. However, you could also follow up on any non-career related discussions you might have had – send them an article you think they might enjoy or the title of a film you think they should watch!
Overall networking is a skill that needs developed with time, just like everything else. Here are a few other articles you can check out to improve your networking skills:
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