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by Nicole Weber | April 22, 2015


Hundreds of legal career professionals have descended on Chicago for the annual NALP Conference, and the Vault team is here along with them. In addition to attending a myriad of informative panel discussions and workshops, we are networking our tails off. It’s a lot of fun to catch up with our contacts at law firms, law schools, legal search firms and other conference attendees. Whether you are attending a conference, embarking on a job search or getting ready for your summer associate gig, it’s never a bad time to brush up on your schmoozing skills. The following tips on networking are adapted from the Vault Career Guide to Law. For more information and to download the full guide, click here

Approximately 70 percent of jobs are found through networking, according to the U.S Department of Labor. Here are a few tips from the American Bar Association and other bar associations to help you become a successful networker:

  • It’s never too early. Start networking while in college. This way, you’ll create a larger network and improve your chances of landing a job.
  • Begin with those who’ve already said "Yes." Your school’s career services office most likely has a list of alumni who have agreed to serve as mentors or information interviewees. These individuals can give you advice about career paths, law firms, industry trends, or the job application process. They may even be able to steer you toward internships and fellowships, or refer you to other lawyers who can provide assistance.
  • Reach out to your professors, especially those whom you interact with closely. They are excellent resources for networking, and most will be very happy to give you advice and help you find a job. 
  • Keep networking once you find a job. Even if you love your job, you should continue to network. There are always new companies and job openings to learn about and new people to meet. Plus, if you lose your job, you’ll have an advantage over those who stopped networking after becoming employed.
  • Be sure to help others. Networking is a two-way street, and when networking, you should always pay attention to the needs of others. Perhaps you can share some job-search advice or recommend potential employers. By helping others, you are more likely to receive assistance in the future.
  • Always be networking. You can network anyplace and anytime—whether it’s at a formal networking event, at a casual dinner with friends, at an airport while waiting for a flight, or any place where you’re around people. The key is to remain open to networking and making connections.
  • Create a list of goals before you begin networking. Goals might include meeting with at least 10 people in your specialty of healthcare law, learning more about a particular law firm, or obtaining general advice on breaking into the field.
  • Don’t be pushy. At networking events, don’t ask directly for a job or plan to hand out your résumé. Avoid putting the hard sell on attorneys or hiring managers. The goal is to expand your network of contacts with each encounter and obtain information that will help you land a job. You should let each relationship develop organically by getting to know the individual, asking safe questions about the individual’s background, the state of the industry or your specialty, and job-search strategies. As the conversation progresses, the hiring attorney may ask you for your résumé or offer to continue the discussion at a later date. Make it clear that you’re not expecting him or her to line up an interview for you—you’re just looking for some advice.
  • Read up on legal issues before you show up at networking events. They’re great ice-breakers and conversation extenders. If you’re interested in tax law, for example, read about the latest cases in newspapers and law journals. This approach is a far better strategy than going up to the head of the tax law section at an association and saying, “Tell me about tax law.” You want to encourage an extended and genuine discussion, pique the individual’s interest, and demonstrate your knowledge of the industry.
  • Always be at your professional best when attending networking events. Dress appropriately. Be positive, and demonstrate good body language. Make good eye contact. Listen closely to others, and don’t interrupt. Speak clearly and succinctly. Create a 30-second “elevator speech” that describes who you are and what you do. Observe good networkers, and learn from their examples. Have business cards ready to hand to potential contacts, and ask promising contacts for their business cards.
  • Follow up after networking events. Be sure to reach out as soon as possible to promising networking contacts to continue your discussion.

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