Earlier this week, I listened to an interesting podcast on networking by Law School Podcaster (see my blog post on the podcast here), and I’ve had networking on the brain ever since. Of all of the career advice I’ve received, I’d rank networking as the most important for developing my legal career. But as a law student, it was one of the career-development tools that I most neglected. With the Socratic method, outlining, finals, blue-booking, and journal writing hanging over my head, I didn’t make networking a top priority like I should have.
I think that the biggest networking resources that I overlooked were my fellow law students. Sure, advice and mentoring from experienced legal professionals is important. But one day, the people sitting next to you in Torts and Contracts will be those experienced attorneys. Your classmates are the future of the legal industry: future colleagues, clients, business partners, CEOs, adversaries, legal experts, judges, policy-makers, politicians, scholars, and professors. Even though it’s hard to imagine the person in the next study carrel having a profound effect on your yet-to-be-defined legal career, the truth is that you never know how important one connection can be.
Networking with fellow law students isn’t only important for your future career, however. It’s also valuable in your development as a lawyer. You can get all of the guidance you want from your mentors, but no one understands how you’re feeling as you trudge through documents at 2 am like those in your same class year. Nobody appreciates your professional anxieties and insecurities like those who are on the same career timeline as you. Discussing, comparing, commiserating, and offering each other advice is a different way to grow as attorneys, one based on learning from each other’s experiences.
The best part about networking with your classmates is that it’s easy. You don’t need formal meet-and-greets or panel discussions to make connections. Just get involved, and be open to meeting new people. Try some of these tips:
•Join clubs, write-on to a journal, or participate in mock-trial groups. Getting involved with the meetings and activities sponsored by these school groups is a great way to connect with other students.
•Attend school-sponsored events like panel discussions, presentations, cocktail parties, lunches and dinners. Push yourself to go to these events and try to meet a few new people at each one.
•Get to know the people who sit around you in your classes (some of the people who sat around me ended up being great friends).
•Loaf around. Don’t always run home after class or head straight to the library. Eat lunch, sit outside for an hour, and lounge in common areas with fellow students.
•Join a study group. Resist the urge to always study on your own—find a group with similar study habits and work ethic, and meet with them regularly.
•Don’t turn down invitations. Grabbing drinks, making dinner plans, and going to parties may not seem essential to your legal career. But these casual get-togethers are great ways to develop relationships and to shed some of the law-school stress.
These are just a few ways to build connections with your fellow law students. They’re the easiest connections to make, and they’ll probably be some of the most valuable in your career.
Have you kept in touch with your law-school classmates? How have they helped you in your legal career? Leave a comment below or on Twitter (@VaultLaw)!
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