Blog post | Networking for lawyers
Networking is an essential skill for lawyers. Networking is essential to the recruitment process for many law firms, and it could help you get a job or a promotion, attract and retain clients, and build relationships.
There is an art to networking, but with any art - it takes a lot of practice.
We were recently asked “what are your tips for networking?” at the Australian Law Students Association (ALSA) Council meeting. Thanks ALSA - what a great idea for a blog post!
Here are our top tips for networking like a boss:
Be prepared. If you suffer from stage fright or you feel a little starstruck in front of senior lawyers, plan some questions in advance, e.g.
Why did you study law?
Tell me about your legal career.
What do you think about [insert a topical issue for the legal industry]
Where do you see your [firm/ organisation] heading in the next 5 years?
What do you think are the main skills a law student like me needs to be a lawyer of the future?
Or pick a topical story or issue to discuss, or if you feel it is appropriate, speak about travel or other non-legal ventures. We are all humans, not just lawyers. Some will remember that story about your Champagne trip more than your thoughts on the latest law reform.
Dress to impress. Make sure you check the dress code (if there is one) and pay attention to the context of the event. Business attire is usually the minimum!
Free up your hands. Don’t do the weird left hand handshake or have greasy food or a full glass of wine in your hands so it takes you a minute to free them up to greet someone properly (#awkward). You need a hand for a clean handshake and for handing out or receiving business cards.
Speaking of eating and drinking, consider eating beforehand so you’re not ravenous and please people - don’t get drunk.
Practice makes perfect, so just get out there! If there is a careers fair, an awards night, a guest lecture event, or even Law Ball - these are all networking opportunities for you.
Bring a friend with you if you like, so you have safety in numbers when you join a group of people to start a discussion.
Be as graceful and polite as you can when you enter and exit a discussion. E.g. “Sorry to interrupt - do you mind if we join you? My name is [insert]…” to enter a conversation. To exit one, consider something like: “thanks so much for the chat - I’ll let you say hello to some other people here”. Or you may wish to ask for the other person’s details so you can continue the conversation later, or you could even introduce someone else to the conversation and you can do a clever switcharoo.
Remember people’s names! The “I’m not good with names” excuse is not an excuse - it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many networking events will have nametags which is great, but make sure you remember that person’s name - and repeat it in your conversation to reinforce. You can also connect with that person on LinkedIn or write their name down in your phone to help you remember.
Listen. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen to the other person - other people are really interesting, we promise.
Smile, be positive, and be genuine.
Don’t badmouth anyone or any organisation - the legal profession is a small one.
Don’t ask for a job - but if you want to get some advice or mentoring from someone, you could suggest that you connect with that person at another time.
Use LinkedIn! LinkedIn seems to be the social network of choice for lawyers. This is especially handy for those who live, study or work remotely and may not be able to get to networking events easily. A creative LinkedIn message when connecting with someone interesting might just be the ticket to start a wonderful conversation with someone - whether that be here or abroad. Our experience has been that people are more likely to respond to LinkedIn messages than emails these days (as we have too many emails as it is). If your message is considered, tailored and fun - you’ll quickly stand out.