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A Guide to Networking

| Career Insights

Whether you are a law student or a senior associate at a firm, there are certain soft skills that you will need to possess in addition and in aid of your legal skills. Networking falls on top of the list of essential soft skills, even for law students who think it is far too early to contemplate business development. As always, The Legists is ready to help you make contacts and grow, so we have provided you with a few guidelines on networking that may help!

 

Strategise- Set down some measurable and attainable goals and create a plan to achieve them. This can range from attending events set up by your law school or firm, to strengthening your social media grasp or getting in touch with undergraduate friends/colleagues who work for companies you desire to get in touch with. There is no point in having a plan if you will not hold yourself accountable to it, so do check in on your progress frequently. It can also prove to be beneficial and motivational to have a pal or mentor guide you through your shortcomings and help you improve for the future. Planning not only involves setting goals on a broader scale, but also extends to more detailed strategising prior to an event. In fact, most of your networking efforts often happen before the event itself. It is then that you check out the attendee list and choose as well as research the people you intend on getting to know better. It is also then that you can contact event organisers if your goal is to help or volunteer. Moreover, keep in mind that it is better to set smaller achievable goals, i.e. meeting a fewer number of clients or other legal professionals, rather than aiming to talk to everyone; the latter proves to be counterproductive, as you risk coming off as too aggressive in your attempts to gain contacts. Furthermore, it goes without saying that with your planning comes researching your potential colleague, client, or employer. When it comes to a potential employer, look into the latest news stories, the culture of the firm, and employee work experiences. Doing so not only helps reaffirm that you are fitted for the firm, but also helps you brainstorm what you can contribute to the firm as a point of discussion. With regards to other types of contacts, make sure to ask more than you receive questions. Find out about their background, challenges, and future plans.
Master your introduction- First impressions make a lasting impression, so make sure that you come off as presentable and prepared. Carry your business cards, as they enhance credibility and emit an aura of professionalism. First impressions also involve being present. It therefore goes without saying that you must stay off your phone; you do not want to come off as unapproachable. With regards to your introduction, sharpen your 'elevator speech' - formulate a quick speech describing what you do. Familiarise yourself with it and amend it depending on the audience. While your speech should be about you, make sure you also integrate answers to their queries by explaining how you can be of value to the firm. This therefore simultaneously gives them an idea of who you are while leaving room for future discussion.
Follow up- Although a bulk of the networking process happens before and during the event, all your efforts will have gone to waste it you do not follow up on your new contacts. This can be either by sending a personal message related to your conversation as soon as the next morning or by speaking with the same people again at the next event. If you struggle to come up with conversation, do not hesitate to connect with them on LinkedIn or other social media platforms; you never know what mutual connections or common schools you may have. Moreover, it may come in handy to note down one thing you remember from your conversation with a potential contact on their business card. You can then bring it up when you follow up, making your connection more personal and therefore memorable. But what if you lose touch with your contacts months into your initial contact? Many lawyers struggle to come up with conversation at that point and fear the awkwardness that comes with it. To help you start conversation, forwarding an interesting article or asking about recent news about that persons firm often assists; it highlights your prolonged interest in keeping a relationship going.
Be a connector - Networking goes both ways; you are part of someone's network, linking him/her to the relevant people. As a lawyer (or lawyer to be), you probably understand how difficult it is to meet a person who has needs that perfectly fit your expertise. If you cannot help the person out yourself, do introduce that individual to someone who can. In doing so, your new contact will be grateful for your help, therefore increasing the odds that they return the favour should you ever need it.
Networking is not limited to one method - Networking happens everywhere. The easiest and most common form is through social media. This is where everything comes together. You can follow firms you are interested in on twitter to find out about their latest news and events, you can use LinkedIn to find out about mutual connections or academic history, and you can use Facebook or LinkedIn to check out the attendee list in advance or follow up on contacts you have made. Although you must take full advantage of social media's role in networking, you must also remember that networking goes far beyond social media. It can happen while you are waiting in line at the coffee shop or at legal events. Although it does take effort, you do need to go the extra length and invite people for coffee or lunch or even add an extra day to make room for some networking.
We are taught how to research, cite, time manage, and much more in law school. However, one thing we should learn is how to sell ourselves. We hope these tips will help you be able to communicate yourself effectively and expand your network!
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