How to Network with Lawyers
By Daniel June
Once you graduate, how do you make your presence felt in the legal world? Social networking. This isn't sitting at home on your computer emailing your resume to law firms. Mass emailing your resume is spam and not only will it get deleted, and it might even leave a nasty residue on your name. Social networking means meeting lawyers who are ready to be met. To meet the lawyers and judges in your area, look at the state's bar journal or the bar association website and discover what events you can attend -- and do this regularly. By showing up, dressing well, appearing calm (not desperate), your mere presence might catch the interest of a man or woman who could open up connections.
Come to these gatherings well dressed, of course, and also bring business cards with your number and a professional sounding email address (nothing like "firstname.lastname@example.org").
As you meet and mingle with lawyers, the same psychological rules apply as when mingling at a cocktail party or at a bar scene: some innate radar will draw you to the person most relevant to your needs. Why a given lawyer happens to take a charm to you is often inscrutable, but somebody invariably will. However, if you appear eager to learn, and not desperate to get hired, most lawyers will respect you, and a few will be happy to meet up with you to give you advice and tell stories about themselves and their practice.
Everyone loves stories, both hearing and telling. Therefore, to ensure you don't find yourselves stuttering and silent, keep tabs on legal news. Know the local legal lore, and develop interesting opinions -- that is, honest and personal reactions to the things you hear -- so that no matter what comes up you can add a personal touch to it.
Business savvy has more to do with psychology than economics. Of course lawyers are not interested in meeting up with you from some sense of duty, pity, or charity, but because they value themselves and wish to impress you with themselves and their advice. The subtle art of ego-stroking need not be some shameless flattering, but developing the ability to be genuinely interested in others, in who they are, and what they do. If you can honestly care about what your contact has to say, and let it matter to you, not merely as a possible lead, but as a connection between two human beings, your contact will feel his time has not been wasted. As the Norse saying goes, "Man is cheered by man," and making real human connections in a world of politeness and formality makes the difference. That is why you should never use a lawyer merely as a stepping stone to a higher up -- you should show a genuine interest in who he or she is in and of themselves.
So when you get any invitation to meet up for coffee or some other engagement, follow up. If you fail to do so, you will make a bad impression and even cause some anti-networking, or the possible building of a bad reputation.
When you do meet up, keep the conversation going by asking honest, not patronizing, questions -- you will want to have done some detective work about this person to know what to ask. Bring up interesting legal news by-the-by, and also zero in on any extra-legal interests such as sports or music you two may share. A man with special interests always finds a delight on another who holds the same.
With this sort of networking, you will not only run across a few doors of opportunity sooner or later, but also build a network of friends who will come in handy once you are established.