Just wanted to bump this. Those starting law school in fall should follow the advice that Matthies posted in another thread on networking, and utilize LinkedIn for its networking potential.
Some advice on how to start networking from day one:
•Become a student member of the ABA, your state and local bar associations. This can range from free to $50 for a year. Be sure to sign up for any e-mail newsletters they have. DO THIS. Why students don’t join the professional organizations of the profession they want to work in amazes me. DO IT.
•Find local CLE (Continuing Legal Education classes) for lawyers in your town. This is usually by practice area, it helps if you have a practice area you like, but if you don’t then go to several it’s a good way to see what lawyers actually do in that practice area. These are usually around noon and include lunch; student rates are often free to $10-25 bucks and includes the food. TALK TO PEOPLE THERE. Some lawyers, just like some posters on LSD, love to give advice - these are the folks you want to search out. Students are welcome at CLEs, and you will likely be the only one there – use it to your advantage. People will want to talk to you if you just talk to them first. Not everyone is going to be your mentor, but you won’t find the ones that will if you DON”T TRY and KEEP TRYING. Going each month is a way to see the same people and keep in contact.
•See if the local bar association has any lawyer functions you like, mine has both a kayaking and dodge ball group, join, students are welcome but never go, you already have something in common with these folks to talk about. Go and meet people, real live lawyers and judges, imagine that.
•Focus some of your little free time on meeting lawyers and judges in the community. Joining every student group under the sun is great, but that’s not networking. Those people are your competition for jobs. Being VP of some group as a line on your resume does not beat knowing a judge so well you have his home phone number in your cell. Being the leader of a student group is impressive; knowing someone who knows the person interviewing you who is willing to call them and put a good word in for you is more impressive. (I’m not saying don’t join groups, just make time for outside the school stuff as well- again avoid putting all your eggs in one basket).
•Understand that the legal community in your city is much smaller and more tight nit then you think now. Everybody knows everyone else, if you have a large enough network somebody you know will know or know of the person you are interviewing with or someone high up at the firm you want a job at. BELIEVE ME. I could write an entire post about how just asking my network of lawyers and judges about a certain firm or judge turned into a phone call that got me an interview. Lawyers know other lawyers and judges. Knowing people is how the law gets done. Understand that now, and start meeting people, as a 1L and you will have a HUGE advantage over your classmates who don’t.
•Check the American Inns of Court for an Inn of Court in your town. Contact its recruiting officer and ask to join. (Some may not take students, or only take 2 or 3L, but if they do respond saying that say you’re very interested and would like to join as a 1L if possible). Inns are GREAT. They meet once a month and have up to 200 lawyers and judges as members, and the whole point of Inns is to mentor young lawyers so the folks that join WANT to help.
•Go to networking functions your school puts on. Don’t be a wallflower, TALK TO PEOPLE. Talk to lawyers not other law students. The lawyers and judges who go to these things have volunteered to be mentors. MEET THEM. Moreover, keep in contact with them. Taking their card is NOT ENOUGH. You need to contact them again and again to build a relationship, build up your relationship credits BEFORE you need them then when you do they will WANT TO HELP YOU. Find reasons to talk to them again. Can you shadow them one day at the office or court? Can you e-mail them about elective courses? Ask them to lunch, offer to pay (most time they will end up picking up the bill, but offer). The point is you need to work to stay in contact, that’s networking. Collecting cards and sitting on them is NOT networking. It will be aqward at first, but after a few meetings if you two click it will becomes second nature and you will becomes friends. I know have more friends who are judges and lawyers than I have friends who are classmates.
•If you’re invited by a judge or lawyer to go to some legal event outside of school GO. Just do it. This is a gesture you should not turn down unless you have an exam the next day.
•Volunteer at local bar association charity events, whatever it is, e-mail the person setting up and offer your help. You will meet tons of lawyers this way, and the people you meet are the types that like to give back to the community so they are often good mentors.
•Get this book: Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, 2d http://www.amazon.com/Guerrilla-Tactics-Getting-Dreams-Employment/dp/0314176772/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b. I dare say it’s the best prep you can do for law school and the only thing that might actually pay off in the end. I’m not going to say I agree with everything in there, but it’s a great start to understanding how the legal job search works, it would take me 100s of post to explain what is laid out in this book. Just read it and you’ll be far above the majority of your classmates when it come to job searching.
•Put your activities with the local bar association on your resume. Why? Law firms like lawyers who are involved in the community it makes the firm look good and it’s how you meet clients. By year four of your firm career you will be expected to bring clients in, showing you have learned networking and meeting people skills in law school is a bonus.
•Be creative in how you meet lawyers or judges. Always be prepared to strike up a conversation when the opportunity presents its self. On more than one occasion, I have had someone comment on my law school sweatshirt out in public that turned out to be alumni. Don’t be shy, suck it up, it’s better to take the chance you might embarrass yourself for a fleeting second than to give up what might have been an excellent networking contact.
•Ask the lawyers and judges you meet to introduce you to their friends. This seems basic, but people like to introduce people to other people, this is how you build your network.
•Do just some of these and your life in law school will be easier than most, your job search will be easier and you will have better success regardless of your grades, ranking or law school you go to.