The Firm: Tips for new lawyers on effective networking

By John Mulcahy
The Daily Record Newswire

Young attorneys often have little time to enjoy the dual milestones of law school graduation and bar exam success before embarking on the ever-stressful job search. Here are 10 pointers to maximize the effectiveness of networking, often the key to achieving milestone No. 3:

1) Persistence pays off

You must realize that for every 10 people you contact, you’ll probably hear back from only two or three. You have to be persistent, which means sometimes trying to reach people three or four times before hearing back from them. It also means that you have to be flexible with people’s schedules. It goes without saying that lawyers are busy people, and they often have to cancel and reschedule appointments; you need to approach such last-minute scheduling changes with patience.

2) Understand your ultimate purpose

When you’re networking, what you’re really looking for is contacts to connect you with people who are looking to hire. So you should try to get two contacts from every person that you meet. But caution is advised: You don’t want to say during an informational interview: “Can you put me in touch with someone who is hiring?” Instead, you want to say, “Do you have any colleagues who would be willing to talk to me about my job search?” Lawyers will understand the subtleties in your message and will steer you in the right direction to find an open opportunity.

3) Network with anyone and everyone

Touch base with lawyers, non-lawyers, family and friends. You never know who is going to get you in touch with that key person who works at the firm that’s hiring or works in the practice area in which you are most interested.

While out on an errand, I ran into an old family friend who is a landscaper. I told him that I was searching for a job. He told me that his brother was a lawyer and that his brother worked in a practice area that was of interest to me. I would never have made that connection unless I had told him that I was looking for a job. His brother ended up helping me out tremendously with my job search.

You should also make sure that you’re letting close family and friends know that you’re job hunting because people who care about you want to help you out. Friends and family will take the time to think about people they know who are hiring and people who would be willing to talk to you. You’ll find that if you are open about the fact that you’re looking for a job, it’s going to help you greatly with networking.

4) Be courteous

Make sure that you’re on time for meetings and send thank you notes, even via e-mail. Courtesy counts; just make certain that your handwriting is legible and that you do not misspell the person’s or firm’s name.

5) Rely on law school career services

For those lawyers who have been out of law school for a little while, remember that even though you graduated a few years ago, your law school career services office is still there to help you.

6) Use your alumni databases

Your college and law school alumni directories are great networking resources. Find out if your school has alumni who have specifically identified an interest in networking with other alumni and seek them out.

7) Mentorship

If you do enough networking, you’ll find that you will come across a few individuals with whom you’ll connect especially well. These are the lawyers you admire as people and as attorneys. This is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of networking and hopefully you can stay in touch with these people for the rest of your career.

8) Keep your networking contacts updated on your progress

People like to hear back from you. They don’t like to meet you once and never hear from you again. So when you do get a job, make sure that you keep your networking contacts in the loop on your exciting new opportunity.

9) Return the favor

Although you might not feel like you could be helpful as a networking contact because your career is just starting out, you can be! You should be willing to help out people who contact you. It’s the right thing to do. That could mean getting involved with your law school’s alumni association, volunteering to be a judge in your law school’s oral advocacy competitions or mentoring a current law school student.

10) Be patient

You have to realize that people who are successful at networking are those people who are patient and understand that it takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get a job. Be patient with yourself and don’t get discouraged. Understand that every small step you take and all your blood, sweat and tears will build to a great reward — maybe even the perfect position.

John T. Mulcahy is an associate at Adler, Pollock & Sheehan in Providence, R.I.