How do you actually start networking?

In a previous post that you all seemed to enjoy, I talked about how to network once you’ve arrived at an event. This time I’d like to talk about how to actually get to these events as well other ways you can build your network as a student.

There are constantly things happening in the legal profession, so it can be overwhelming deciding where to begin. Here are some ideas to start you off on your networking journey.

Method 1 – follow your interests 

Do you have a practice area that you think you might like to know more about? Was there a subject you found interesting and/or did really well in? There are ways to make connections that are surprisingly easy!

You could, for example, approach your lecturer and ask to have a chat with them about working in their chosen area. Most lecturers are approachable, and some are delighted when students show an interest in their area.

You could also search for an internship or work experience placement (this may be handy) in your area of interest. Once you’ve been there awhile and people know who you are, take the opportunity to talk to the people around you about what they do.

Disclaimer: it’s probably not a good idea to do this when you are on the job, so think about approaching your manager and/or colleagues at the end of the day and ask to pick their brains at another stage – I find an offer of a caffeine fix is a good way to approach it.

Method 2 – join a committee

I sit on two committees that do work which I’m very proud to contribute to. Joining a committee of a legal association has been one of the best things I’ve done for my career as it allows me to build my network on an ongoing basis and develop additional skills that I now use in my work.

You can mesh this with method 1 by joining a committee related to your practice area. For example, the Law Institute of Victoria has committees relating to workplace law, law reform and regional and suburban practice.

Alternatively, you might like to join a committee that isn’t focused on a specific practice area, such as a communications committee or a social committee. This could be an option if you aren’t sure which direction to take your career and just want to start talking to people.

Some suggestions of committees you can join:

  • the Law Institute/Law Society of your state (which is broken down into practice and non-practice sections);
  • the Law Institute/Law Society young lawyers section;
  •  the Women Lawyers Association in your state.

Joining associations in this capacity is a fantastic opportunity to get to know people in the legal profession as well as allow you to contribute to the future of the profession. I highly recommend it!

Method 3 – combining 1 and 2

It is very often the case that associations put on events for people in the profession. They range from social events to information sessions, and often feature special guests.

An idea would be to attend some of the events the Law Institute or the Women’s Association put on and speak to people while you’re there. At most events, it’s very easy to chat to people as everybody wears a name tag and are there for the same reason as you are.

Here are some other ways you can find out about what events are happening:

  • follow legal associations on LinkedIn;
  • follow law firms on LinkedIn and sign up for email alerts (this is also a good way to find things to talk about in an interview);
  • follow your university law students’ society;
  • do a google search for “events in [practice area]”.

Method 4 – in your job

This might be an option for you if you work in a non-legal job in a company that has a legal team.

Think about approaching your manager or HR and ask if you can be put in touch with somebody from that team. Again, offering to take them out for a coffee works well!

As an example, you may work at an insurance company as a case manager. You could approach your manager and ask to be put in touch with a lawyer from a panel firm to give you an idea of how the legal side of things play out.

Method 4 – getting a mentor

Getting a mentor is a popular way of building connections in the industry. You can get a mentor by signing up with your Law Society and Women Lawyers Association, who have dedicated programs for students to connect with practitioners already in the industry.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask when you network:

Did you always want to get into [X practice area]?

What are the best and worst aspects of practising law?

What’s a lesson you’ve learnt in your career so far?

Naturally follow the direction of the conversation. You’ll find as you get more comfortable, questions will come to you easily. Don’t forget to than them for their time and ask to stay in touch before you end the conversation.

A couple of things..

Just because they aren’t a lawyer working in a private practice law firm, that does not mean they won’t be able to provide you with valuable insight. I have spoken with people with varying job titles in various industries and roles and each of them have added immensely to my knowledge of professional life.

The worst they can say is no (and they will be polite about it). You’ll also be surprised at the lengths some will go to in order to assist you. I’ve approached one person and then been put in touch with another and then another, which has only expanded my network more.

It can all seem very daunting at first, but I promise that your future self will thank you for putting yourself out there. Here’s to making new connections!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, get in touch.

The [Pre]Lawyer in Black

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