Networking opportunities with law firms are readily available at university, and taking advantage of them is highly recommended in order to get a feel for each firm and boost your applications. Initially, I found networking quite daunting, and it is only recently that I have got to grips with how to approach such situations.
This post outlines how to prepare for and approach networking situations in order to make them as productive and useful as possible.
Preparing for a networking session needn’t be extensive and it is vital in order to make your questions as specific as possible. Take a look at the firm’s website, its main practice areas and the ways in which it stands out from other firms. Doing this means that when you ask questions to representatives, you can tailor them to the firm in order to find out niche information that isn’t available online. For example, instead of simply asking which areas the firm practices in, you can ask about the kinds of work performed in one of the firm’s specialist areas or specific deals or mergers. This way you can gain more unique information from representatives, which will show a deeper interest in and understanding of the firm in applications and interviews.
When networking, you must be bold and unafraid to approach people. Sessions often begin with a panel, and the trainees/lawyers will outline the area of the firm they are currently working in and some more general information about themselves. This is a good chance to work out who works in an area you are interested in (and who seems the most approachable) before you talk one-to-one. Ask a lot of questions – for example, what is the firm’s culture like, why did they choose to work there and what kinds of work are typical in their practice area. Try to gain a full picture of the firm as well as more niche information on specific deals or strategies. This will ensure that you’re ready to answer the inevitable application question, “why have you chosen this firm?”
Making notes on a notepad or smart device may come across as rude during a conversation with a representative, but if they mention something specific such as a deal or large case name, quickly noting this down shows initiative and enthusiasm. It’s a fine balance to strike, as noting everything down may also disrupt the natural flow of the conversation and the representative may feel like they are being quizzed. Instead, I like to note down everything I can remember from the session as soon as I leave; alternatively, I will call a friend after an event and ask them to transcribe while I repeat salient points over the phone. Jotting down names is vital – you can then refer to them in your applications and connect with them on LinkedIn for future use.
Attendees are often happy to continue answering questions and furthering discussions after an event. Sending them a message on LinkedIn or an email via the firms website is a good way to develop solid contacts. It is also useful for gaining further details about deals that they may have mentioned, or for simply asking additional questions. Moreover, you will have contacts from which to seek further advice should you advance through the application stages.