Reflecting recently on my journey to get into law, I tried to find something that I think helped me the most at each step. It seems obvious, but connecting with people truly is one of the best ways to help advance your legal career. Every person you meet can offer a new insight, a different tip or a unique point of view – all these connections will help you develop your career path.
Here are a few tips to get the most value from your interactions with people.
Networking at events
If you’re at university, various societies, particularly the law society, will probably organise events that will allow you to meet people from legal pathways, and different firms might target your university through careers fairs and presentations.
I used to be very shy at such events. However, I have learnt (mainly from watching other people at these events) that confidence is key: make the first move; introduce yourself to people boldly when there is a spare moment; and ask other people about themselves. Take notes immediately after the event and write down the names of the people that you spoke to. There are also ways, when appropriate, to make yourself stand out. I know someone who gives out their business cards to people they meet – and you can too. If you particularly hit it off with someone, propose a follow-up coffee or meeting. Something that is even more simple, but certainly worth considering, is asking people whether you can add them on LinkedIn to keep in touch.
Reaching out on LinkedIn
If your university has an alumni service or you can find people on LinkedIn who went to your university and are working at a firm that you are interested in, you can always try reaching out to them on LinkedIn. A polite, concise message, even if you’ve not met them before, might be the key to making a connection with the firm and getting some advice.
If you’re planning on using LinkedIn to make such connections, make sure your profile is up to date and provides a good overview of your current position.
I secured my first legal work experience by sending a traditional letter in the post to a local law firm, rather than sending an email. This might not work for every firm, but there is certainly something to be said for standing out from the crowd. Think of ways that you could stand out when looking for work experience – because law is such a competitive industry, it pays to be unique.
Ask everyone that you know whether they have any law connections – no matter how tenuous. If your family and friendship circle has no immediate links to lawyers, try finding work experience in the in-house legal departments of businesses where staff will have much more of a legal background than most.
Make friends with law students (especially if you’re a non-law student)
Some of the most valuable advice that I’ve had on my legal journey has come from people that I’ve met doing law degrees. It makes sense that their university experience is more directly targeted by law employers through emails, lecture shout-outs and law events. Law students have a lot of know-how because it’s fired at them from their very first lecture and they get to hear all about it first. Non-law students must be more proactive if they want to uncover this information, and if they have a law student friend who can offer advice then they’ll be fast-tracked to all the important events and services.