Do you have a LinkedIn account that you use for professional networking? Maybe you use Facebook and Twitter, too? Great! So does every other person trying to get or maintain a job. Simply having a LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter account will do nothing for your career. You can’t just be “connected” with the right people. You need to have a substantive relationship with them, and having a large network and having a network that will help you are two different things.
“What I’ve realized while I’ve been practicing is that your network shouldn’t just be made up of a bunch of lawyers. Especially if you’re working in the private sector, a lot of your clients aren’t going to come from other lawyers. They’re going to come from your natural friend base, maybe your doctor or someone from your kid’s school.”
– Amanda Uphaus, Snohomish County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. University of Washington School of Law, 2010.
“As a young person you’ve got to show that you are capable, otherwise I’m just going to meet you at some event and think, well, does this young person even know anything? But if I see that you’re doing things, now I get intrigued and I’m impressed that you do actually take this seriously. Traditional networking where you’re just trying to socialize with people and expect them to do something for you because they’re your ‘friend’… I don’t buy it.”
– Joel Espelien, former Corporate Attorney at Cooley and General Counsel at several tech companies. Duke University School of Law, 1996.
“As processes are automated and the amount of work being managed by lawyers diminishes, networking is necessary not just for success, but for survival. In my view the golden rules of networking are: a) get a warm introduction, b) offer value up front, and c) be concise and professional; time is precious.”
– Nat Burgess, Founder & Managing Partner of TechStrat; former Analyst at Morgan Stanley. UCLA School of Law, 1996.
“I encourage young people who I meet with to just reach out, have lunch. One lunch leads to another. So much of getting that elusive first job is just being in the right place at the right time, and being comfortable and prepared when it happens. What has impressed me about the [networking] events now is when I meet students and they get my card, some of them follow up and try to have a discussion. I’d encourage everyone to do that because those types of events are just the beginning of the discussion; they can’t think that that’s it.”
– Chuck Morton, Jr., Partner at Venable LLP and Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University. University of Maryland School of Law, 1990.
“The networks that I built were through internships and my jobs, letting my work speak for itself. It worked well for me, but I think everyone needs to know what they’re good at, what their strengths are, and go from there. And I think that with how easy it is to reach out to people [online] that you don’t know, building that type of authentic relationship with people… is probably the most beneficial thing you can do.”
– Molly Campera, King County Public Defender. Northeastern University School of Law, 2015.
The best way to create a network that you can actually utilize is to put in the work, literally. Develop relevant experience so that when you talk to someone who may be able to help you, you can show them that you are serious about the subject and can immediately contribute. Once you’ve gained someone’s attention, keep in contact. You don’t need to talk to the person everyday like a lifelong friend, but do maintain the relationship enough so that you don’t come across as someone just looking for handouts. Especially if you intend on pursuing a career in that person’s office, you can’t ignore them and then ask them to put in a good word for you out of the blue. Remember: a recommendation from someone means they are putting their reputation on the line if things don’t work out, so why would they vouch for a person they barely know?
Another thing to keep in mind is the point that Amanda makes – a good network is made up of people from more than just the legal industry. While other lawyers, judges, etc. will have the more obvious connections you’re looking for, you never know if someone outside of the legal profession has a close family member or friend they can introduce you to. Not only are employee referral programs common practice across both public and private entities, but particularly for law students pursuing a career in the private sector, the majority of clients come from referrals. Without an expanded network, as a job seeker you’ll be missing out on potential opportunities, and as a lawyer you may be missing out on potential clients.
The CDO at McGeorge hosts several meet-and-greet and mixer events with employers throughout the year, which are great opportunities for students to further develop their network and networking skills. There’s also the Alumni Advisor Network on McGeorgeCareersOnline with 450 active alumni who are available to support current students in their career development. Keep an eye on the schedule of events here on our Events page, as well as on MCO, and take advantage of these resources while you can.