The number one way to land a legal job-or any job, for that matter-is through networking. Whether you're on the hunt for your first position or looking to make a lateral move, honing your networking skills and taking advantage of networking opportunities is essential.
But don't think you're off the hook once you've landed a law firm spot: networking is essential to excelling on the job, as well. Attorneys of all experience levels use networking to acquire and retain clients, form relationships with colleagues within and outside the firm, and build their professional reputations. Even in big cities, the legal world is small, and expanding your roster of contacts will make you an asset to your firm.
Luckily, networking opportunities abound for both law students and lawyers. Here are some of the best ways to build your professional network:
Attend industry, alumni, and other networking events.
Bar associations often host networking events (you may need to join in order to attend). Check out the websites for your city and state bar associations, which may also offer sub-groups focusing on specific industries or interests.
Professional and trade organizations also sponsor conferences that provide great networking opportunities. Ask colleagues and professors who specialize in your area of interest to recommend reputable groups.
Law firms often host or co-sponsor industry events. Many firms list these events-which are frequently open to the public-on a separate page of their websites.
Nearly all law schools maintain alumni networks. Make sure you've signed up to find out about alumni events. If your local chapter isn't active, volunteer to plan events for alumni in your area.
Utilize social networking sites.
The largest and most widely-used professional networking site is, of course, LinkedIn. Even if you are still a law student, make sure your profile is up to date and complete. You can use LinkedIn's advanced search function to find attorneys who attended your school, live in your city, or practice in your area of interest. Some users indicate in their profiles that they are open to job inquiries, introductions, and/or private messages. If you contact potential connections through LinkedIn, make sure to specifically mention what about their profile interested you.
Sign up for your school's online alumni network to keep in touch with classmates and connect with alumni at firms that interest you. Make sure to return the favor when you receive requests for advice!
Be active in your community.
During law school, it can be hard to justify taking time out from studying to participate in student organizations, but the payoff will make your investment worthwhile. Remember that your classmates are your future colleagues, and the connections you make in law school may help you land your dream job down the road. (President Obama picked his cabinet secretary, deputy assistant, and FCC chairman, among others, from his law school classmates!) Plus, joining an advocacy or volunteer group will give you an excuse to contact speakers and other professionals as you plan events.
As a practicing attorney, make sure to take time to be an active member of your firm. Volunteer for the associate development committee, sign up for recruiting events, and participate in affinity group meetings. Senior associates and partners will be more likely to staff you on their deals and cases when they know you personally.
Rachel Marx is Vault's law editor. She covers legal news and trends relating to top law firms, law schools, and the general legal industry. Rachel holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA from Tufts University. She previously worked as a litigation associate at a large New York law firm.
Vault.com is the source of employer and education ratings, rankings and insight for highly credentialed, in-demand candidates. Vault's editorial mission is to empower candidates with unbiased research needed to evaluate the professions, industries and companies they aspire to join.
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