Advice from Rachael Minassian, 2L, regarding networking.
The one thing I wish I had known when I arrived at BC Law on my first day is that networking is absolutely essential for career development, and it is a staple in many successful attorneys’ schedules. Whether you’re looking to pursue a career in BigLaw, public interest, or anything in between, the relationships that you build with practicing attorneys will, at the very least, serve as a means for learning more about different legal careers, and in the best of cases could help you land your dream job. Here are a few of my top networking tips:
#1 Spend Time Crafting a Master Email
When I first started reaching out to attorneys, I was overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy that went into writing a single email. Between striking the right tone, contextualizing my reason for reaching out, and proofreading countless times for spelling and grammatical errors, one message could take up to thirty minutes of my day. Instead, try keeping a copy of a few sentences that you can use to begin and end any networking email; the middle portion can be personalized for your intended recipient. I like to begin networking emails by introducing myself as a 2L at BC Law, sharing a bit about my interests, and using any similarities I might have with the person to explain why I reached out (e.g. the person does litigation at a big firm, and I’m considering that path). Then, it’s best to close the email by asking if they’d be open to speaking with you about their practice. It also makes it easier for the attorney if you suggest two to three times that you’re generally available during the week.
#2 Make a Spreadsheet
Once you become a networking pro, you might end up having several conversations with attorneys each week. You’ll want to make sure that you can remember what you spoke about with each person, though, so that when you meet/speak with them again you can refer back to the earlier conversation. The best way to do this is by making a spreadsheet where you keep track of each person you spoke with, where they work, their contact information, when you spoke to them, and any notes about the conversation you’d like to retain. If you’re really organized, you can even separate the spreadsheet with tabs for each sector (e.g. law firms, NGO’s, governmental agencies).
#3 Always Send a Thank You Note
An attorney’s time is extremely valuable, and it is absolutely critical to show appreciation that they devoted some of that time to you. Within 24 hours of your conversation, you should send an email thanking them for their time and any advice they gave you, as well as expressing how much you enjoyed speaking with them. I like to close thank you emails by telling the attorney that I look forward to staying in touch with them, so that they know to look out for communications from me down the road. A good time to circle back with the person would be about 4-6 months after your initial conversation, or sooner if they asked you to send them your resume, etc.
#4 Have Fun and Keep an Open Mind
At the end of the day, networking is just a conversation – and often a really fun and interesting one at that! As long as you approach the attorney with gratitude for their time and an earnest desire to learn about their work, then the chances of you making a lasting connection with that person are high. Use this time to try speaking with attorneys from a variety of sectors. Not only will it help you figure out what type of law you’d like to practice, but it will also inevitably bring you an invaluable mentor or two, and that can end up paying dividends.