How to use networking to find a legal internship or job

How Networking Can Secure An Internship or Job

Starting as a 1L, it is likely that the Career Services Office began to stress the importance of law school internships and your post-graduate job search. One of the largest aspects of your search centers on networking with individuals and alumni who practice law in your area of interest, as well as your preferred geographic location following graduation. Students often find the concept of blindly reaching out to people to talk about internships and jobs to be overwhelming, especially when added to classes, extracurricular activities, and the demands of everyday life. However, it is one of the most important ways for you to begin establishing your own personal network.

Regardless of whether or not you have local ties to the area in which you are seeking employment, it is important to reach out to practitioners. Utilize your Career Service Office to find local alumni. If you want to move back home after graduation, find alumni near your hometown – invite them out to coffee or lunch when you’re home for break. You may never know who or what may be the connection that helps you land the job you desire. If you make a favorable impression, your initial contact may connect you with other local practitioners down the road.

Law School Networking Advice

As you start thinking about your next internship or your job prospects after law school graduation, start with building your own personal network. You can use the following tips to get started: 
  • Career Services Office

    Reach out to your career advisor and ask for a list of alumni who practice in your desired geographic location. Email them and introduce yourself – ask if they are free for lunch or coffee.

  • Professors

    Set up a time to meet with one of your professors during office hours. Talk about your interests and ask if the professor knows of any former students that you could talk to.

  • Clinic Experiences

    Does your school offer clinical placements, externships, or in-house clinics you can participate in during the school year? If so, think about signing up for one that interests you. Oftentimes, the professors who run these classes know attorneys in the community. Better yet, some of these placements may allow for you to be in court as a third-year student. You’ll have the chance to meet and network with attorneys as you work on cases.

  • Your Network Circle

    Create your own list of 3-5 individuals who may be of help during your job search – professors, mentors, family, friends, etc. Each time you apply for a new position, reach out to your ‘circle’ and let them know you applied. One of your contacts may just know the hiring partner at the firm you’re applying, or know of a former student who works there that you could reach out to for interview tips.

4 Tips for Law School Networking

Creating a solid network is one of the most important things you can do for your career. While hearing the word network itself might seem daunting, in reality networking is simply the process of creating and maintaining relationships. Below are 4 easy tips for better networking.
  • Get Involved at School

    Getting involved at your school is one of the easiest ways to create new relationships. When you join a club or organization you create a niche network of students, professors, and alumni with whom you share similar interests. Once you’ve joined the organization at your school you can attend events where speaking to alumni, lawyers, and other students comes naturally. After your first year, you can even become part of the executive board. As an executive board member, you will be actively participating in the organization and hosting your own events. Becoming a board member will even demonstrate your initiative to get involved and it doesn’t hurt your resume! Get involved. It will pay off in the end!

  • Attend as Many Events as You Can

    Getting involved doesn’t only mean getting involved at school. Put yourself out there and attend as many networking events as you can! You don’t have to go alone. And just like going to gym, the hardest part is showing up. Bring a friend or classmate if it will make you feel more comfortable.

  • Take Advantage of Social Media

    We are the generation of social media! Use your Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn as a tool to make and keep connections. Many law firms are using social media and you should be too. Twitter can keep you connected and up-to-date on current events, law firm blog posts, and even job postings. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to connect with people who have similar interests, as well as alumni from your school.

  • Maintain Relationships

    Your network should be fluid and you should always be adding to your network. It will help open doors to more opportunities and can even land you a job.  Once you’ve made the connection, it’s a good idea to follow up and stay in touch. Ask the connection about his or her career path and how she got to where she is now. You don’t want to make it all about yourself. You can even make it more personal by asking him or her out for a cup of coffee!

Using Alumni Events To Expand Your Network

I am often reminded of the story of a classmate of mine during law school. That student grew up in a different state, and is an alumni of a school that was not located in our immediate geographic area. Despite this, that student began looking for ways to interact with fellow local alumni from his undergraduate institution. The student started attending local alumni chapter events and eventually met several attorneys in the group. One particular attorney later invited that student to lunch. After that first lunch, the student followed up with the attorney every few months after that throughout their first year of law school.   

This regular communication ensured that the local practitioner was kept up to date on all of news and events in the student’s law school career. Eventually, the student was asked to intern at the practitioner’s firm, and worked at the firm during his last two summers of law school. While the firm was unable to hire the student directly out of law school, the attorney that the student had initially met at the firm knew of an opening at a similar firm in town and mentioned to the student that he should apply and told the student to use the attorney as a reference. Following a series of interviews the student was offered a position with this new firm.

This story illustrates several important points of the job search process. First and foremost, you never know which connections may help you down the road. My friend had no way of knowing that going to that one event and meeting that one person would lead to an internship or job down the road.    

Second, it shows how important it is to get out there and network! It would have been very easy to ignore the practitioner’s lunch offer, or to not attend the alumni meetings at all. But he didn’t. Instead, he stepped outside of his comfort zone and started meeting new folks and in the end, he landed a job that he loves. Through that experience, he became more comfortable networking and meeting new people.

Lastly, it shows the importance of your connection’s connections. Each time you add a person to you own network it creates a ripple effect by which you are also adding that person’s connections. The more you expand your own network the more powerful this effect becomes as you come to discover new connections within your own network.