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Networking and Your Legal Job Hunt

published January 30, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 94 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
The term networking is sometimes overused and often misunderstood. Some people think that networking merely means using contacts to find jobs. Others dismiss it as psychobabble, a campy way to mystify something that is very simple.

Both these perceptions contain grains of truth, but miss the big picture. Networking means using personal contacts in the job search process. And the basic idea is quite simple: Everyone has a network. Some people are born with family connections, but all of us develop personal and professional ties along the way. Not everyone understands how to utilize their contacts. There are steps involved in creating, maintaining, and utilizing a network. It should not be something that you do just when you need a job, but rather as an ongoing activity.

Networking and Your Legal Job Hunt

Creating Your Network

Everyone has contacts. While some folks may start out with more than others or do a better job of making contacts, anyone can build a network. Begin by making a list of all the people you know well enough to call on the phone and not have to explain who you are. This list can include relatives, friends, college and law school acquaintances, lawyers, business associates, social and political contacts, and other people you have gotten to know along the path of life. They do not have to be people you see every day, nor do they have to be lawyers. It is a common mistake to assume that only lawyers have information about legal jobs.

Keep a record of as much information as possible on all these people: addresses, phone numbers, employers, birthdays, etc. You can use file cards or a spreadsheet. The point is that you need to organize this information so that it is easy to retrieve when you need it.

The second step in building a network involves expanding it. As time passes, you will encounter more individuals who will become a part of your network. This process of accretion occurs naturally, but your biggest difficulty will be following up on initial contacts to establish them as part of the network. Social custom seems to dictate that a one- time meeting is just that. It takes follow-up to create an ongoing relationship. If you are willing to take the initiative, you will be surprised how quickly your network grows.

Additionally, you should not wait for chance meetings. Go out and find people who can help you professionally, with whom you share some common intellectual, philosophical, or professional ground. Pursue contacts you have developed through informational interviewing. Go to CLE programs, bar association meetings, and community activities. Do volunteer work and become active in professional and social organizations.

Let people know who you are, what you are doing, and what your interests are. If you are looking for a job, you will find that more opportunities are developed from resumes mailed to your network than to unsolicited employer lists. When you are looking for a job, try to meet personally with as many people in your net work as possible. Let them know your plans and expectations.

Maintaining Your Network

While you are always building your network, you must take time to maintain it. This means not only updating information about people (something that is easy to procrastinate until you forget the information), but also communicating with people on a regular basis.

Even if you are not looking for a job, keep in touch with your contacts so that they do not think you only call when you want something. In fact, you can develop your network by giving something to your contacts: information. Send them clippings, articles, and comments about issues that you know will interest them.

If you fine tune the network, you will discover that contacts with some individuals will be more regular than with others. You should try to communicate at least annually with everyone on your list.

You can use holiday greeting cards for this purpose, although most of us do not usually think of holiday information sharing as a time to massage our broader network. Some lawyers have extended the concept of the holiday letter to a permanent, regular, professional newsletter.

In order to do a good job of maintaining your network, you need to spend some time contacting your network virtually every day. You can use the phones, mail, computer bulletin boards, FAX, and personal meetings (e.g., lunches). This may seem to be a formidable task at first, especially given the crunch of day-to-day activities. If you get in the habit of taking a little bit of time each day when you answer mail and make phone calls to contact a couple of people from your network, the process will become second nature to you if you think about how people you know could use information that comes across your desk.

Utilizing Your Network

If you have built and maintained a good network, then utilizing it in the job search will be easy. It is important to articulate what you are looking for, so do not be afraid to tell people what you want. If your current employer is not aware of your interest in leaving, you will obviously have to be more discreet and ask those you talk to maintain confidence. There is a tradeoff here. The more people you talk to, the more your job hunting plans become common knowledge. In a small legal community, this does not take long! On the other hand, the more people who know about your plans, the more likely you are to come up with solid opportunities.

Visit as many people as you can in person, call others, and send everyone a resume. This does not have to be done all at once. If you assume that a job search will take six months and that you will work on it every day, you can gather a tremendous amount of information during the course of your search.

Do not be disappointed when some people let you down. Inevitably, some of your contacts will promise to get you an interview with Ms. X at XY & Z or to give you names of firms with openings, but fail to deliver. Do not hold it against them; this is just the nature of the process. It is just as likely that someone from whom you expected no help at all will come through for you. So, in the end, things balance out.

Do not forget to follow up. Keep records of your contacts with people and get back to them periodically as your job search continues. If they do not hear from you, they may assume that you have found something and that you are no longer in need of their help. When you do land a job, let these contacts know so that they do not continue to work in your behalf when it is not necessary to do so. Everyone's time is valuable, so it will benefit you to respect the time of your network contacts.

As a final note, the heart of your network may well come from law school contacts: your graduating class, professors, and graduates who preceded you. You belong to a very small club. You can help each other. Talk to each other; support each other. The placement office, the dean's office, and the alumni office at your school are all committed to increasing the level of communication among graduates of the institution. You can further this aim simply by building, maintaining, and utilizing your own network.

Revise your list: Indicate people you can contact directly, and contact them. Try to track down as many of the missing links as possible. Chart 19 will help you to develop your list of contacts. Do you know where these people are? Do they know where you are? What legal skills would these contacts be most interested in knowing? What legal employers are these contacts likely to know?

Remember that networking is an activity that you must pursue tirelessly. You must make a point of keeping in touch with people, and not merely calling when you need something. On the other hand, you should expect to help out your contacts when they call, as they will when they know the lines of communication are open. In this light, utilizing your network means considerably more than keeping a list of contacts for job search purposes. These are the people you may turn to throughout your professional career for advice on everything from a specific case to discussing more personal thoughts and concerns. College and law school afford you opportunities to build both close friendships and casual ones. Once you enter the working world, however, such opportunities diminish considerably.

published January 30, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 94 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.