One thing law school has taught me and something that has certainly been reinforced during my time as a Summer Associate at Lawyers Mutual is the importance of networking. I'm the type of person that can talk to a stranger in a grocery store for several minutes over the baseball cap I'm wearing that day. Nevertheless, networking functions are still a bit anxiety-inducing to me. Lawyers Mutual has provided me with many networking opportunities. Vice President of Client Services, Camille Stell, encouraged me to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as I can, and I've done my best. Putting yourself out there is nerve-wracking, until you realize many people are feeling the same way. Here are some tips to get you by:
1) Be yourself— By introducing yourself and where you go to school or work, you'll be able to start a discourse off with another person there. Ask the person what he enjoys most about his job, what led him to the field of law, and how he obtained his current position. Ask if he has any advice on law school. If the conversation becomes more casual, shy away from politics, but remain respectful and neutral if your new acquaintance does not.
2) Find new people—Even if your friends are there, find new people to interact with. The whole idea of networking is to find new connections and opportunities. Admittedly, I went through my contact list and tried to drag friends along to my first networking event of the summer. While I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't know anyone there, it worked out for the best because I met a lot of new people with a lot of advice and great stories.
3) Find some upperclassmen and alums—You might find people who went to your law school a few years before you. I've already found some contacts that are indispensable as they've gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me when I've had a question.
4) Connect online afterward—After the event is done, keep track of all the contacts you have made and email them within a few days just to show your appreciation for the conversation. It's also a good way of keeping track of emails in case you need to get in touch soon. If your schedule permits, ask one of them to lunch or coffee at a time of their convenience. It's always great to get in the habit of adding new contacts to your LinkedIn network as well.
5) Keep networking—You can't expand your network without going to more events. You'll not only find other lawyers and law students to interact with, you may see old acquaintances you can reconnect with as well.
Networking is going to play an important role in keeping you connected to the legal community both during and after law school. Keep these tips in mind the next time you think about shying away from a networking opportunity.
Jeanine Soufan is a rising 2L at Campbell Law. She joined Lawyers Mutual as a Summer Associate for the summer of 2014 in conjunction with the North Carolina Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession program. When she has the time, she hangs out with her family and friends, watches Bollywood, or listens to BBC Radio 1.