Full Time Practice

Friday, May 13, 2011

Networking: A Professional Survival Skill

I recently held a new event for prelaw students at my school. However, it occurred to me that I was teaching my students a skill that many practicing lawyers have not mastered. The event was "100 x JD: Connected Lawyers Are Happy Lawyers!" The goal: for every prelaw student to know 100 lawyers by the time she graduates from law school. Wow! A big goal, right?

To help the students not feel overwhelmed by this large number, I invited 25 lawyers to come. A panel of three attorneys (one in practice a long time, one a short time, and one working in career services after practicing) spoke about the role of networking in their careers, how they meet and greet other lawyers, and the role others have played in obtaining their current positions. Then each of the other lawyers in the room was invited to share what networking had done for his/her career. Almost all reported being mentored by someone in law and getting jobs because someone they knew was interested in helping them progress professionally. Afterwards, the students had an hour to speak to each of the 25 attorneys in a law-fair-like setting, ask questions, collect business cards, and make appointments to meet at a later date. I intend to hold this event annually, so that at the end of four years, a person could have met 100 different attorneys just by coming to this event.

"100 x JD" is not a job-seeking program. It is designed to create a personal and professional safety net for the professional. It is designed to decrease the depression, divorce, suicide, and even malpractice that may occur in law when attorneys are isolated and unable to call upon friends and colleagues to help solve problems. Happy lawyers--lawyers who are mentored and able to thrive in their chosen legal setting--would be a great boon to our profession.

How to start? I asked my students to contact one attorney, invite that attorney to breakfast, lunch, or a meeting at the attorney's office, and ask several questions that would deepen a student's understanding of our profession. Then the students needs to ask, "Do you know two other attorneys who, based on today's conversation, would be good for me to meet?" Everyone knows two other attorneys to whom to refer students. Then I instructed the students to repeat the steps above, asking each of the two attorneys for the names of two other attorneys, while reporting back to the first attorney how enjoyable it was or what they learned from the second set of attorneys. If a person does this consistently, depending on where she is in her preparation for law school, she should be able to know many attorneys before graduation!

If you have networked or had a mentor who introduced you to her colleagues, and that experience enriched your professional life, would you comment here and tell us how that happened and how it has affected your career? Happy networking!

--Eileen Doyle Crane, Utah Valley University prelaw advisor, is liaison to the WIL Committee from the JRCLS Student Chapters Board

1 comment:

  1. Good article Eileen! I have a perfect example to share. I am a practicing attorney in Arizona and am on the WIL Committee. I attended the JRCLS Leadership Conference in Provo last year. While there I became acqainted with an impressive young woman attending the conference who was a first year law student at BYU. She followed up the conference with a courteous and friendly email to me and then contacted me again this Spring about externship opportunities here in the Phoenix area. The result is she will be working for me as an extern this Summer! Good lesson in taking advantage of opportunities to network!