Four keys to effective networking

 

Provide value and then tell people what you want, what you can do, and how they can help.

Provide value and then tell people what you want, what you offer, and how they might help.

There is plenty of good information out there on networking.  This link adds to the discussion and the advice found in Making Partner by elaborating on four keys to effective networking, namely:  first seek to provide value to the person with whom you are networking, then help people help you by being specific about what you want, what you offer, and how they might help. 

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Having the long view

Have the long view --- take time to improve your writing, speaking, and substantive skills and learn the business of the client.

Have the long view — take time to improve your writing, speaking, and substantive skills, and learn the business of the client.

LegalJob was asked about what it takes to be a successful attorney.  This post focuses on one important quality that should help toward that pursuit — having the long view mindset.  In other words, do not look for the short-term payoff in the things you do for yourself or for others because it is not likely that there will be one.  For example, you may have to invest many years working on your writing and speaking skills before you can carry the confidence of a so-called expert in your field.  The investment in yourself is worth it even though the acknowledgement from the world or your colleagues may be delayed.  Below are three tangible steps to take toward being successful in the law with the long view in mind:

  • Brush up on your writing and speaking skills at every opportunity.
    • Write articles in journals covering your area of law.  Write articles in industry publications.  Write memos to the client.  Write status memos to partners.  Consider turning long e-mails into memos.  Ask for specific feedback on writing projects.
    • Take writing classes.  Hire a coach.  Enroll in a program.
    • Speak at bar events either as a panelist or a moderator.  Speak at client industry events.  Make presentations at firm lunches.
    • Take speaking courses.  Hire a coach.  Enroll in a program (i.e., Dale Carnegie course).

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Law students — try both positioning and letting life happen (part three)

Legaljob suggests that your priorities should be (in this order) to find a legal employer that has people you connect well with, good projects, and plenty of opportunity for professional development.

Legaljob suggests that your priorities should be (in this order) to find a legal employer that has people with whom you connect well, good projects, and plenty of opportunities for professional development.

To refresh, LegalJob suggests you position yourself for maximum job opportunities by “picking a major,” excelling in classes in that major, and obtaining relevant work experience in the area.  In addition to positioning, LegalJob suggests that it does not hurt to be open to opportunities you had not previously considered.

While letting life happen and being open to various opportunities, remember to ask upfront about the people with whom you will be working, the quality and type of projects on which you will be working, and the extent of professional development opportunities available.  Each of these concepts is discussed in more detail below and in Making Partner.

The people with whom you will be working.

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Law students — try both positioning and letting life happen (part two)

Asking the three P's:  quality people? good projects? and professional development opportunities? will help you consider whether to take any legal job.

Asking the three P’s: quality people? good projects? and professional development opportunities? will help you consider whether to take any legal job.

This post speaks to the “let life happen” piece while you continue to cover all your bases and position yourself for maximum opportunities throughout your legal career. This material will be presented in two parts (so a total of three posts on the whole subject).

No matter how rigorous you have planned, life may bring you an opportunity you have not considered. This post will help by providing three questions to ask when considering any opportunity, including ones that may be initially perceived as undesirable or at least not as good as your original plan.

Take the following example. You follow the advice in part one and plan to practice transactional tax at a big law firm. Unfortunately, however, the only opportunities that come your way are positions with the Department of Labor (working on ERISA/tax matters) or with a State tax agency. Should you give up on your dream of working for big law? What questions can you ask to help make a reasonable decision? In general, it will be helpful if you choose a place with pleasant people, where you will have lots of responsibility working on high quality projects (that could translate to another legal employer), and where you have plenty of opportunities to speak, write, and grow as a lawyer.

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Law students — try both positioning and letting life happen (part one)

Cover your bases by both positioning and being open.

Cover your bases by both positioning and being open.

LegalJob recently participated on a jobs panel where there was a healthy debate about whether law students and associates should plan as much as possible by focusing on only one type of law practice and further, a niche within that practice area.  The argument against planning everything out is that you cannot control life no matter how hard your plan.  That is true.  Also, the dissenters worried that if you over plan you may risk taking yourself out of the running for an opportunity in a practice area you may enjoy (but have not previously explored) or with an amazing legal employer you never considered.  Sure that could happen but this point does not seem to be a strong enough argument against planning.

So, LegalJob thinks it is advisable to do both. As discussed in Making Partner, position to the extent possible and then be open to all possibilities that come to you, including opportunities off-plan.  Positioning yourself means taking as much action as possible for you to be able to soundly demonstrate to a future employer your ability to focus and high level of commitment to your practice area.

This post (part one) discusses the positioning piece.  A second post (part two) will discuss ways you can be flexible to keep doors open. Consider these positioning steps:

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How to find the perfect mentor and sponsor

Finding an effective mentor should be a top priority.

Finding an effective mentor should be a top priority.

We have previously posted about the importance of securing a mentor and a sponsor and this advice is also emphasized in Making Partner.  

Check out this article for tips for finding a mentor and a sponsor.

As a refresher, a sponsor is generally an elder statesman/stateswoman who is in management or other position of influence when it comes time to fight for you — annual raises, bonuses, leadership positions for you at the firm, work opportunities, consideration for partnership, etc.  Having an effective sponsor is so crucial that if LegalJob could only offer two pieces of advice to associates, they would be to do excellent work and secure a sponsor early.

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Understanding the real problem you are trying to solve

What is the question and is it the correct question?

What is the question and is it the correct question?

The concept of understanding the problem you are trying to solve may be one of the most important keys to being an effective lawyer.  To wit, this blog has a number of posts that cover this issue in the context of providing advice for meeting expectations of law firm partners as does the book Making Partner.

The concept is so important, however, and it comes up so frequently, that it deserves its own post.  Rigorous research is important as is strong writing but as a preliminary matter, a good lawyer must understand the question he or she is being asked to answer.  How can one assess the merits of the conclusion reached and advice to be provided without a clear understanding of the actual issue to be resolved?  It does not seem possible.

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Five tips for securing government jobs (without much pre-planning)

Make yourself a match for a government job.

Make yourself a match for a government job.

As discussed throughout this blog and in Making Partner, the best plan for law students to secure any job is to pick a major early, take classes in that area and do well, and gain some substantive work experience in the area.  For those that have not planned ahead, consider these five steps.

1)   Do some research to find out what agencies are hiring.

  • Talk to professors, career services folks, lawyers
  • Regulatory areas are generally good as demand is up.
  • Consider these active areas:  Immigration, Environmental, Tax, IP, Health law, Elderly law, Financial services (Dodd/Frank)

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Above and beyond billing hours

Keep partners, clients, and yourself up to date.

Keep partners, clients, and yourself up to date.

Below are five simple ideas for going above and beyond as an associate.  Many of these thoughts are provided in Making Partner.

  • Set up google alerts
    • Allow you to receive emailed alerts anytime a name or phrase shows up anywhere on the internet.   Can be helpful in lots of ways
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Positioning yourself for the next legal job

Provide ideas to help others, get two more names, and ask if you can keep them posted of your progress.

Provide ideas to help others, get two more names, and ask if you can keep them posted of your progress.

Consider the following tips when seeking that next (or the first) legal job.

  • Pick a practice area and a specialty within that practice area, as discussed in Making Partner
    • Preferably this step is done in law school so you have plenty of time to get work experience and take classes in the area, but it is never too late

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