Currently, law schools are stressing the importance of networking early and often, which is important. However, aggressive (outside) networking as a first year, first semester 1L may not be the best way to spend one’s time as LegalJob recently advised a 1L whose top 20 law school emphasized the importance of networking during his orientation. Instead, concentrate on filling your tray (as discussed below) before networking with folks outside the law school. Note that networking internally is recommended and will likely help you fill up your tray.
- Concentrate on filling your tray before networking. Networking is great but you have to have something substantive to talk about when meeting people. If you have an empty legal tray (think of a waiter holding up a tray that does not contain all or any of the items you ordered), you may not get the meeting but even if you do it is unlikely to lead to a job opportunity (either directly through that person or indirectly by referral). Two ways to fill up your legal tray early are to earn excellent grades and to obtain relevant work experience in the practice area for which you will pursue.
- Grades, grades, and grades. As a law student, the priority should be on earning excellent grades in all classes. Excellent grades will make your job search much easier. At a minimum, excellent grades in your the area for which you will pursue will make your job search easier and help you with your future networking efforts.
- Work/clinic experience. Hands-on, heavy lifting, substantive experience in the relevant area will help fill up your legal tray but be careful not to let this activity interfere with achieving excellent grades.
- Two recommended forms of internal networking:
- Meet students to secure study group filled with smart people. Again the focus is on earning excellent grades. Connecting with like-minded students who have the same goal and who are smarter than you should be helpful.
- Meet professors to improve your comfort level.
- For now, it may be helpful to establish a rapport with your professors. You may feel more comfortable in class with the Socratic method after you make a connection with the professor. You may be able to learn how one should prepare for his or her exams. You may be able to offer your assistance if he or she is looking for a research assistant.
- For later, law professors make excellent contacts because they know a lot of people. They know former alumni that have great jobs and they may also have contacts at law firms with folks that were not alumni.
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