“It’s all about who you know.”
I am certain at some point in your life you have come in contact with this old cliché. In a field as small as the law, getting to know other people is important. This happens through networking, a fancy name for building industry relationships and a reputation. Is it daunting, intimidating and awkward? Yes. But, for all the technical hype and talk about “making connections,” networking boils down to chatting with people about their work, their goals and their lives. It is a lot more about getting to know people and maintaining relationships in your industry than it is about the jargon or boxes to check.
With all of this in mind, here are a few tips to feel more comfortable, have successful conversations, and keep down your personal stress:
- Put your best shoes forward: You will learn more about the elusive art of “business casual” as you enter law school, but regardless of what you wear, I have found that feeling put together can go a long way with your confidence. Make sure you leave yourself enough time before an event to get ready without rushing. Brush your teeth, do your hair and put on makeup if you want to. You want to walk out that door feeling really solid about how you are presenting yourself. And, please, wear nice but COMFY shoes!
- Know who you are and what you like, then talk: You can do this really well and still have NO IDEA what type of attorney you want to be. It is most important to think about what appeals to you about the law, what you like in a work environment, and the classes and areas of law you’re most drawn to. From there, you want to be able to identify as many “whys” for these things as possible.
- Once you have a sense of what is important to you, you’ll want to practice talking about it. Career Services can be a great resource in preparing an “elevator pitch” introduction for yourself. Mostly you need to be able to quickly identify what matters to you and offer a few things for another person to ask about or connect over. Be precise with your language so you can be clear and genuine.
- Think about it – saying, “I am not certain yet which area I want to go into, but I am drawn to commercial work, and I am loving my contracts class,” has a very different impact than, “I don’t know.”
- Lawyers are people! They have families, were once in law school, and even have other interests! It is totally OK to ask for advice, ask follow-up questions and ask about their professional stories. Make sure you listen to their answers. It is always more important to connect to the person you’re speaking to than to get out every feature of your resume.
If this is still foreign or intimidating – which it certainly was for me – KU Law gives you plenty of opportunities to practice networking at Green Hall and beyond. During your 1L year, nationally active and renowned defense firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon offers a networking event, where you can put on your best business casual outfits and get some practice. Various career events including Legal Career Options Day and 1L Mentorship Groups also aid in this endeavor. Practice, put yourself out there and eventually you will get the hang of it!
— By Libby Rohr, a 2L from Kansas City and a KU Law Student Ambassador