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Three Basic Tips To Help Law Students Transition From Wallflowers To Networkers Extraordinaire

by Paramjit L. Mahli

In today's fast-paced, global technological environment, law schools and students must realize that leaving law school with a good law degree is no longer enough to ensure professional success. Rather, having a good degree is only part of the equation. The other half is the business skill of relationship building, commonly referred as networking. It's an activity that is neither an art nor a science, but rather, is rooted in practicality.

There is a widely held misconception that networking is a skill for extroverts and law students who are ''larger than life.'' The fact of the matter is that networking is a basic skill, involving strategy and communication skills that are easily learned. The sooner students learn this skill, the more successful they will be, whether it's with a big law firm, a small firm, or eventually taking the plunge and starting their own practice.

Networking skills not only help students land their jobs but also help them in their direct contacts with clients and prospects. Essentially, networking is a lifelong process of cultivating, building, and nurturing relationships. When distilled to its essence, it is the business of being ''known, liked, and trusted.'' So the question arises: Where and when should law students start networking?

Getting a solid grasp of networking during law school will save students time and frustration. Here are three basic tips to get students started:

  1. Before you even start networking, be very clear about your objectives. For example, are you looking for a job, building your rolodex, wanting to gain more visibility, or wanting to meet lawyers in your area of legal expertise? Defining what you're after will make your networking efforts more focused and will save considerable time. If you need assistance with this, schedule an appointment with your career officer.
  2. Law students are frequently stereotyped as loners or ''bookish.'' One of the easiest ways to network for students who are uncertain about how and when to network proactively is to take advantage of opportunities right in front of them. If you have family members who already practice law, for example, they may be able to connect you with a firm that needs an intern for the summer. Students who are in their second or third year are also excellent resources for networking. They've already interned for different firms during their law school careers, and they may be able to introduce you to a former employer. Should referrals not be forthcoming, they should at least be able to share some wisdom and insights.
  3. Following is an action list to guide law students on networking with other law students:

  • Join a club.
  • Introduce yourself to a new fellow classmate everyday.
  • Study in groups.
  • Attend a few social
Successful networking also means incorporating online networking; however, while young people have stronger tendencies to use social networking, they must be cautioned about some of the potential downsides of social platforms. It is critical that you understand which social networking platforms can benefit you professionally and that you are aware of the three pitfalls of social networking that could devastate your career.

For students, showcasing themselves in the best light is critical. Some social networks are beneficial, others are not, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are available to the public. Understanding which programs will benefit their career, and which ones to avoid, has to be considered in addition to offline networking endeavors.

It is worthwhile for career advisors to plan sessions on networking, whether that means getting experts to come and teach student seminars on networking effectively or incorporating it into the curriculum. This is one skill that all law students need in order to further their careers and make the most of their potential.

This article was originally published by the LAWCROSSING.

About The Author

Paramjit L. Mahli of the Sun Communications Group is a former journalist who has worked with international news organizations including CNN Business News, and now helps small to mid-sized law firms increase their visibility, build their reputation and helps them grow their business by using public relations. She also developed popular tele-seminar class, "How To Grow Your Law Practice On A Shoestring Budget".

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.