Now more than ever, finding a job often depends on personal contacts who can help you learn more about practice areas, find out about employment opportunities, and act as a liaison or mentor. You are more likely to be offered a job if there is a personal connection.
Although professionals keep a busy schedule, your contact person may be more enthusiastic to share knowledge and experience than you expect. If you approach networking correctly, you are requesting information or guidance, and not just contacting them for a job. Almost everyone enjoys giving advice and talking about his or her own experience.
OCS helps facilitate opportunities to network, but the process begins with you.
Getting Started with Networking
Your contacts can include anyone you know who has anything to do with the legal profession or with some business-related connection to the areas you are interested in. This may include family, friends, former professors, parents of friends, neighbors, friends of friends, etc.
In addition, you have picked the right law school for alumni support. OCS maintains an Alumni Network database and many alums have offered to talk to students about their work and their cities. These graduates are your ready-made contact list.
All of the rules of traditional networking (everything listed here) apply to a virtual space. It is also important to refine your social media presence to reflect methods that contacts may use to find and communicate with you. We created LinkedIn Tips for Law Students, but it’s also important to populate your additional social media platforms in a similar way.To an extent, the virtual arena has always been helpful for networking. The following link contains our tips and resources for Researching Employers.
How do I reach out?
Here are the basic steps to approaching our alumni or a member of the legal community whom you do not know:
Send an email introducing yourself, mentioning how you obtained their name and/or what the connection is between you (e.g. you attended the same law school or university). Explain that you are a Law School student seeking information about their practice of law, and that you would like to speak with them for about 15 minutes by telephone or in person. Here are two examples of what you might say in an email or letter:
- Dear ____, I am currently a second year student at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and am hoping to have the opportunity to speak briefly with you about your experience at XYZ firm. I see from the firm’s website that you graduated from the Law School in 2009, and I would like to hear about how you chose XYZ firm and what your experience has been like there thus far. If you have 15 minutes for a brief call at your convenience, I would greatly appreciate it.
- Hello, I am currently a rising third year student at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and am very interested in the practice of securities law. My securities regulation professor, Professor Smith, mentioned that I should reach out to you. I would appreciate the opportunity to chat briefly with you about your experience practicing securities law following your graduation from the Law School. I am available via phone and am also in the area this summer if you would like to get together for coffee. Thank you for your time and consideration.
- Don’t be discouraged if you have to reach out to a few people before you hear back from someone. Persistence will pay off!
- During your conversation, ask for information, advice and other persons to contact but not for a job . If the contact mentions that there is a position within his or her firm, however, it is okay to express interest.
- If possible, ask your contact for the name of one or two other people that he or she can recommend that would be good to talk to regarding the profession. Be sure to ask your contact if you can use his or her name as a reference when you contact those individuals .
- Following the conversation, send a personal note or email of thanks as soon as possible. If the relationship seems like one you would like to cultivate, ask if you could arrange a follow-up meeting. It is also helpful to keep a spreadsheet of your contacts listing who you have contacted, sent thank you notes to etc. Click here for a sample spreadsheet.
- For more information see the NALP Informational Interviewing Guide.
Networking is fruitful in the short term, but can prove very helpful in the long run. Often a contact will remember you and recommend or offer you a job in the future. Networking can help with job opportunities here and abroad. Ultimately, you will need to network to generate business and opportunities for your future employer throughout your career. Now is the time to get started.
- Student Organizations within the Law School and those associated with the larger University. Get to know fellow JDs, MBAs, and LLMs.
- Panel Discussions and Lectures within the University and at the law school – seek out the speakers and organizers.
- Bar associations (including student divisions) or other professional organizations- get involved in a section that piques your interest.
- Charities/ Community organizations – attend events and/or volunteer.
- Faculty – Take advantage of every opportunity to get to know your faculty members better, work more closely with them, speak more closely with them outside of class, and contribute judiciously in class. Your faculty members can be career-long supporters of your professional development, regardless of your career path (and will be particularly important allies if you choose to pursue a clerkship or opportunities in academia).
- Political organizations – attend events and/or volunteer.
- The Equal Justice Works Public Interest Job Fair – it takes place each fall in DC and is a great way to meet public interest and government practitioners.
- Alumni organizations – attend events and/or volunteer. Be sure to request an alumni directory to find potential contacts.
- OCS Presentations and Programs – including the Mock Interview Program held in early April, which gives you the opportunity to meet and speak with practicing attorneys. You’ll notice that OCS programs will give you a hint as to their purpose; students concerned about their abilities in the networking area should attend as many in that area as possible.
- Cultural Connections (Never underestimate the close knit community of specific cultures):
- Cultural Organizations (i.e., Philadelphia society of Asian-Americans etc.)
- Cultural Activities (i.e., parades, festivals etc.)
- Leisure activities - Sports (engaging in, watching…you have a captive audience in the person sitting next to you).
- Attend seminars - legal and non-legal – be sure to speak with fellow attendees, speakers and organizers. If there is not an opportunity to meet with a speaker or organizer at the event, send a follow up letter and email about the program and request an opportunity to discuss the subject further.
- Past employers – One more reason to always leave a job on good terms.
- Support staff - Never underestimate support staff. For example, if one of your contacts has told you to speak to his old friend, Judge So and So, let his/her secretary know why you are calling. Even if it turns out that the judge cannot help you, maybe his/her secretary, who talks to every attorney who goes through chambers, will mention you to someone who has an opening in their firm.
- Never use someone’s name unless he or she has given you his or her permission to do so.
- Never ask directly for a job; instead ask for advice.
- Don’t be put off if you seem to have talked to hundreds of people and nothing has come of all those conversations. You only need one person to know the right person to get you a job.
- Practice with friends - Go through the conversation that you might have…or practice what you would say to someone at a Bar Association meeting who you have just learned is working on a big case with a company that interests you.
- You may want to consider having something with your contact information to hand to new people in your network. Please see here for a student “business card” template and the necessary order form.
- What do you see as the major issues/trends in this field today?
- What types of interesting projects have you worked on recently?
- What is a typical day like?
- Are there law courses that you’d recommend (or other types of training) if I am interested in this area of law?
What courses/clinics/externships during law school did you find most helpful or useful?
What skills do you use day to day that you did not anticipate you’d need while you were in law school?
- Do you have suggestions of other people I could speak with about this area of law? May I tell them that you referred me?
- How did you get started in this field?
- What has your career path been like? What experience did you have to get your job?
- Why did you pick your practice group?
- What drew you to this firm? Did you work there as a summer associate? Do you have any recruiting tips for me?
- What drew you to this organization? Did you work there as an intern?
- Why do you like working at this employer/in this city?
- Is there anything unique to the practice of law in this city?
- How much or what kind of training did you have when you started here?
- What do you like/dislike about your work?
- How did you choose this area of advocacy?
- What do you wish you had known about your position/field before you started
Public Interest Networking
Use this resource to inquire with fellow students and alums about their summer experiences in the public sector
Penn Law Government and Public Interest Alumni
Use this resource to network with alums who work in the public sector
Use this resource to network with past fellowship recipients
Tips and Best Practices for Contacting Alumni:
Ask for advice, not a job.
Make it easy for them.
Feedback to TPIC/OCS/Alumni Relations.