Law Student

Law Student

Network Connectivity: The Importance of Networking as a Law Student
By: Kyle Weldon, Texas A&M School of Law

About a year ago I sat down at my house and tried to pull up the Internet on my computer. The dreaded “cannot connect to network” page came up. After a couple of attempts to retype in the password to my Wi-Fi, and one restart of my laptop, I was still unable to connect.  Next, I tried turning my router on and off, checked all the cords, and still nothing. Before calling my wireless provider I checked one last thing, and sure enough, there was a good reason that I was without Internet. It turns out that my dog, Sully, had somehow chewed clean through the wire in the backyard just below the box where it connected to the house.

Sully – 1, internet provider – 0. 

While a funny story I can laugh about now, what does it have to do with networking as a future lawyer? Just like the chewed up wire prevented me from accessing the Internet, a successful network as a law student is all about having good connections.

Networking is a critical part of professional development. Creating this network begins the first day of law school when you meet fellow classmates, and will continue throughout your legal career. While many associate the word networking with landing that future dream job, it is much more than just a tool that can help lead to future employment.

Networking as a law student can include having lunch or coffee with attorneys or professors who practice in an area of the law you are interested in or don’t know much about. It involves asking former law students for tips they may have on scheduling classes, professor recommendations, and even advice for preparing to take the bar exam. The key is creating relationships that connect you with people and organizations that can help you learn more about the practice of law.

Keep in mind that this “web” of connections is not just about you. It is a symbiotic creature and will hopefully provide future opportunities for you to give back and help others.  While I do not claim to be a networking expert, here are some tips I have learned over the last three years that may help create those connections:

1.  Networking is about establishing relationships, not just getting a job. Everyone knows that students need summer internships while in school, and jobs when they graduate. Lawyers were once law students themselves. That said, approach networking as an opportunity to learn something new and develop professional relationships. 

2.  Do your homework and be yourself. Reach out with a specific goal in mind, and do your research before your meetings. While you may end up talking about a non-law related topic (such as college football) just as much as you do something related to the law, that’s okay. Be yourself and remember that the key is finding commonalties and developing a connection. 

3.  Dress for success. First impressions are important, so be sure to present yourself in a way that will leave a good impression on those you meet with.

4.  Be appreciative. Always be gracious and thank those you meet with for their valuable time.

5.  Sign up and show up. There are many resources that can help law students as they work to develop their legal network. A few examples include: joining law school alumni groups, attending local bar associations meetings and happy hours, and going to guest lectures put on by your law school with speakers who practice in an area you are interested in. In addition, the State Bar has a number of summer courses focusing on many practice areas, which are a tremendous opportunity if you can attend. Not only do they allow a chance to learn about new and pressing issues in a particular practice area, it is a great way to meet lawyers who specialize in that field. The legal field is not so large when you start looking into a special area of practice, so these types of events can really help grow your network.

6.  Business cards. Have professional quality business cards made and always have a few on hand, just in case. Handing someone your card usually results in him or her giving you a card in return.

7.  Don’t limit those you talk with. Just because you find yourself talking with a person who practices criminal law and you are interested in family law doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from getting acquainted with them. For all you know, they may know someone in the practice area you are interested in, or may have other valuable advice that any law student might benefit from. 

8.  LinkedIn. Social media is a great way to “link” yourself with other professionals, and LinkedIn is a modern way to connect and keep track of friends and colleagues. Make sure your information is up to date and accurate. 

I hope that these tips will help as you work to develop your legal network. Remember, this process takes time and work, but it will pay dividends as you develop as a young attorney.  Happy connecting!


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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