How to nail networking as law students

“I can’t make those plans; I have a networking event later!”

Ever heard those words? If you’re a lawyer, law student, or just about any professional, you are likely to have heard this line from your peers, no matter what stage you are in your career.

While most may think that networking efforts are only fruitful once you’ve settled into your career, the reality is that students should seek out networking opportunities while still in school. Below, I will outline some lesser-known tips that are likely to enhance your ability to successfully network.

As a student

Meaningful networking opportunities are likely in abundance at your very own faculty of law, but only for those who actively seek them out. In this respect, the art of networking veers from the traditional meet-and-greets, career fairs and conferences, and can take place right in the classroom. In law school, many of your instructors are practitioners and have careers outside of their positions as instructors. As practitioners, they were likely sought out due to their expertise in a certain type of law. Accordingly, they are likely well-regarded amongst the legal community in that city, and in some instances, across the country.

You can also utilize the classroom setting as it provides you with the environment to demonstrate to these potential resources that you are motivated to excel. Instructors rarely turn down an opportunity to meet with a student during office hours. Use this opportunity to convey your interests and ask for advice on your career path. In due time, ask for a reference letter – instructors can offer insight into your work ethic that other referees cannot.

During the recruitment process

In the event that you have secured an interview during the recruitment process or are currently employed as an articling student and hoping to get hired back as an associate, remember this: Know who you’re talking to. Prior to your interview, take time to learn about who is interviewing you. This includes their practice area, interests, past education, and any volunteering they may have done. This skill is useful outside of the interview room, and in more traditional networking events where you know who is likely to attend.

If you’ve done your homework, you can skim past that small-talk stage of the conversation and direct the subject matter in a direction that you know is of interest.

During my preparation for my recruitment interviews at Harrison Pensa, I learned that one of my interviewers sat on a ward advisory committee and studied political science prior to attending law school. As someone interested in municipal politics, I integrated this aspect of my interviewer’s background into a discussion about volunteering. That connection differentiated my application from others.

Use social media effectively

Social media platforms can be helpful as you network. LinkedIn is a good starting point to learn about the firm, the key professionals, and support personnel. Twitter posts can shed light on community outreach that the firm may engage in. And be cautious about what you post: your potential employer will search you on social media. So, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want them to see.

Networking never stops

Throughout your career, remember that networking with fellow lawyers, staff and referral sources never stops. Being pleasant, connected and top of mind will continue to open up opportunities for you.

Omar Chahbar is an articling student at Harrison Pensa. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in political science from Western University, and attended the University of Ottawa for law. He has a keen interest in local and international politics, and has previously worked as a legislative page with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.