Besides completing your law degree and passing the bar exam, networking may be the single most important thing that a law school student can do to kick-start their legal career. While there is no specific formula for how to go about it, there is also not just one thing that a student must do to build their network. Therefore, a student must learn to recognize and take advantage of their opportunities, include networking as part of their career strategy, and look for ways to nurture the relationships that develop along the way.
Tallahassee: A Great Place to Build Your Legal Network
Catherine Lockhart, Class of 2017
The Florida State University College of Law has positioned itself as an active participant in the community and is located in a perfect area to provide students and alumni with countless opportunities to network. Law students often find themselves at networking events and functions in the hopes of meeting and impressing their dream employers. Home to the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida Capitol, and actively engaged private and non-profit organizations, Tallahassee has networking opportunities no matter what your interest or focus might be.
I have already mentioned the Florida Supreme Court, but Tallahassee is also home to the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida; United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Florida; Florida’s First District Court of Appeal; and Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. Students have opportunities to meet justices, judges, and lawyers from these courts who visit the College of Law as guest speakers and as adjunct professors and who also offer opportunities for students to participate in internships and externships with them.
The annual legislative session brings not only the legislature, but also representatives from organizations highly engaged in public interest. Both legislators and notable figures from a variety of interest areas visit the College of Law to speak about their organizations, their work, and their issues. Many of these speakers come as guests of student organizations which provides students with opportunities to interact with potential employers, mentors, and future colleagues who share their interests.
While networking can often be intimidating it often involves your law school peers with more relaxed surroundings. It can also be as simple meeting at a restaurant or bar or having lunch with someone. To make networking even easier, the Career and Professional Development Center holds regular “Networking Nosh” lunch sessions where students can easily meet and learn from attorneys both inside and outside of Tallahassee. All in all, Florida State University College of Law makes networking as feasible and enjoyable as possible!
Networking Is What You Make of It
Laura Frawley, 3L
Before I started law school, I could list the number of lawyers I knew on one hand and three of them were because of their television ads. Once in law school it became apparent that to be successful I would have to expand my professional network to include more legal professionals and that there were many ways to accomplish this.
Mentoring: One of the easiest ways to start meeting lawyers is to find programs that match students with experienced professionals who have signed-on to mentor law students. Mentor/mentee relationships are great because your roles are defined in advance. Several of the College of Law student organizations can help match students with mentors and some can even match student with mentors in a specific area of law.
LinkedIn: It is amazing how many law students do not take advantage of the amazing networking tool that is LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn page yet, you need to create one, and if you have an account but do not use it, you need to start using it! Simply adding your fellow law students to your contacts list can vastly grow your network. There are also many interest groups that law students can join depending on the areas of law that interest them.
Networking Events: As cliché as it may sound, it really is all about who you know and networking events are a great way to meet people and build your network. These events can feature an experienced attorney in-person or via videoconference who will speak about a topical legal issue, how they got to their current position, and answer questions from students. Not only is this a great way to learn about different paths and meet people, but sometimes you can get a free meal in the process. After attending an event, I always ask to connect with the speaker on LinkedIn to thank them for taking the time to speak with the students. This simple act has helped me grow my professional network exponentially.
Justices and Judges and Lawyers, Oh My!
Marlie Blaise, 3L
Having access to so many accomplished justices, judges, and lawyers as we do in Tallahassee through the College of Law may seem intimidating, but having so many opportunities to meet them can be valuable, fun, and rewarding. They all love to talk with interested students and share their experiences and listening to what they have to say can be the first step to successful networking.
They also love to hear about what student’s professional interests are. This can be important because it can give a student some control over the direction of a conversation. If you are interested in learning about a certain area of practice, you can also target attorneys who practice in that area during a networking event. If you are simply interested in discussing contemporary legal issues, almost any legal professional will be willing to share their insights as well.
Most importantly, networking with justices, judges, and lawyers can lead to internships, job offers, and even mentoring opportunities. I have observed that students who establish and foster these relationships have an easier time landing a job opportunity directly and indirectly through these contacts.
I also believe that the more you are around experienced legal professionals, the more comfortable and confident you become over time. This will allow you to develop even greater connections, get more assistance, advice, and guidance, and expand your potential opportunities. Overall, a student can gain a great deal from networking with legal professionals and, as l see it, you have nothing to lose!