job shadowing

Lay the Foundation of Your Network Now. Reap the Rewards Later.

Networking is the process of building relationships with professionals and other relevant contacts in your field of interest. While relevant to the job search, engaging in targeted networking has far more benefits. Meeting and connecting with professionals helps you assimilate into the profession, learn about the day-to-day life of various areas of practice, and start to build the relationship skills that will ultimately benefit you in practice.

Some students cringe at the term “networking,” imagining awkward cocktail parties with individuals competing to get noticed and exchange business cards. For other students, the prospect of getting outside the classroom and meeting professionals is invigorating. The good news is that networking can take many forms, and we encourage students to engage in a networking process that plays to your individual strengths.

Networking can mean attending formal events like Inn of Court, bar association receptions, and law firm cocktail parties. But networking often takes place more informally, through one-on-one connections with professionals. This can be a pre-arranged informational interview, conversation over lunch or coffee, or simply a brief exchange following a law school panel or program. What’s important is to recognize that all encounters with professionals have an impact, whether it’s developing your own professional identity and reputation, or providing leads in your job search.

The process of building relationships takes time. In our culture of immediate gratification and instant messaging, it’s important to view networking as a long-term investment. The time you spend speaking with one person rarely leads directly to a job opportunity, and sometimes you have to spend time talking with someone who may not be practicing in your area of interest. But these connections can lead to other connections, which lead to other connections, which ultimately can help you reach your goals.

How to Set Up Effective Networking Meetings

It’s fall and you’re getting back in touch with your classmates and friends, finding out what they did over the summer, and asking for advice about classes, professors, and even where great new restaurants are located near campus. Networking operates along the same principles. You’re asking friends, acquaintances, and referrals about career paths, people they know, and job search strategies. It’s really just a conversation. There’s nothing all that complicated or scary about it.

In addition to checking job listings in Symplicity and other locations, you probably want to start setting up networking meetings. Our office is a good place to get tips. The school alumni directory, located in the new Wake Network, is a great place to start. You can also talk to your career advisor about locating a specific alumni in a field and geographic area of interest. With alumni, you both have a connection to the same school, which is a good ice-breaker. Professors can also be a good source of information.

Student memberships in professional associations are another way to find people to network with – since you are a member of the same organization, they have a built in connection to you. LinkedIn groups are also helpful. Of course, friends, family, people you know through sports, campus activities, and other schools you have attended, are another good place to start.

Now that you have some un-intimidating ways to find people, what should you do next? You can send a brief, friendly email asking to chat with them about their career, and mentioning your connection to them. If you want, attach your resume. The email should be more conversational than job search directed at this point.

Next, put together a list of questions for networking contacts. Questions about their own career path are a good place to start. You know that everyone likes to talk about themselves, right? Questions about areas that are in demand, job web sites and professional organizations related to what they do, and predictions about future growth areas and are also good. You can show them your resume, and ask for suggestions to improve it. Questions about referrals to others they know in the industry are fine (but I would wait until the end of the networking meeting to ask for other names). Hold your first networking meeting with someone you know, rather than your dream employer, so you can practice, and work out the kinks.

Plan to conclude networking meetings by asking your contacts if it’s okay for you to follow up with them. Follow up is the key. It takes the pressure off them having to feel they have to come up with an available job for you, but leaves the door open to remembering you when they do hear of an opening.

Once you get into the mindset that networking is a conversation and not a high pressure job interview, it’s a great way to meet people. There are many career studies that indicate it’s the best way to find a job. Need advice on getting a networking plan in place? Make an appointment with your career advisor today.

Making the Best Use of Spring Break

beach chairLaw students the world over look forward to breaks from law school. Some students view these breaks as a holiday—a time to get away from the intense daily demands of their studies, travel, and visit with family and friends. Other students have ambitious plans for catching up or getting ahead in their studies. Regardless of which approach you take, you are probably pretty happy when you see Spring Break finally approaching. There is nothing wrong to either approach to Spring break, at least in the abstract. In fact, the best Spring Break plans should probably include some of both. The key is to come back to law school after the break in a better place than you were before—and accomplishing this task takes just a little advance planning. Here are a few tips for making the best use of your Spring Break this year:

Set reasonable goals for studying during the break.  Often, law students say that they are going to outline for all of their classes during the break, do practice exams for each class, get ahead in their reading assignments, and read a bunch of supplements. Spring break can be the perfect time to work on getting caught up in your studies, but it is important to set realistic goals. After all, Spring Break usually only lasts a week! You aren’t superhuman, and you can’t do everything. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, it is easy to get defeated and give up when you realize that you can’t get everything done. Instead, decide what your highest priority items are, and focus on those first. Create a study schedule for yourself during the break, and set reasonable goals for what you intend to accomplish during each of those study sessions. You will be focused and productive, and your efforts will build momentum for the weeks leading up to final exams.

Visit the city where you wish to work. Planning a trip to the city where you want to work, either in the summer or after graduation, will prove useful in the long run. By scheduling informational interviews or even coffee or lunch meetings with attorneys and alumni in the area, you can accrue connections to help you learn the ropes in a new area. On these informational interviews or meetings, ask plenty of questions so that you may acquire tips and best practices about important topics such as how to get your foot in the door at a particular place of employment.

Give yourself permission to take some time off. It isn’t particularly healthy to work long days every day during the break, including weekends. There is still a lot of time before the end of the semester, and you don’t want to burn yourself out. If you take a little time off from your studies, you will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the hard stuff. At the minimum, give yourself a couple of days off entirely. Do something fun. Get out of the house. See your friends and family. Read a fun book. Go to the movies. On the days that you study, take regular breaks. If you set realistic study goals for yourself and create a study plan to achieve those goals, you will be able to build in some time to relax as well.

Make vacation plans that recharge your batteries, not leave you even more tired. Maybe you are caught up on your law school studies, and you’ve decided to go on vacation during Spring Break. (Or you are making it a combination study/travel break!) It’s important to make sure that your vacation plans don’t leave you exhausted as you are heading back to classes. It’s still a long uphill climb to final exams, and you won’t be setting yourself up for success if you have run full speed the entire break.

Above all, think balance. As with everything in law school, taking a balanced approach to Spring Break and other holidays will help to keep you on the right path to academic and personal success.

How a Law School Specialization Can Help You Obtain Employment

Guest Blog by Ashli Irene Weiss from Ms.JD.com 

Specializing while in law school is a valuable tool. As a law student, I specialized in intellectual property and focused on trademark law. My specialization helped me land amazing intellectual property career opportunities within a field of law I enjoy and that my peers are equally as passionate about. I wrote this article to share the benefits I learned that come with a specialization, to quell the fear that many students have of specializing while in law school and to provide advice on how to choose a specialization.

A legal specialization can be work experience in a job interview.  ”Why do you want this job,” is a question I received at every job interview. As a new graduate, I always incorporated my specialization. A specialization requires certain courses to help prepare a student to practice in a specific type of law. I wrote articles on intellectual property, completed projects that simulated attorney work product and discussed new issues in IP with my peers in class. This translated to my potential employer as experience, because it aligned with some of the job qualifications required for the position. Similarly, a new graduate can use their specialization to demonstrate experience. This may help the new graduate stand out from other applicants who also have limited work experience, but no specialization.

Specializing shows to potential employers that you have a passion.  As an interviewer for an intellectual property job position, I favored those applicants that showed a passion for IP. In general, a passionate employee is dedicated to completing the task at hand, more pleasurable to work with and tends to have innovative ideas in that area of law. A specialization is a straightforward way to show an employer that you have a passion towards a particular field of law. It signals that you wanted to take specific courses in law school to prepare you for a specific career. It suggests that the employer can speak with you about breaking issues in the law, because you keep up-to-date on the news in that area. An employer may also be more confident that you will put in the hours required to solve the issue and have a better work product.

A legal specialization helps create new contacts.  In law school, I reached out to IP lawyers via email and introduced myself to IP lawyers at events I attended.  Under these circumstances, I always mentioned my specialization in IP.  My specialization was something that could relate with the IP lawyer.  People connect more willingly with one another if it is based upon a similarity.  Conversation between the two people flows more easily, because they can exchange thoughts and new ideas on a common interest.  If you practice in the same field of law, there is also a likelihood that the lawyer will run into you in the near future.  With a chance of crossing paths again, a lawyer may be more willing to help so they can maintain their reputation.

Read more on other ways specialization in law school can benefit your career.

Our Advice on How to Choose a Practice Area

It can be hard to decide on a specific practice area while attending law school, especially during your first year. The choices can seem endless! Throughout the year our office will present informational programs and events with participants designed to inform you about different legal careers & practice areas. Check the Upcoming Events section of our newsletters and web site, as well as the law school calendar regularly for events that may interest you or advance your career. In addition, programs are publicized by Twitter and Facebook so be sure to stay connected.

Conducting informational interviews is also a great way to explore different practice areas and to develop professional networks. Make a list of people you know (or who family members or friends know) who have a law degree. Contact them and introduce yourself as a law student and see whether they would be open to meeting or talking with you over the phone (at a convenient time) about their work and their unique career path. It is important to start building a network of colleagues. Not only can they be a source of jobs, but a source of future collaborations. They can also be a source of valuable advice on what steps you should take to learn more about a particular field or who else to contact to gain information and expand your network.

In addition, alumni/ae, faculty and lecturers are an important source in building your network and obtaining information about different areas of practice. Search the new Wake Network or contact your career advisor for assistance in identifying/contacting appropriate alums. Don’t forget that fellow students are an excellent resource. Talk to current students about their summer experiences and how they were able to obtain their summer position. To the extent you can (especially as a 2L and 3L), consider classes in areas of the law that genuinely interest you and may help you explore a particular area of the law, rather than loading up on “bar” classes.

You may even want to consider a field placement, clinic or externship for academic credit. A great way to research public interest/public sector employment is to enroll in a field placement for a semester.  A number of public interest/public sector employers offer students an opportunity to work in their office in exchange for academic credit. Similarly, if you’ve taken a class you really enjoy and think you may be interested in pursuing a career practicing that area of law, a practicum extension may be another option to choose. Talk to the professor of the class and see if s/he would be willing to be your faculty supervisor. Please note that approval is required for any placements for which academic credit is sought, so be sure to check with the point of contact for each individual externship or clinic for details.

Still unsure of how to start deciding on a practice area? Make an appointment with your career advisor to discuss what options you are considering and they will help guide you throughout this process as well as your journey through law school.

8 Questions That Will Help You Land A Job

Featured Guest Blog by Mary Crane at MaryCrane.com

Too many summer associates and interns make the mistake of believing that they only need to produce quality work to land a job offer. Make note: In today’s competitive work environment, turning in a first-rate assignment earns little more than a “meets expectations” evaluation. To receive a coveted job offer, summer associates and interns must also establish relationships with professionals at every level in an organization.

If you’ve just begun work, don’t worry. Every employer I know has planned lots of opportunities for you to meet with a variety of people in your firm or corporation. When you do, request permission to set aside 10 to 15 minutes to ask a few questions of your own. Then use the following eight relationship-building inquiries to guide your conversation.

#1 How do you spend your time?

Make this inquiry for three different reasons:

First, this question helps you clarify and confirm the role the individual plays within the organization. If you’ve never stepped inside a law firm before, you may not know what a Chief Marketing Officer does and why the role is critically important.

Second, this question helps you develop a clear understanding of day-to-day work expectations. Learning that an entry-level financial analyst frequently spends 70 hours or more per week creating complex financial models may or may not be consistent with the work-life balance you hope to achieve.

Third, the answer contains important information that you can use to follow up and demonstrate your genuine interest in the professional and his or her work. Let’s say a partner tells you that she currently spends an inordinate amount of time assuring a particular client that proposed regulations are unlikely to move forward. After the meeting, you can create a Google Alert about the regulations. As soon as you receive notification of some development, you can share the information with the partner, thereby showing your interest.

#2 Is this what you thought you’d be doing every day?

You may think that most professionals follow a clear roadmap as they advance in their careers—they start at A, move to B, and eventually advance to R, S, and T. But today, nearly every successful professional engages in a nonstop game of chutes and ladders. They start in one position, often move sideways, and periodically slide on a diagonal. Sometimes they even go backward before they move forward again.

This question elicits the professional journey people have taken. Ask this question if for no other reason than most professionals love to share their stories. Many of the responses you receive will be filled with funny anecdotes about obstacles encountered and approaches tried. You will likely hear about career transitions currently unimaginable to you.

#3 What are you most proud of?

Everyone likes the opportunity to toot his or her own horn. Give the people with whom you meet this chance. Let them talk about a victory they snatched out of the jaws of defeat, or the biggest deal they closed, or the time they helped someone who was flailing at work become a proven performer.

#4 What weaknesses have you discovered?

This question helps you identify a respondent’s ability to self-reflect. Professionals who actively think about their day-to-day work experiences—especially errors made in judgment or understanding—begin to comprehend the underlying causes of their success or failure. This knowledge allows them to consciously change behaviors instead of repeating mistakes.

When someone indicates that he has no weaknesses (or is unaware of them), do a quick check to confirm whether he’s joking. If he appears to be serious, you’ve likely found someone who is not good at self-reflection. Keep this in mind during future meetings. As soon as someone cites a specific weakness, fine tune your ears and listen carefully. This professional is affording you the opportunity to learn from his experience.

#5 Are there organizations that I should join?

While social networks are great, never underestimate the importance of connecting face-to-face. Virtually every industry and profession has organizations and conferences where like-minded people connect. Use this question to discern those groups and events that are most worthwhile. You may even learn how to get on the inside track and quickly become a rising star.

#6 Who else should I connect with?

Your summer work experience will move at the speed of light. Absent the insights of seasoned professionals, you risk missing out on some potentially transformative conversations. Use each conversation to help you strategically plan your next one.

Finally, whenever you encounter a specific obstacle or challenge, feel free to ask, #7 What would you do if you were me? And before any one of your conversations ends, don’t hesitate to ask  #8, I appreciate the time you’ve given me. Is there anything I can do for you? This closing will help you end the meeting on an especially high note. It demonstrates your intent to build mutually beneficial relationships, an outlook valued by today’s employers.

See more tips from Mary Crane on Starting Work, Networking, Business Etiquette, Time Management, and more on her web site.

Image of Martindale attorney search field with State/Province & Law School: Wake Forest highlighted

Martindale – A Great Alumni Search Tool

As many law students already know, contacting alumni is a great means to further your career, especially when it comes to networking; however, it is still a piece to the larger job search puzzle as a whole. A student should still feel obligated to make a genuine connection before leveraging an alumni connection for any possible job opportunities or informational interviews. Don’t assume that simply knowing or contacting Wake Forest Law School alumni at a business or firm will give you a definite advantage. It is important to keep in mind that a job search is still a delicate process and alumni contacts are not built overnight.

There is no harm in reaching out to somebody to say hello or even ask to grab a cup of coffee together if you are in town. But if you want to approach an alumnus, you’re better off seeking advice as opposed to assuming the ‘we’re from the same school; hire me’ will work in gaining you a position within their firm/organization. Instead, try a simple introduction where you disclose that you are considering a specific summer experience and just ask if he or she has any advice about the industry or location in general. You could also request an informational interview or even a job shadowing opportunity if they have the free time. A great way to put this plan into action (instead of the often harsh, basic cold call) would be to meet an alum through a mutual contact, career advisor, alumni office, or via a regular alumni association networking event and start up a relationship from there.

Ok so now you have a strategy of how to communicate. So where are all the Wake Forest Law alums? One helpful tool that includes a majority of Wake Forest Law alumni is the Martindale database. You can access this database easily online through their website www.martindale.com. Once you are at the web site, click on the Advanced Search link under the People tab at the very top of the web page in the red section. From the ‘Advanced Search for Lawyers, Law Firms & Organizations’ page, you can fill out any necessary search criteria to narrow your alumni search.

Want to practice law or obtain a summer position in the Baltimore, Maryland metro area? Simply select Maryland from the State/Province drop-down menu and type “Wake Forest” in the Law School text box. Now click the Search button. (pictured above) Viola! You now have 59 Wake Forest Law alumni to choose from. Narrow your search even more by selecting your desired practice area or city on the left hand side of the screen under ‘Narrow results by’. Also, if you would like to identify Wake Forest Alums that are working in government agencies, conduct a search as outlined above and if there is a Government Agency category on the left on the results page, you will be able to narrow those results by selecting a particular Government Agency in which you are interested.

Many of the contact details in the search results will also feature phone numbers as well as a link to the contact’s company web site. Click the ‘View Website’ link to research their organization or firm in greater detail as well as give you a feel for the type of work they do. And nine times out of ten, the person in which you are trying to contact will also have a biography on the company web page, filling you in on their work history and achievements all the way back to Wake Forest.

If sending emails is your preferred means of driving your networking efforts, you can most often find email addresses for each alumni contact on their firm or company’s web site under a company directory or attorney drop down menu list. A downloadable vCard may also be available so that you can keep all their contact information, including their email address, on hand for future reference. Here is a sample email to use as a guideline when emailing alumni:

Dear Mr./Ms. ____________,
I found your name and contact information on Martindale’s online directory when searching for Wake Forest Alumni in the Baltimore, MD area. I am a first year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law, and I am interested in immigration law. I would greatly appreciate any advice or information you could offer me about the field. Would it be possible to set up a time to speak with you sometime next week via telephone?

Ready, set, go? If you want to iron out a plan about contacting Wake Forest Law alumni, be sure to make an appointment with your career advisor and give them an idea of your targeted geographic location and practice area. This will give your advisor the information they need to help you obtain important tips and advice on connecting and communicating prior to making your initial contact with Wake Forest Law alumni. With the right approach, you will gain experience in networking which will give you important, lifelong connections that will aid your career well into the future.

Five Tips for Public Service Informational Interviews

Informational interviewing enables students to connect with professionals and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to practice in various settings and substantive areas. Since networking is an important part of obtaining a public service job, one must conduct a successful search in order to seek out informational interviews that will open up one of the best avenues for such networking. Here are five tips that will aide in your informational interviews and job search:

1. Timing is everything. You don’t start an assignment without researching. The same goes for reaching out to an attorney for an informational interview. By doing your homework ahead of time, you will able to find a more convenient time to talk to your potential interviewer which will also help develop a more meaningful conversation during the interview. Although there is no way to know an individual attorney’s schedule, there is a way to gauge when a particular office will be busier. For example, asking a legislative attorney to meet right before a legislative session is not considerate of the demands on that attorney’s time. Ask you career counselor for advice on timing if you’re not certain.

2. Develop a professional network. Think job fairs, alumni connections, and bar associations. Due the fact that many public interest organizations and agencies have a small or limited amount of staff members, they are until to travel directly to specific schools. However, many organizations and agencies participate in a variety of career fairs to meet students. This is the organization’s chance to get the word out to students about their work and values as well as what qualities they are looking for in students and attorneys. You can further connect with these folks by attending local and regional job fairs, bar association meetings, and other legal events so that their network is complete with a firm foundation of diverse contacts. And don’t overlook alumni connections. Logging onto WIN and conducting a search can put you in touch with Wake Forest Law Alumni who know the ropes and many connections. You’re your base network is established, you will be able to reach out within that network and locate contacts for informational interviews.

3. Preparation is vital. You’ve heard it before – you only have one chance to make a good impression. And this goes without saying for informational interviews and networking in general. Fewer things are more likely to set the wrong tone than not preparing for a meeting. In order to be in the best shape possible for a meeting, be sure you are cruising over an attorney’s or organization’s website in its entirety. Check articles written by employers or attorneys by searching online databases so you know as much as you can about the company or ask your regular contacts such as career counselors, mentors, professors, and prior employers. Once you are in the meeting you will need something to talk about, right? Take the time to prepare a list of relevant questions before the meeting and always bring several copies of your résumé. Please note, the résumé should only be given to the attorney upon request.

4. Be professional. This doesn’t mean be stuffy, but a critical element of a successful informational interview are the simple points – how to dress, timeliness, and courtesy. If you are not sure what to wear to any type of event, including informational interviews, it’s always best to err on the side of being formal. So make sure your suits are pressed! And don’t forget – to be early is to be on time. Arrive for an informational interview 10 to 15 minutes early. Check routes, traffic, and parking availability ahead of time. Once there, greet your contact with a firm handshake and make sure you are maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation. Last but not least, keep an eye on the time and length of the meeting so that you are sensitive to the fact that your contact has busy schedule. Don’t overstay your welcome!

5. Cultivate and grow. Informational interviews are a great way to learn about someone else’s interests and work. Period. It is not a way to secure an immediate job. These interviews are one of the best ways to also expand your professional network, gain valuable insights, and more importantly, be the beginning of a relationship that you should cultivate. Cultivation of the relationship should begin immediately after the informational interview. Thank your contact when you leave the interview and again within two days by sending a hand-written thank you note directly to them. Having good manners and an appreciation of a busy attorney’s time will go a long way toward leaving a positive impression and promoting a continuing relationship. Then, at some point in the future when an article or publication crosses your path that you think might be of interest to the person with whom you interviewed, email it with a short note letting them know you were thinking of them. This will offer the other person access to information that he or she might not have otherwise come across and you will definitely stay in their mind in the future, especially as job openings surface.

A job search takes confidence, preparation, and keeping the right frame of mind. A significant asset is to maintain an open and professional relationship with mentors you have found through informational interviews. Be sure you are keeping these important tips in mind as you venture out to meetings, functions, and parties throughout the year. This knowledge will ensure a successful start to new, professional relationships whenever you meet a new connection!

Winter Break: A Time to Job Shadow

So you’ve got less than a month and a half until Winter Break. Hooray! Time spent at home with family and friends will be a restful and well-deserved break. However, you’re probably not even remotely in the relaxed holiday mood as your mind is most likely overwhelmed with upcoming exams at the moment. As you should be dutifully studying like expected, you might want to pencil in a few phone calls this month to your connections to line up some work over break. Why? To land a job.

Working over winter recess doesn’t sound like fun, but it could mean the difference in landing a job or not. But this is not your typical 8-5 work you’ll do over the holidays. This job is actually job shadowing. Job shadowing is a great way to get a sense of what it’s truly like working in a specific practice area and work environment. Also, if you are planning on practicing law in your hometown, the best place to be networking is within your hometown. Family, friends, classmates, and friends of family can all be great resources in finding a local attorney in the area willing to walk you through a few days at their office to give you a feel for the job.  There’s no way to be 100 percent sure you’re going to fit into a practice area or job until you’ve actually tried it — and shadowing or volunteering is as close as you can get.

Interested in working outside of your hometown? Do you have your sights set on the Big Apple or Washington, DC? If you can, set up a trip to your career city destination and spend some time networking. If you have family or friends in the location in which you would like to eventually work, reach out to them and ask for connections to find job shadowing opportunities. If you can’t make the trip this winter, try and set up some travel time during Spring Break to seek out a job shadowing opportunity.

Even recent 2L and 3L panelists in our “How I Got My Summer Job” seminar mentioned that they were aggressive enough to seek out employers to job shadow over the winter break, resulting in immeasurable experience and knowledge and some even earned a job later that summer. Be sure to stop by our office if you don’t know where to start in finding an individual to job shadow.

If you have a firm in mind in which you would like to job shadow, do a little homework first. Research the company and the position of the person you’re tailing so you have a context for your new experiences. Come prepared to strictly observe, but be ready to roll up your sleeves and work as well. Ask to spend the last few minutes of your day reviewing your experiences with the person you’re shadowing and getting answers to questions you may have. Solicit feedback as well.

Be sure to thank your job-shadow host with a handwritten note and make every effort to maintain your new contact as an active member of your network. You may even ask them to help you pursue additional job-shadowing opportunities so you have the broadest picture possible and knowledge of multiple practice areas. In the end, you’ll have gained an important person in your network who could also be your greatest asset. As you keep in touch be sure to mention how you would like an opportunity to come back and work for a longer period of time, or even for an internship. You never know if your time over the holidays could result in a holiday present to you later down the road — a job!