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.

New Attorneys Will Benefit from a Mentor

Passing the bar makes every new attorney think they are ready to hit the ground running and filing Supreme Court appeals their first year of practice. Whether you are starting your own solo practice or working for a big firm, make a conscious effort to find attorney(s) who are willing to mentor you as a new attorney. Good mentors are invaluable as you can bounce ideas off them and they can give you tips on how to overcome some common pitfalls a young attorney is sure to face.

But if you’re just starting out, you may be wondering just how you’re supposed to find a legal mentor. After all, legal mentors do not grow on trees. Here are three tips to find a mentor:
  1. Check in with the law school and former classmates. At no point in your life will you be surrounded by as many people involved in the legal field than when you were at law school. Check in with classmates who may have started a law practice, especially those who were a year or two above you. Also, you can ask law professors and your career advisor for suggestions. Alumni are often willing to work with other alumni.
  2. Contact your local bar association. Many bar associations have a section devoted to junior attorneys, and they may pair up juniors with more senior members. These sections are often split among practice areas, so you may be able to find a mentor directly in the area you work in. In North Carolina, membership in the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association is open to all NCBA members who are under 36 years of age and all lawyers within their first three years of practice. Membership in the YLD is free and automatic upon membership in the NCBA.
  3. Approach someone you admire. At some point, you may read an article about a lawyer you aspired to be like. You should try calling or emailing that attorney. Everyone loves flattery, and even the busiest of attorneys may take some time out of their day to talk to their biggest fan. It doesn’t hurt to try, and the worst that can happen is that the person you approach says “no” or ignores you.
There are viable legal mentors everywhere. You just have to take the initiative to find one. If you need any assistance in how to start searching for a mentor, contact your career advisor today and they will help point you in the right direction.