Networking will potentially be the most important aspect of your career search.
Approximately 80% of all available positions are not advertised to the general public. Networking and developing contacts is a time consuming process and will not always produce immediate results. Effective contacts require cultivation. Consequently, networking should start as soon as you are enrolled in the LL.M. program and should continue throughout your professional career.
The first step in networking consists of identifying both existing contacts and ways to create new ones. Early in the fall semester, generate a list of the following contacts:
Contact family and friends. Go through your address book, and contact not only those people who have a connection with the legal field, but also anyone who might have connections in your chosen geographic area.
Pay particular attention to those people with whom you have worked in the past. Think of past internships or full-time employment situations, and contact former supervisors. In addition, some of you might have had exposure to clients who might have counsel or other connections in your area.
Former and Current Professors
Your law professors both at Georgetown Law and at your J.D. program know many people in the legal world. Seek out the advice of professors with whom you have had contact and in whose classes you have excelled.
You Are Never "Done" Networking
Stay on the radar of your existing contacts and keep your own radar looking for new ones:
- Order Georgetown Law business cards (http://www.gupmcards.com/) sooner rather than later. Make sure that they set out your contact details clearly and concisely and describe you as an "LL.M. candidate."
- Participate in conferences related to your intended field of practice.
- Join as many bar and professional associations and student organizations as possible. Monitor their events and attend as many as your schedule allows. Participating in events and regular meetings will go far toward helping you meet attorneys practicing in your area and gathering substantive information.
- Attend firm receptions and professional speaking engagements as often as possible. Do not just have drinks and hors d'oeuvres-ask questions. Introduce yourself to important people and make an impression. Always ask for a business card and hand out your own business card.
- Volunteer or work part-time. Ultimately, the best way to research a particular setting is to spend time there. Washington, D.C. offers extensive opportunities for law students to work in private practice, government, corporate, public interest and community service organizations.
- Use your network to network. The people you know can introduce you to people you do not know. Request the names of additional contacts from your sources.
Contacting Your Contacts
Your initial contact should take the form of inquiries or informational interviews. In all of your conversations with established and new contacts, let them know that you are hoping to obtain advice, suggestions, ideas and information. Do NOT use these initial meetings or correspondence to ask for a job.
Set up appointments with attorneys whose practice areas are of interest to you. Prepare specific questions in advance and come prepared with an updated copy of your resume (if possible, send your resume to them in advance). Carefully research their organization and be prepared to discuss their practice area intelligently.
When you arrive for a networking appointment with a new contact, remember that you requested this meeting and that, at least in theory, it is not a job interview. You are seeking advice, suggestions and information from the contact; therefore, you should initially direct the conversation. Use this meeting to:
- Make a strong impression
- Elicit information
- Learn of potential openings
- Request the names of additional contacts or sources
- Continuing Correspondence
- Keep in touch with your contacts. Send "thank you" notes to those with whom you have had meetings or helpful correspondence. Touch base with those whom you met at professional receptions, speaking engagements and the like.
Networking Do's & Don'ts
(Based on material available in the publication Student Lawyer, March 2001 by Donna Gerson)
Before Approaching a Networking Prospect
- Approach networking as a process to gather information. Never ask directly for a job on an initial contact
- Begin your correspondence with the connection you want to highlight (e.g., "So-and-so suggested I contact you…").
- Whether you correspond by regular mail or e-mail, make sure your introductory message is concise and free of typos.
- Have a resume available (but do not furnish it with your initial correspondence or contact).
When You Meet Your Networking Prospect
- Set the agenda and come prepared with questions intended to spur easy conversation. Do not ambush your networking contact by turning the meeting into an adversarial interview.
- First impressions count! Ask about appropriate attire. If the office is in business casual mode, you should follow suit (and avoid a suit). Otherwise, dress in traditional office attire.
- Remain friendly, but not familiar. Do not feel that you are entitled to anything other than an information-gathering meeting.
After Meeting Your Networking Prospect
- Be prompt with your thank you letter and follow up with all subsequent contacts suggested by the networking contact. Your networking web will begin to expand quickly if you follow up on all leads.
- Keep your networking contact appraised of your progress. One good strategy is to clip relevant articles to send to contacts with a thoughtful note.
- Help others in need in the future. Think of networking as a "give-and-take" rather than a "winner-take-all" experience. Consider it a privilege to help another person achieve his or her dreams. Your good work likely will come back to you.