Competition for legal jobs has never been fiercer, but networking has never been easier. Never before have there been so many online and in-person networking opportunities for those hoping to land a legal role.
And that’s good news, because networking is arguably one of the most crucial elements of the job search. Legal manager Niki Zotou says: "The time you spend on a job search should be 70% networking, 20% responding to job postings and 10% applying to jobs."
Relationships are everything in the field of law. A big part of practicing law is communicating with people, so if you have what it takes to be an attorney, chances are you have great networking skills. Here are some of our top tips for networking professionally in the legal and compliance field.
Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you start networking: your business card, resume, and social media profiles should all be impeccable. People don’t have to wait until they get home to Google you anymore; they can do it right from their phone the moment after they shake your hand. They’re more likely to research you while you are fresh in mind, so make sure anything they find will represent you well.
LinkedIn is probably the most important online resource for networking in the legal and compliance fields. LinkedIn goes way beyond simply setting up a dynamic resume; power users take advantage of LinkedIn’s many groups to actively network online. Join groups in your legal interest and geographical area, then become active in those groups by taking part in conversations. Be provocative, but not necessarily controversial. Seek out connections and recommendations from former employers, colleagues, clients… anyone who might have something nice to say about you.
Know who to know
When it comes to networking, potential employers aren't your only target. It's smart to get to know other 'connectors' who are likely to know people in their professional and personal circles.
It’s always exciting to shake hands with the CEO of your dream company, but it can be just as beneficial to spend some time chatting up his admin or the person who works the front desk at his firm.
The time you spend on a job search should be 70% networking, 20% responding to job postings and 10% applying to jobs.
When networking in person, always have your objectives in mind. What’s your ultimate goal—is it to land the perfect job, find clients, climb the corporate ladder? This goal doesn’t need to be transparent in your every dealing with a fellow professional, but to have it in the back of your mind provides your networking experience with some direction.
Be armed with an arsenal of topics to talk about. Here are our top five:
1. What are your primary job responsibilities?
2. What experience did you have to get your job?
3. How long have you worked here?
4. What is your own background and experience?
5. What is a typical work day like?
Also, be well read. Make it clear that you keep up with current events and new research and cases in your field. But veer clear of political or religious conversation.
Use body language
Put your phone down and engage: smile, shake hands, and make eye contact. If you have to, fake it till you make it. In other words, act confident even if you’re not. If you’re an introvert, one great way to network is to be an excellent listener. Ask a lot of questions and engage your conversational partner, asking insightful questions that prompt long answers. Ironically, being interested often makes you seem more interesting.
Don’t wait until you have a good reason to contact someone you’ve met at a networking event. Follow up by sending them an email, connect with them on LinkedIn, or shout them out on Twitter - all great ways to assure the connection that you’re serious about staying in touch.
And speaking of email, don’t underestimate the important of a solid email signature in communicating with people you meet. Your signature should contain the obvious elements - your name, email address, phone number - as well as links to relevant sites, like LinkedIn or your thought-leadership-focused Twitter account. But keep your signature clean - avoid the temptation to showcase your personality with attachments of inspirational quotes.
The most important thing to remember is that networking isn’t just about finding a job. As an attorney, cultivating a wide network of professional contacts will help you in countless ways over the course of your career.
Read our top tips for interviewing for compliance roles.
Start your legal or compliance job search today.