Networking. It’s a single word that can strike fear into the hearts of law students. From the moment you step onto campus as a first-year student, networking is championed by career services, experts, and scores of experienced lawyers. “Go out and mingle with some attorneys,” they say. “It’ll be fun, and you’ll make important connections,” they say. While you may picture hopelessly trying to “work” a ballroom full of intimidating, highpowered attorneys or sitting awkwardly in the corner at a local mixer event, not all networking requires marching up to strangers and trying to start a conversation. Here, your fellow students across the country tell their stories of how they landed an interview or a job by just being themselves, being resourceful, and using fate to their advantage.
A true personal injury case
In January 2012, I was a freshman at Arizona State University enjoying the last couple days of winter break. I was riding shotgun in my best friend’s car when we saw a white four-door sedan speed past us through an intersection in Scottsdale. I saw a figure emerge in the crosswalk— a man entering the street. Before we could react, the speeding white car hit the man, and he flipped onto the hood and over the car, past the middle lane, and landed in front of our vehicle.
I honestly don’t even remember our car coming to a stop. I just remember jumping out of the car to help. Several people called 911. The white car took off and was gone. I later learned the pedestrian’s name was R.J. As a bunch of strangers and I waited with R.J. for help to arrive, a teenage boy approached me and said that he was in the white car and the girl driving had pulled over and was on her way back.
When the police and paramedics arrived, I told the officer taking statements what I’d seen: R.J. was struck in the crosswalk by the median in the left lane and landed about 130 feet away in the right lane near a bus stop. The officer just looked at me and said, “No. That did not happen. There’s no way he landed that far away.”
I was shocked.
I decided to post the story on Facebook because I didn’t know what else to do. A few days later I got a message from a girl named Amy on Facebook. She was R.J.’s sister. Amy told me R.J. was autistic, and she put me in touch with their lawyer. I met with him and went through the whole story a few times.
After I made my statement and signed an affidavit, I told the lawyer I wanted to help in any way I could because I planned to attend ASU law and wanted to become an attorney. He said I should keep his information in case I ever needed Fast forward to this past April, about halfway through my second semester at ASU law. I applied to countless job postings, getting only two responses, and only a single interview.
Then I remembered I’d saved R.J.’s attorney’s information. I emailed him asking for advice on what I should do, sending along a cover letter and resume in case he had any leads on jobs. I was surprised when he emailed back asking what kind of experience and area of law I was looking to getting into. We spoke on the phone, and he said he could take on an intern to help him out at his private law office.
He asked if I was interested, and I accepted and started right after finals. He took me under his wing, and it has been the best experience I could ever have asked for. I’m happy to say things have worked out so well that the attorney went through the process with ASU’s law school to become part of the externship program. Now I’ll be working with him as an extern for the fall semester of my 2L year.
—William Weber, 2L,
Arizona State University—
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law,
A fortuitous speaking gig
I helped found the Sports and Entertainment Law Group at my law school because I aspire to work in the front office of an NFL team or as an NFL agent.
My co-founder and I searched for local agents on the NFLPA website and found an attorney in South Dakota who’s a sports agent. He’s the only certified agent in the state. We invited him onto campus to speak about how he balances being a litigator and an NFL agent.
Afterward, he gave me his card, and I followed up with him. Over the course of the year, we stayed in contact.
When on-campus interview season started, I noticed his firm was on the list, but moot court was a requirement to apply. I’m not on moot court, but I really wanted to work for an agent this summer, so I sent him an email.
I told him about my interests and sent him my resume packet. His firm had actually decided not to participate in on-campus interviews at my school. But after receiving my email, I was asked to interview with the firm. A few weeks later, I met with the agent/ litigator and another senior partner.
By the time I set up a second-round interview, I’d already been offered another opportunity by a sports agency out of state. With the out-of-state offer in hand, I decided to go back to the South Dakota firm for the second- round interview anyway. I met the other partners of the firm, and ultimately they made me an offer as well.
In the end, I decided to work with the agent/litigator from South Dakota because of the relationship we’d built, starting with a simple request to come speak at my law school. That turned out to be a wise decision; the firm is nationally recognized for civil litigation and gave me the exposure to sports law I was looking for.
—Brian Griffin, 3L,
The University of South Dakota School of Law,
Making the most of idle chit-chat
You just can’t plan some of your greatest opportunities in life. That’s the moral of the story of one of the best internship experiences I’ve ever had.
After graduating from a college in rural Ohio, I went to Hong Kong to teach English to students for a year. I was overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle and sights and smells of my newly adopted home. I was trying to get acquainted with my new colleagues and trying to learn the system at my new school.
One of the welcoming events for the program was a dinner hosted by the U.S. Consulate for Hong Kong and Macau. At the event, conversation started around the usual ice-breaker topics. Many of us were trying new dishes we’d never eaten before and awkwardly trying to use chopsticks.
Before long, I started up a conversation with some members of the consulate about traveling. Our conversation seamlessly glided from travel to our favorite foods and restaurants into their work at the consulate and their favorite parts about their jobs. Before long, and without me even soliciting it, the consulate members began handing me their business cards and encouraging me to follow up in the coming week. I took them up on their offers.
A few conversations and interviews later, I started an internship with the U.S. State Department at the Consulate for Hong Kong and Macau in the public affairs department. While there, I was editing reports and drafting speeches and remarks. A few months into the experience, I was able to draft remarks given by the consulate general at the opening of a cultural event.
Having this opportunity to experience international affairs from the inside was incredible. Networking can be such an overwhelming or even awkward experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep it basic.
Can you carry on a simple conversation? Can you share interesting parts about your life? Are you willing to listen to others’ experiences? Just do those things. Not every networking interaction will lead to a major opportunity. You never know, however, which unexpected interaction will be the one to set you on your next career path. Just be yourself, and connections will find their way to you.
—Meaghan Geraghty, 2L,
University of Nebraska College of Law,
Facebook: More than puppy videos
Never underestimate the power of social media. I know first-hand that it can lead to legal work and future employment after law school.
At the beginning of my 2L year, I decided to attend every networking event I thought would be interesting because I utterly failed at networking during my first year. At these events, I always asked for a business card during the first connection and followed up with a friendly email or LinkedIn request. I even attended some of those painfully awkward speed-networking events.
In early fall, I met a local attorney at a networking dinner hosted by ASU law; we spoke about her practice and areas of the law I was interested in. After our initial meeting, I began seeing her at different networking events, including diversity events.
At some of the more relaxed events— sports games and barbecues—I brought my wife along. As a gay law student, I believe it’s important to work for a firm that accepts and is supportive of LGBTQ law clerks and attorneys. Having my wife with me was the perfect mechanism to test those waters.
As it turns out, at one event, my wife and the local attorney had a fabulous conversation about tacos and the best taco places in Phoenix.
During the spring semester, I decided to send Facebook friend requests to some of the attorneys I’d met. Initially, I was apprehensive because social media can be a double-edged sword: It can instantly make or break connections. In my case, however, social media turned out to be a helpful tool for networking.
At the end of the spring semester, I still hadn’t found the perfect summer job. One day, out of the blue, I received a Facebook message from the local attorney I’d met at the law school dinner. She said her firm had landed a new case that dealt with legal issues she knew I was knowledgeable about.
After we exchanged a few messages, the next day I attended the client meeting and received the new case as my sole assignment for the firm. The local attorney liked my work so much that I went from a one-case contract to a summer position and eventually to a full-year position.
The moral of the story: Stay visible in the legal market, be yourself, and use social media to your advantage. It could lead to your next job.
—Ariel Davis, 2016 graduate,
Arizona State University—
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Phoenix
No job? How about I shadow you?
When I was getting ready to graduate from DePaul University in Chicago with my bachelor’s degree, I knew I’d be returning to South Dakota (my home state) for law school. I’ve always had an interest in human rights law and immediately started asking everyone I knew if they had any connections in South Dakota.
When that fell flat, I decided to expand my network and reach out to a few family friends. One of our family friends mentioned that her old job had been investigated by the Sioux City Human Rights Commission out of Iowa. I immediately started researching and found the name of the commission’s director.
The next day, I reached out to the director with a brief email about me and asked her about doing an internship. She responded quickly and said she was excited I was so interested in the topic.
Unfortunately, she said, while she wished she could offer me an internship, the Sioux City Human Rights Commission didn’t have such a program. I was disappointed but thanked her and asked if I could come in and shadow her for a day instead.
Her response email was something I hadn’t expected. She said she’d talked to city leaders and asked for an internship position to be created, and it had been approved. She then offered me the internship for the following summer.
That first summer, I worked on about 10 cases dealing with discrimination and harassment claims. When the summer was over, the director asked if I wanted to come back as an intern the next summer, too. I quickly agreed.
This past summer, I worked one-on-one with an attorney on interrogatories and with the committee director on some of the more difficult cases the commission reviews.
Although I had to decline an offer to intern for a third summer because of my position on Student Lawyer magazine, I’ve been assured there would always be a job for me there if I ever wanted it.
—Lynae Tucker, 2L,
The University of South Dakota School of Law,
LYNAE TUCKER is the student editor of Student Lawyer and a second-year student at University of South Dakota School of Law in Vermillion. ERIK BADIA is the deputy student editor at Student Lawyer and a second-year student at Georgia State University College of Law. He was previously a reporter, most recently for The New York Daily News.