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Making the most of the YLD Spring Conference as a law student

Law students and young lawyers mingle at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

I remember walking into my first ABA Conference as a 2L.  I was interested in Employment Law and the ABA Section of Labor & Employment Law’s Annual Conference just happened to be in Atlanta, right down the street.  Like the YLD Spring Conference, this conference was free for law students so I decided to take a chance and see what these conferences were all about. 

I walked into my first conference event and was immediately welcomed by the attorneys in the room.  Even though I was worried that I would have little to contribute, others were interested in my opinions and happy to answer questions and introduce me to other attorneys.  This first experience showed me that ABA Members want to meet law students and are happy to help law students make connections. 

As a law student attending the YLD Spring Conference, you will have fantastic opportunities to network with practicing attorneys who not only want to meet you, but also want to help you succeed.  We are young lawyers and have been exactly where you are.  Ask most YLD members how they got where they are, whether that be in a job they love, or in a leadership role with the YLD, and they will tell you that they made a connection with someone who helped them get there. 

You can easily Google “networking tips” and you’ve probably had at least one or two presentations about networking from your career services office.  I’m sure you have received good advice.  The YLD Spring Conference is not your typical networking mixer.  YLD members will be attending this conference from all over the country.  To make the most out of attending the YLD Spring Conference, keep the following networking tips in mind:

Don’t be afraid to say “Hi” 

Even if people are talking in smaller groups, do not be afraid to approach a group and say hi.  Introduce yourself and join the conversation.  You will be welcomed with open arms, and should probably be prepared to hear work stories.

Let people know that you are a law student

YLD Members are young lawyers.  Most are not so far removed from law school that they can’t remember what it was like.  This immediately gives you something in common with every person at the Conference.  Everyone either is, or at one point was, a law student.  Even if you find out that you have nothing else in common with someone you’re speaking with, you have shared the common experience of law school.  You’ll quickly find that most lawyers are happy to talk with law students.  

If you have a specific interest, let people know

If you are interested in a specific area of law, let people know.  I practice labor and employment law and am happy to talk to anyone, but if you know that you want to practice tax law, tell me.  While you shouldn’t dismiss conversations and connections outside of your area of interest, you also don’t have to take shots in the dark to find someone with a shared interest.  If we’re having a conversation, I want to know what you’re interested in anyway.  If it’s something I don’t know about, I probably know someone who practices in that area and would be happy to connect you.  If you don’t speak up, you never know what opportunities may be missed.

Bring business cards

You will meet a lot of people.  Bring business cards and remember to exchange them.  Follow up with people.  This will help you make lasting connections.

Have fun

Finally, have fun.  The YLD Spring Conference will feature some amazing speakers and opportunities to learn.  Take advantage of the opportunities to connect with lawyers around the country, learn from fantastic speakers, and enjoy your weekend.

Jennifer Isaacs Jennifer Duke is an associate federal employment lawyer representing federal employees in all areas of employment litigation, including retirement claims and EEO claims arising from bias based on age, race, gender, disability, retaliation and sexual harassment.