The idea of networking can be daunting for aspiring solicitors, yet it is an important skill which will help you to succeed in any professional career – particularly one in law. This post shares tips on how to make the most of networking opportunities.
Networking is an important skill for solicitors at all levels as it is a way in which you can secure new business and contacts for your firm (and yourself). Effective networking involves using a combination of interpersonal skills, commercial awareness and research. At the early stages of your career, having the confidence to approach graduate recruitment or solicitors to introduce yourself will help you stand out. It is a great opportunity for you to showcase your personality and skills. It can also help graduate recruitment to put a face to your training contract application.
How can I network?
University is a great place to begin building your networking skills. Take advantage of law fairs and campus events where you can meet and speak with firm representatives in an informal environment. Joining your university law society is a great way to build your networks with people in the same boat as you, and with law firms. Find out if your law society is putting on events with a firm and meet as many representatives as possible. You could even run for a position on the law society committee which would give you the opportunity to build direct relationships with graduate recruitment by arranging campus events, for example.
Graduates and those taking the legal apprentice route can also network with law firms by applying to open evenings, attending legal events (Legal Cheek put on great events – which are free to attend!) and through social media engagement. Shoosmiths is active on social media and you can ask graduate recruitment and trainee solicitors questions directly on Instagram (@shoosmithsgrads).
If you secure a vacation scheme, or if you are already working at a firm, do not overlook the importance of internal networking. Throughout your career there will be times where you will collaborate with colleagues in different teams on larger transactions or deals. Having good relationships with your colleagues will make working alongside them easier and it will be valued at a firm like Shoosmiths where collaboration is an integral part of the values.
It’s not just work, you can network with your colleagues by getting involved with fundraising events, pro bono opportunities, joining committees and by attending firm events or socials. You can also develop an internal network by having lunch away from your desk and by introducing yourself to people in the communal areas.
How to maximise networking opportunities
Preparation is key to successful networking and you should enter any networking opportunity with a game plan. Try to find out which firm representatives will be attending and do your research. There might be a partner attending from a practice area which you are interested in. You can use the opportunity to gain unique insight, such as recent deals or highlights, which you can use as a reason for applying in your training contract application. Make sure you include details of the name of the person you spoke to and what you learned from that interaction.
By conducting research, you can prepare interesting and unique questions to ask representatives, which will make you stand out as an impressive candidate. For example, is there a recent deal which a representative was involved in which you would like to know more about and how this impacted their client? Perhaps you read a recent news story involving their client which you could discuss to demonstrate your commercial awareness. Another tip is to make sure that you direct your questions to the right people. For example, the partners might not know the answers to questions about the application process and training contract. These questions would be better directed at graduate recruitment.
Most importantly, be yourself when networking and let your personality shine through. It can be daunting to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but practice makes perfect. If you are nervous at the start of networking, go along with a friend. As you gain networking experience, you will feel more comfortable approaching representatives on your own. By entering with a plan on who you want to talk to and about what, you will naturally feel more confident and have a successful experience.
If you are interested to learn more about how to enhance your networking ability then have a read of Sam’s blog here.
If you have any questions you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.