Networking tips for the new attorney

Issue May 2014 By Robert C. Heaney

Networking is an important tool for law students and young attorneys alike. Finding that first or next job is much easier when the hiring attorney knows the applicant. Networking early and often allows you to put your name out in the legal community. Below are some helpful tips on how to successfully network.

Business cards -- Never leave home without your business cards. You never know when or where you might run into someone looking for legal assistance. If you are a student, the career services office at your school may provide you with personalized business cards. Otherwise, websites, such as vistaprint.com, allow you to design your own business cards at an affordable price.

Build your brand -- People remember brands. Obviously, as a young attorney and potential employee, you want to be remembered by prospective employers. First you must decide what you want your brand to be. Do you want to be a Porsche -- expensive and elegant with a niche customer base -- or a Honda Civic -- affordable and reliable with a larger customer base - or somewhere in between? Once you decide on your brand, you will want to establish and build it. Building your brand involves more than having a two-minute elevator speech ready for when people ask, "What do you do?" Your brand involves everything from how you dress, to what networking events you attend, to how you answer questions about your area of law. If you plan to be a Porsche you will likely want to appear as the best dressed person in the room and focus your networking on events where you most likely rub elbows with white collar individuals.

If you decide your brand is more of a Civic, you would want to appear approachable and concentrate your networking efforts on interacting with blue collar employees. The most important component is deciding what your brand is and following through with establishing that brand.

Keep networking -- In order for networking to be successful, you need to be proactive in your approach. You want to be at the front of mind when others are looking to hire or make a referral pertaining to your particular area of the law. Simply meeting someone at a networking event and handing them your business card will not be enough to secure that job interview or referral. Potential employers may have met a dozen other individuals at the same event. In order to stand out, you should email the new contact the next day and try to arrange a one-on-one conversation. The one-on-one does not need to be formal and can be had over coffee or drinks after work. Most individuals at networking events are there for the same reasons you are -- to meet other people -- and are more than happy to have a follow up meeting. You will want to have follow up conversations with as many people as you can because, even if it is unclear whether a certain individual will help advance your work search, that individual may be able to refer you to someone else who can.

Robert C. Heaney is the owner and principal attorney of Heaney Disability Law, specializing in representing individuals who can no longer work due to physical or mental impairments and helping them obtain federal Social Security benefits. Heaney is a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Association, where he sits on the Law Practice Management Section Council.