The most helpful thing Professor Hillinger taught me during my 1L year was that networking is a critical tool during the legal job search. Although I earned my position for next summer through The Law Consortium, an OCI analog, I am thankful to my past-self for speaking to as many attorneys as I could. In hindsight, I think my networking helped me to figure out which legal practices I am interested in, which firms might be the best fit for my work style, and to become more comfortable and knowledgeable when speaking to attorneys. Just as Professor Hillinger stressed, networking should be an integral part of every 1L’s experience.
During my first semester of 1L, I talked to as many attorneys as I could find from a breadth of experiences and practice areas. Everything in law school seemed interesting to me, and I knew it would be important to be more targeted in my internship and job search. I made sure that I reached out to speak one-on-one to at least one attorney after every negotiation competition, club panel, or CSO event I attended. In the beginning, I had no idea what to talk about, but I knew that people like talking about themselves, so my networking conversations involved a lot of personal questions: “how did you know you wanted to pursue litigation,” “what made you choose to move in-house after working in Big Law”, and “how did you decide on your specific practice areas?” Through these conversations, I realized that I did not strictly identify with the transactional or litigation camps, and decided to pursue a career more closely aligned with regulatory work, where I would have the chance to have a broader range of work.
During my second semester, networking events became much more practice-area and firm-specific. I attended various firm panels, stumbled into a mock interview through a networking event, and during the summer I attended firm receptions. In these conversations, I learned more about firm culture, the main practice areas in each office, and developed a better feel for factors that differentiated firms from each other. One of my favorite questions was “Can you describe a classic [FIRM NAME] moment that encapsulated what it means to work there?” These answers were memorable, which was helpful for thank you notes, but also helped me understand what was important to the attorneys at each firm. One answer included a firm-wide ping pong party, another described an office donut-eating contest, and a third person described how the firm strategized to ensure no one lost their jobs to COVID.
I found the in-person firm events to be most helpful. SAGE was a great resource to find events throughout the semester, but I soon realized that because I was targeting the Washington D.C. market, SAGE housed fewer events. My best resources were my co-intern during the summer, who attends University of Michigan Law School, and my friend at George Washington Law School (shoutout to Achutha and Rachel!). The three of us exchanged invitations we received from our different schools to maximize our chances to visit firms that might be a good fit. Following up with attorneys from these events earned me callback interviews and made me feel prepared to answer the always possible, “Why this firm?” questions. In one instance, I shared my notes from a networking call with one of my BC Law friends; she will now be working in that firm’s Boston office next summer.
One thing I appreciate in hindsight is that although I knew absolutely nothing about what practicing law meant when I started law school, through networking I learned about so many different practice areas that I was confident about accepting a summer associate position for a specific practice. I found it much easier to articulate my interest in different practices after listening to a range of answers from various networking conversations. I also felt comfortable speaking with attorneys, which helped me to be more relaxed during interviews.
In the last year I have spoken one-on-one with over thirty attorneys spanning from transactional work to litigation, government to general counsels. I’m sure many people talked to more attorneys, and many people talked to fewer, but everyone will find a great position for them next summer and beyond. Every single attorney has been helpful, given good advice, and helped me narrow my career hopes and areas of focus. Networking made me confident that I have chosen the best position for my interests and goals, and the firm that is the best fit for me.
Reilly Doak is a second-year student at BC Law and a new Impact blogger. Contact her at email@example.com.