But I often have to challenge the assumption that you should only talk to an attorney to get a job. A few years back, I worked with a superstar student that was an expert networker. When I mentioned his exceptional skill at networking, he remarked that he was not networking. He was just playing basketball with people that happened to be attorneys. He was just having lunch with friends that happened to be attorneys. He was just going to mixers and the people happened to be attorneys. And I have taken his advice to heart. I tell students to go out and meet people that just happen to be attorneys. I ask students to use what they've got when they meet these people that happen to be attorneys. Are you an athlete? Use that. Musician? Use that. Member of a diverse group? Use that. I tell students to look at themselves and align themselves with a group that represents them best. Here are a few groups that have worked well for students and new attorneys in the San Diego community.
- Sports Teams. Did you know that the San Diego County Bar Association has a Sports Committee for tournaments and sporting events? I didn’t know this until a student I was working with mentioned that he was so thankful that he had put his intramural softball team on his resume. He had met an attorney at a mixer and mentioned his intramural softball team to the attorney. Before he knew it, he had an interview with this employer and the attorney interviewing him was also a big baseball fan, and the firm had a team! The student even said to me, “It did not even feel like an interview. I felt like I was hanging out talking baseball.”
- Diversity Bar Organizations. When I first graduated from law school, it was hard to find my place in the legal world. I remember attending my first La Raza Lawyers event and thinking, “These people are like me!” I identified with our common language and culture. And there it was, I had found my group. This is not limited to ethnic and cultural groups. Women, the LGBTQ community, and politically affiliated groups can all serve to find common ground for attorneys.
- Alumni Networks. We all have high schools, undergraduate institutions and law schools that are a part of our history. Who doesn’t remember their contracts professor during the first year of law school? And alum will often bond about making it through a particular course. At USD, students are given access to an online directory of alumni. In board meetings, the number one complaint of our alumni is that students do not reach out to them. This is an often untapped resource. Have you checked to see if there are alumni in the area? Have you checked to see if any alumni are practicing in an area of law of interest to you? Have you contacted them?
- Employment History. I have met with some pretty interesting law students in the past few years since I have been at USD School of Law. Many of these students have fascinating backgrounds; a student that worked in politics as part of her city council; a student fluent in Swahili, thanks to the Peace Corps; a student that could play the bag pipes. I remind students and new lawyers not to lose the connections they have from their “previous life.” These past connections have worked to create opportunities for students now. Several students have leveraged the network they created as part of their employment history to find legal jobs. One student working at a very prestigious company while in law school let her employer know she was graduating and would be looking for legal work. Instead of letting her go, they decided to create a position for her. This student had never even thought of asking her employer to stay on. She had already figured that she would have to leave her company when they considered her a valuable asset to continue to train.