1. Pair up with someone.
Talking in a pair or small group will make things easier, but make sure you pick someone who won’t dominate the conversation or you might not get a chance to participate. On the other hand, don’t be that person. Someone who talks non-stop about themselves comes across as arrogant and unaware of how to behave appropriately in social situations.
2. Drink whatever you want—just not too much of it!
People to seem to get the idea that there is pressure to drink alcohol at these networking events. There is no pressure to drink alcohol. If you don’t drink then don’t drink—there will be water and soft drinks available too. If you don’t like wine then have beer instead. What is most important is for you to be comfortable and able to present your best self. Choose your beverage with this in mind.
3. Don’t be afraid to enter conversations.
There will probably be more students than lawyers at most of these events, so learn how to step into a conversation gracefully. The best way to politely enter a conversation is to approach and wait for a lull to introduce yourself and chime in. Do not just jump in and interrupt another student who is already speaking.
If you are already in conversation with a lawyer and you can see another student mustering up the courage to break their way in, try politely introducing the lawyer to the student. This will reflect well on you.
4. Send a follow-up.
Students are sometimes scared to send a follow-up because they fear they’ll come across as annoying or, worse, that the lawyer won’t remember who they are. You don’t need to send a follow-up to every person that you meet, nor should you. However, you should send a follow-up to those you had a meaningful conversation with. Networking events are about just that—networking. Lawyers go to these events to meet students and make connections, so make the connection. If you remember the conversation that you had with a lawyer, they probably do to.
Try getting a business card or, alternatively, look them up on their company website or LinkedIn the next day. Reach out to the lawyer either through e-mail or LinkedIn messaging. The message should contain a thank-you for the conversation, a follow-up about what you took from the conversation, and potentially an invitation to continue the conversation another time, or to simply stay in touch. Reaching out is necessary to make a true connection through a networking event.
Tip: Before looking people up on LinkedIn, set your profile views to private. That way, you can search everyone you met the night before without worrying about them receiving notifications saying you viewed their profile 20 times in the last 7 hours.
5. Have a goal.
This is often a hard one for students who don’t know what type of law or possible career path they are interested in. If you are unsure about your desired practice area, or goals in general, then set goals like learning about a firm you don’t know much about or learning about a practice area you aren’t familiar with.
If you do know what you’re interested in then set two goals. The first goal should be to talk to the person in the room who is the most closely associated with your goal and make a connection with that person. The second goal should be to talk to someone who practices in an area you know nothing about; it’s so important to keep your options open and continuously expand your knowledge about different areas of law.
Setting a goal will help focus your conversations and ensure you actually get something out of them. It will also hopefully pique your interest or, if not, at least help you understand what you are not interested in.