“Connecting is one of the most important business—and life—skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like.”
-Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone
In the Networking 101 article, we explain how to network and leverage your contacts to score law firm job offers. In the Law Firm Interview Roadmap, we explain where networking fits into the overall interview process. And the Law Firm Interview Bible teaches the ins and outs of networking in exhaustive detail. But why should you network in the first place?
In the very short term, networking will help in the recruiting process and with picking a firm. It will get you offers you would not have gotten otherwise. But the title of this post was not hyperbole – in the long run, networking will do wonders for your career.
1. Networking Will Win You Law Firm Job Offers
An obvious and very direct benefit of networking is getting more interviews and more offers.
a) More Interviews
How would you like to get callbacks or even offers before the formal recruiting process for your school even starts? It sounds impossible, but we know many students who have done this. It wasn’t because their last name was Blankfein or because they did a program like SEO. They simply networked with the right people, including recruiting partners at law firms.
More commonly, even if you don’t end up with an offer before recruiting starts, you will be able to get screeners lined up before or during OCI, freeing up valuable interview slots for firms where you don’t have any connections.
b) More Offers
Not only will you have more interviews, your conversion rate (% of screeners that lead to callbacks, and % of callbacks that lead to offers) will shoot through the roof if you have diligently networked. Even before law school began, we networked with dozens of lawyers in all sorts of practice areas, including partners and associates, at law firms big, medium, and small, and in several markets. We learned an incredible amount about the legal market, the practice of law, and the interview process. The end result is being able to walk into an interview with complete confidence and being fully conversant in whatever is under discussion.
You’ll learn which questions not to ask (e.g. about formal training programs, which any lawyer will tell you are not important). You’ll learn the catch phrases that lawyers like to use (e.g. “taking ownership”). You’ll have a huge leg up on the competition.
The Law Firm Interview Bible discusses all of this in more detail.
2. Networking Will Help You Pick the Right Firm and the Right Practice Area
The article Not All Firms Are the Same covers the importance of picking the right law firm, so we won’t belabor the point here. Suffice to say that the stakes here are huge: the difference between starting your career at a law firm you like v. burning out within a year of starting is vast.
It’s also worth mentioning the critical difference that picking the right practice area can make. We’ve seen associates who were similarly situated in all relevant aspects – credentials, work ethic, etc – who who even sat in offices on the same floor. Yet one would leave biglaw altogether after a year, while the other would stay. The difference? The associate who burned out was in a group with a notoriously high attrition rate that worked her to the bone. The other associate was in a group with steadier and saner hours.
This is information that can’t be found in Vault or Chambers. To get the inside scoop, you have to get out there and talk to people. Go on second looks and talk to as many people as you can (after you receive the offer) to decide on a firm. Once you get to the firm, use the summer to network within the firm to decide on a practice area.
3. Networking Will Transform Your Career and Your Life
The purpose of this site and our Law Firm Interview Bible is to get you the law firm job you want. Period. But getting the offer is a short term objective. In the long term, networking will help you immeasurably if you keep up your efforts. Hustling should be a constant state of mind, a lifelong way of doing business.
We asked every single one of the partners we networked with before law school whether technical skills or business development was more important for a lawyer. Unanimously, they said that both were absolutely necessary – one without the other was insufficient. The best associates we know are bringing in clients (yes, even in biglaw). And should you decide to leave your future law firm, the recruiting process will not be a structured one like OCI. You won’t have interviews set up on your behalf or a handy dandy Law Firm Interview Bible . You’ll have to seek your own opportunities, largely through persistent networking.
In sum, go out there and talk to people.
For further inspiration, read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. He has some over-the-top suggestions, like calling up your contacts on their birthday and singing happy birthday to them. But the book is worth its weight in gold.