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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rising 2L Evelina Chang: Effortless Networking 101

Rising 2L and Ms. JD 2014 Summer Public Interest Scholarship Winner Evelina Chang answers the question: “What's the best advice you never got when it comes to law school, lawyering, or public interest law?"
Rising 2L Evelina Chang

When I first made the decision to go to law school, I did everything that was suggested – I ordered all the LSAT study books, dedicated all of my time to studying for the LSAT, and ordered books such as Law School Confidential and [book on how to take tests].

However, nowhere in those books did it mention the importance of networking. As an introverted person, it took some growing pains for me to adjust to the idea. Networking is great for a multitude of reasons – one, it gives you a deeper understanding of what attorneys actually do. Two, you are able to connect with attorneys and other professionals working in the field you’re interested in. Three, it gives you a chance to step out of that law school bubble. And four, it builds your professional network.

Traditionally, law schools have given advice on how to reach out to alumni through their database, but there are actually an abundance of opportunities to network with attorneys without leaving campus. These opportunities include events sponsored by student organizations, the career office, and law conferences/symposiums.

Picture this scenario. You are at a panel about data-privacy sponsored by the Public Interest Law Association at your school. At first you were lured to the event with the promise of free food and wine, however, once you get to the event, you realize that none of your friends are there, that there are many attorneys standing around talking to each other. As a 1L with just 2 weeks under your belt, perhaps you feel a bit intimidated facing actual attorneys. What do you do? What do you say? Well, as someone who faced a similar situation, here are three pieces of advice that I wish someone told me.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go up to them. Sounds obvious, but there has been a lot of situations where students just stand around talking to each other and not to the attorneys there (losing out on a networking opportunity). They are there to network with you and they are well aware that you are a law student. While it may feel awkward at first, just ask them questions about themselves: “what do you do?”, “what bought you to this event?”, “what advice do you give to law students who want to go into your field?” Treat it more as chance to learn more about what attorneys do in varied fields, rather than a chance to aggressively network. For example, if you go to an event sponsored by a public interest organization, don’t go around asking the attorneys about IP or business law.
  2. Ask for their contact information and then actually contact them. I suppose this differs depending on the conversation you’re having with them, but if you feel that you want to follow up and ask more questions, don’t hesitate in asking for their contact information. Soon after the event, send them a quick e-mail saying that it was really nice to meet them, and that you would like to ask them more questions – or something along those lines. If they are not working in a field that you’re interested in, still contact them. Personally, I have found it invaluable to have attorney mentors to look over my resume, and to provide guidance on the fields of law that I wanted to go into. However, remember that networking is a two-way street. If there’s anything you can offer them help on, be sure to keep that in mind!
  3. Know your limits with alcohol. There is often free alcohol at these events. Please don’t go overboard and there is no pressure to drink if you don’t drink. If it helps you calm your nerves, drink a little. You want to be relaxed, without anxiety, but you still want to remember what people told you at the event.

And finally, go to a wide variety of events. Don’t restrict yourself to going to events in the field of law that you’re interested in. Go explore different fields – and going to events is the least stressful way of doing so. In my opinion, exploring different fields of law is one of the best parts of law school.

Now, go out onto the world, pick up that glass of wine (or don’t), and network!

About Evelina Chang

My name is Evelina Chang and I am a rising 2L at UC Hastings. While I was raised in a multitude of places (New York, Taipei, and San Jose) - my heart belongs to the Bay, and my desire is to give back to the community in it. Though I may be a law student now, before coming to law school, I was working as a Graphic Designer – which is still a passion of mine. Other non-law related hobbies include: food (baking/cooking/eating), exploring San Francisco, and NBA basketball. This summer, I am working at Bay Area Legal Aid with the Legal Barriers to Employment Project, where we provide comprehensive civil legal services to individuals on welfare who face legal barriers that prevent them from gaining employment.

This article was first published on Ms. JD’s Blog. Ms. JD is a national non-profit dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women lawyers. To learn more about Ms. JD or to see additional articles like this one, go to www.ms-jd.org.  

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