From the Multnomah Lawyer: Networking from the Outside

Law schools create thriving networking opportunities that provide students with the ability to connect with a variety of local alumni, firms, and organizations. Throughout our time in law school, we are encouraged to utilize these networks to gain internships, volunteer, and ultimately secure a job in the legal profession. Students who take advantage of the hosted events, advertised positions, and career center personnel are working hard at building and strengthening their network. Beyond law school, these webs are great stepping stones into networking for recent law school graduates and young lawyers. But, how does your ability to network change if you decide to leave the epicenter of your law school connections and begin your legal career elsewhere?

For me, the idea of networking has always been an unnerving task, but I knew it was important for a successful career. After spending nearly seven years at college and law school in Illinois, I decided I wanted to return to Oregon to begin my legal career. I needed to pursue networking in Portland, but dreaded the thought of beginning from square one in building my connections out West. Once in Oregon, I repeatedly contemplated whether I wanted to leave my comfort zone and attend a networking event. Ultimately, I decided to go to a simple networking social hour. At the event, I spoke to various attorneys, ran into a childhood friend, and scheduled at least one follow-up coffee meeting. Since that first event, I continue to attend events, have become a member of two committees, and use my practice to build my network.

The common networking advice engrained in our brains during law school is valuable information. The following are some of the tips and tricks we all know, but I have found to be instrumental in building and strengthening my professional web coming from an out-of-state law school:

Attend Events. The decision to attend your first event can be intimidating, but you will not regret it once you get there. Several of the attendees are in the same position, wanting to network, meet friends, and strengthen their professional connections.

Be Positive, Polite, and Open. Whether at an event, CLE, mediation, or in court, attend with the mindset that you are meeting a person who can be an essential contact. Be enthusiastic and confident in your discussion, ask questions, and listen thoroughly. I often find sharing information about myself to be difficult but believe offering details about yourself, your practice, and your interests is just as important as asking questions and learning about others’ practices.

Join Organizations and Get Involved. Easily, the best thing I have done to grow and strengthen my network is joining committees with both the MBA and the OSB. You are automatically grouped with members of the organization who are interested in getting involved, planning events, and/or broadening their network.

While your resources may change and the thought of creating a new professional network may seem daunting, I encourage you to put yourself out there. Every attorney I have encountered at an event is always willing to talk. I highly recommend seminars and events hosted by the Young Lawyers Section of the MBA. The events are interesting, inclusive and welcoming. Plus, most of the attendees are in the same networking mindset!

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