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The Practice of Law: To Stay or Go

by A. Harrison Barnes on February 4, 2015

Should I stay or should I go? I found myself asking this very question at a very early stage in my legal career. If you are reading this, I assume you are also pondering whether or not you should stay in the legal profession. This is a serious question and you should research it as much as possible before making the decision. Approach the question as you would any legal issue: be objective and reserve judgment until after getting all the facts. Make sure to make a decision that honestly reflects your feelings, because it is most likely going to be a decision that will permanently affect the rest of your life.

For this decision process, you should consider a variety of factors, many of which will be discussed in this article. If you do decide to stick with the profession but believe your current situation is not ideal, I suggest using the BCG job analysis tool to figure out if something else might be a better fit.

Why I chose to take a “hiatus” from the profession?

Like all attorneys, I worked hard during law school in order to work for the best firm in my practice area. I succeeded and received an offer in my third year of law school to work with a top IP firm. A month into my career at the firm, I found out I passed the California Bar Exam on my first try and was even asked to be a grader for it. I felt invincible. I was working at a prestigious firm and, at age 25, I was making more money than both of my parents combined. in fact, I was making more money than most people supporting families do. I was the envy of my college (and even some law school) friends. Like most naïve starting attorneys, I thought I was set for life.

For various reasons, the firm was not a good fit and I started looking elsewhere. Unfortunately, my practice area was, and still is, very slow. Consequently, it was not feasible to find a comparable position in another firm because there simply were not any openings. In order to continue practicing as a lawyer, I found I would have had to change practice areas and I started applying to positions and firms that I would not normally have considered. As I interviewed, I realized more and more that I was pushing myself to do something that I did not have a passion for. I was too young to push myself into a career I did not want to go into with full force.

While I was still interviewing for positions as an attorney, I spoke to my recruiter at BCG and discussed my concerns about continuing with the profession. My recruiter, like most BCG recruiters, was a former attorney for a large firm and had the same concerns about the profession that I had. In response, my recruiter offered me a position with BCG, and at first I laughed at it. I thought it was a very sweet gesture, but surely I couldn’t “downgrade” my profession after working so hard. Over the next couple of months, I thought about it and, as you can see, I took a chance and am now far happier than I ever would have been practicing as an attorney.

Before making the decision to jump ship and enter another profession, I considered the following:

My motivation in going to law school

Like many who end up in law school, I went for some of the most absurd reasons. Essentially, the final decision was made by a process of elimination: I did not want to be in the medical profession, getting a PhD took too long, I had no interest in going to business school…What does that leave? Law school. Hey, why not? I liked philosophy and my dad told me I would meet a good husband in law school and it would open me to more opportunities. While the former didn’t hold true, he was right about the latter. If it were not for law school, I would not have the opportunity to be working at BCG.

I’ve interviewed countless other attorneys and have found that those who had a legitimate reason for going to law school are much more likely to enjoy practicing law. If you were someone who: (1) went to law school wanting to be a lawyer, (2) has a close relative (usually a parent) who is a lawyer and knew what you were getting into, (3) has an interest in politics, and/or (4) wanted to change current law, then you are probably in the right profession. Of course, motivations can change after law school, but the overwhelming number of well-adjusted attorneys continue to find their work interesting and challenging because they have been working toward a goal for so long and still feel that they have more to accomplish in their field. If you started law school unsure of whether or not you wanted to accomplish anything as an attorney in the first place, the chances are low that the work will excite you.

What motivates me?

You need to be honest with yourself and find out what motivates you. While at work, see what stokes your fire. Is it money? Power? Prestige? Intellectually stimulating work? A desire to help people? Client contact? Giving back to society? Advancing the cause of justice? Persuasive writing?

I found that money did not motivate me, but then again, I only have to support myself. Of course, everyone needs money and I would only work if I could make a certain amount, but it wasn’t my primary concern. More important to me was the need to feel independent and be respected by my peers and superiors, and I also need to be in a supportive environment.

If you are considering other professions, talk to people in those fields and determine what drives those people and keeps them going back to work every day. Compare these findings to what motivates you.

Do I identify with my professional peers?

Do you find that your personality and drive are similar to those that you work with? Are the people you work with the type of people you would like to associate yourself with? Attorneys in a firm environment have to be able to work with each other every day. Whether it is receiving work from a partner or consulting a fellow associate, if there is no sense of camaraderie in these interactions, there is a low probability that they are something to look forward to everyday. This camaraderie usually stems from a shared sense of belonging and/or common goals, and not having anything in common can be a sign that maybe you are not cut out for the same kind of life as your professional peers.

Judging by the hours most firms require their attorneys to put in, it is safe to assume that the attorneys in your firm are going to be a significant part of your life as long as you work there. While it is not necessary to be best pals with everyone, being able to get along with your co-workers can be very important in determining whether or not you are happy in the workplace. While not having anything in common with them is a possible sign that you might consider another field, not being able to be civil with your co-workers may be a sign that you have to move firms. Firm cultures tend to run the gamut and the attitude of your current firm may not be the best fit for you. However, you should not necessarily take an unhappy situation to mean that you need to change careers.

What viable alternatives do I have?

If I did not get the opportunity to work with BCG, I likely would still be working as an attorney. I am very glad it worked out, though, because it has proven to be the right choice for me. Having an idea of what the next step could be if you do choose to leave law will be necessary for many people. The uncertainty that can arise from leaving something you have worked so hard to achieve for nothing in particular is a drastic step that may end up making you even unhappier. The remedy for that lies in finding a new career path that you believe will make you happier. This is really the one thing that should merit the most attention in this process. Without having something else in mind, there is more willingness to look back and regret – having something to look forward to changes that.

While there are not as many opportunities for working as an attorney outside of a law firm as there were a few years ago under the bull market, corporations have a continual need for in-house representation, and the larger corporations can staff dozens of attorneys. In-house corporate work may end up being a lot like a law firm, and if the actual work is what you are trying to get away from, this is probably not the best option. If, however, the law firm environment is what you find stifling, in-house work tends to mean less hours and a less cut-throat atmosphere, but also can mean less compensation.

Law school may be in your rear-view mirror, but, if the thought is not too painful, it is always possible to go back and teach. A strong mind for legal theory and a desire to mold the legal minds of tomorrow are what make a strong candidate for a professor. Excellent academic credentials certainly do not hurt, either. Summers off, less stress, and more time and resources available for research and publication are what make these positions so highly sought after. Similarly, working in the public sector for the government or a public interest group may seem like a step down in terms of prestige, but it can mean more interesting work and a lot less stress.

Careers that have absolutely nothing to do with the law are also a possibility, as a law degree is a lot more versatile than you might think. A legal education is welcome in almost any field, as it shows strong training in the ability to think analytically and it hones writing skills. Putting that training to use for something other than the law may seem abnormal, but there are thousands of working Americans with law degrees that have chosen other fields.

Is it financially feasible to move professions?

This is the biggest question when it comes to switching careers. Sure less stress, more fun, and less time spent at work all sound wonderful, but these things come at a cost and that cost can run up to 100K per year. Firms are traditionally some of the best compensating organizations in the world and very few other professions are going to pay six figures to start. Are you willing to sacrifice a very large chunk of your annual income for an opportunity to get away from it all?

This question essentially comes down to what matters most to you. If you are truly unhappy working in a law firm, then there is plenty of incentive to take a pay cut. As another type of professional with a good education, you will most likely be able to make as much as you need, although that is always relative. Someone like me, who does not have a family counting on a large check from me, can take the plunge with very little concern for the money. Others must consider salary first and foremost because of familial or other financial obligations. The age old question of whether to choose happiness or money will not be decided here, but both come with pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which takes precedence.

Do I need to be in a stable profession? How risk-averse am I?

Some people are going to dive off a cliff as soon as the opportunity arises and others are afraid to walk out the front door without checking and double checking if they locked the bathroom window. In general, the legal industry is filled with people who are more likely to go back to the window for a second look than cliff dive. It is a common joke that the majority of graduates of the top law school ended up there because they had nothing better to do, but there is actually a bit of truth to it – many lawyers got into the profession simply because it is safe and respectable. These are the people that are the least likely to enjoy the work and probably the most in need of a change, yet the least willing to actually make one because it requires risk.

I was able to jump off the cliff, but only because I had a net at the bottom. Leaving the legal industry would be a risk no matter what you are leaving it for, but having something to fall back on is comforting. With many of the top law firms closing their doors during this recession and firm stability becoming more abnormal, the legal industry is not the safe haven it used to be, so leaving the profession now may not be as impractical as it once was.

What environment am I most comfortable in?

I took a personality test to determine this. While the questions on those tests are usually leading (e.g. The question “Do you like work to come in at a slow pace or a busy pace?” is able to miraculously decipher whether you like to work in a relaxed or hectic atmosphere), they more or less get you to think about the questions that you might not otherwise consider in your job search. If you are unwilling to put your career in the hands of some internet technology, then feel free to consult us.

My advice to attorneys in a slow practice area

If you are in any of the following practice areas, you are an attorney in a slow practice area: corporate, M&A, IPO’s, project finance/capital markets, “soft” IP such as trademark and licensing, healthcare, environmental, telecommunications and some regions of commercial real estate. Because there is not much work in these practice areas, attorneys who would like to continue in the profession need to be flexible with the areas of law they practice in.

If you are a corporate attorney who does not have any work, you need to think of alternatives to solidify your position within a firm. Many corporate attorneys are looking for positions as commercial litigators. This does not have to be a long term career change, but you must do it if you would like to continue in the profession. Nothing is forever and most careers take some strange turns. Who knows, it may benefit you in the end. Perhaps you will meet a contact that you would not have met as a corporate attorney and voila! You’ve got yourself a client. If your long term career goal is to be a partner for a major law firm, then you must stick out the downturn in the economy.

For those who need to make a change in their practice area, I refer you to the BCG Candidate Resource Center. There you will find an article about changing your practice area. Please read this and feel free to contact one of BCG’s recruiters about whether it’s wise to change your practice area.

Do your homework

  • Talk to your peers (law school classmates and/or co-workers), mentors, law school career counselors – anyone who can help shape your perspective and push you in the right direction. And of course, feel free to contact a BCG recruiter. It’s our job to offer you advice about your career.
  • Read about career changes and other ways to use a law degree – your law school career center or its bookstore likely has books on this subject.
  • Make a list of pros and cons for both staying and leaving the profession. Discuss this list with all who will be affected by your decision: your significant other, family, friends and whomever else you feel may be affected.

When the decision is made, question it before you act on it

One more thing you may want to take into consideration when making your decision is whether or not you are likely to second-guess yourself and choose to go back to working in a law firm. If you think that you might, then you almost definitely should not leave. For starters, in a down economy, law firms are not going to be all that sad to shed some excess attorneys and a firm that you unexpectedly left will not be thrilled to see you again two months later if you have a change of heart. Additionally, firms interested in hiring associates want to ensure that they are committed to practicing law, and if you have already proven you are not by leaving for something else, you will undoubtedly be seen as a question mark in a profession that is used to periods. Ultimately, though, if you can see yourself actually going back to firm practice, then you probably are not as fundamentally unhappy with the law as you might feel at the moment. Perhaps you just need a change of scenery within your current career and not an actual career change – or maybe all you need is a month in Paris. Questioning your decision now will prevent you from having to question it later, when there is a lot less you can do about it.

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The Story Doesn’t End There

by A. Harrison Barnes on January 29, 2015

Once upon a time a tortoise and a hare had an argument about who was faster. They decided to settle the argument with a race. They agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he’d sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race. He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise plodding on overtook him and soon finished the race, emerging as the undisputed champ. The hare woke up and realized that he’d lost the race.

The moral: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

This is the version of the story that we’ve all grown up with.

THE STORY DOESN’T END HERE. There are few more interesting things. It continues as follows…

The hare was disappointed at losing the race and he did some soul-searching. He realized that he’d lost the race only because he had been overconfident, careless and lax. If he had not taken things for granted, there’s no way the tortoise could have beaten him. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. The tortoise agreed. This time, the hare went all out and ran without stopping from start to finish. He won by several miles.

The moral: “Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. It’s good to be slow and steady; but it’s better to be fast and reliable.”

THE STORY DOESN’T END HERE

The tortoise did some thinking this time, and realized that there’s no way it can beat the hare in a race the way it was currently formatted. It thought for a while, and then challenged the hare to another race, but on a slightly different route. The hare agreed. They started off. In keeping with his self-made commitment to be consistently fast, the hare took off and ran at top speed until he came to a broad river. The finishing line was a couple of kilometers on the other side of the river. The hare sat there wondering what to do. In the meantime the tortoise trundled along, got into the river, swam to the opposite bank, continued walking and finished the race.

The moral: “First identify your core competency and then change the playing field to suit your core competency.”

THE STORY STILL HASN’T ENDED

The hare and the tortoise, by this time, had become pretty good friends and they did some thinking together. Both realized that the last race could have been run much better. So they decided to do the last race again, but to run as a team this time. They started off, and this time the hare carried the tortoise till the riverbank. There, the tortoise took over and swam across with the hare on his back. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they reached the finishing line together. They both felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.

The moral: “It’s good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies; but unless you’re able to work in a team and harness each other’s core competencies, you’ll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you’ll do poorly and someone else does well.

Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership.

Note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could.”

In life, when faced with failure, sometimes it is appropriate to work harder and put in more effort. Sometimes it is appropriate to change strategy and try something different. And sometimes it is appropriate to do both. The hare and the tortoise also learnt another vital lesson. When we stop competing against a rival and instead start competing against the situation, we perform far better.

To sum up, the story of the hare and tortoise has much to say:

  • fast and consistent will always beat slow and steady;
  • work to your competencies;
  • pooling resources and working as a team will always beat individual performers;
  • never give up when faced with failure; and finally
  • compete against the situation – not against a rival

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Will an LL.M. help my legal career

by A. Harrison Barnes on January 22, 2015


Q: Will an LL.M. help my legal career?

A: An LL.M. degree is very helpful, and sometimes required, for international students who already possess a law degree from their country of origin but want to practice law in the United States. For example, in California, law students who received their legal education outside of the United States must establish their eligibility to take the California bar by showing they have successfully completed the equivalent of two years of undergraduate studies and four years of legal studies in the United States. If the student received his/her legal education from a country that does not utilize the common law of England as its basis of jurisprudence, then the student will only receive credit for the undergraduate requirement and not receive any credit for the legal studies requirement. Some international students find that having an LL.M. from the United States is a very helpful way to increase their marketability.

For U.S.-educated attorneys, an LL.M. degree is most valuable for those who are interested in certain practice areas such as tax or trusts and estates. In these cases, an LL.M. in Tax from a prestigious university such as Georgetown or NYU is very helpful and will give you a definite edge over the competition. Otherwise, obtaining an LL.M. from a more prestigious school simply in order to enhance your academic credentials and help you get a job may not be the wisest of choices.

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Why Didn’t I Get the Job?

by A. Harrison Barnes on January 8, 2015

Each and every day, there are hundreds of attorneys asking themselves the same question: Why wasn’t I hired?…I thought I was well-qualified and answered all of their questions. Maybe so. However, there lies a plethora of reasons why one may not be the right candidate. Other candidates, for example, could have more experience and successfully demonstrated to the firm that he/she was the best fit for the position. While that may be so, you should take note of the following red flags that can hinder your job search.

While this cannot be stressed enough, a flawless resume and cover letter are a must in your pursuit of landing that ideal position. All of your contact information should be current. In most cases, this document should rarely exceed one page. Most importantly, there should be as little or no employment gaps within your work history. This will inevitably catch the hiring authority’s eye and prompt you to explain the reasons for this. Moreover, having five different positions in seven years will also do the same. If these were clerkships, etc. this is understood; however, if you have jumped from firm to firm, be prepared to answer why.

The interviewing process is not just an hour or two of your time; you need to research the firm thoroughly, be well-prepared with detailed questions and, in turn, have well-thought out answers. Your answers should be consistent and reflected within your resume .It is also important to demonstrate some of your noteworthy qualities (i.e., strong work ethic, pay close attention to detail) during the interview. Furthermore, always have a list of several references on hand, as this will ultimately be asked from you. For the most part, these should include professional relationships, preferably from your most recent employers.

While you may find it hard to resist saying negative things about your previous employer, don’t! This will only reflect negatively on you. Of course, there were flaws at your last position; this is why you are currently interviewing. By turning these negatives into positives, this will only make you a stronger candidate in the long run. There are several ways to communicate these circumstances during the interviewing process and this will ultimately shed positive light into the depth of your character and desire to succeed. One’s ability to convey difficult situations as a stepping stone and not an obstacle will allow the employer to gain a much deeper perspective into your ambition and willingness to overcome any impediment along the way.

Finding your ideal position is certainly not an easy task. Being well-prepared cannot be over-emphasized enough. Your job search can be overwhelming at times, and you must continue to have confidence in yourself first and foremost. By doing so, this will inevitably make you a stronger candidate. From a flawless resume to a firm handshake, you must cover all the bases to make sure you’ll hit that homerun!

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Taking a Pay Cut: Is it Worth it?

by A. Harrison Barnes on December 17, 2014

Q: I’m thinking of making a move to another firm that will give me a drop in pay, but I feel it will be less stressful. In your experience, is a 20% pay cut worth it if I end up happier?

A: There is no good general answer to this question since the answer will vary for each person depending on his or her specific situation, and several different personal factors. For example, some people place such a high value on prestige and money that they are willing to sacrifice anything in order to achieve great success in these areas. For these people, taking a pay cut simply to work less hours would not be worth it. However, I have spoken to many candidates who have been more than willing to take a pay cut in order to have a better lifestyle and spend more time with family and friends. In fact, I myself did exactly that, and have absolutely no regrets about my decision to do so. As the saying goes, “money can’t buy happiness” and more often than not, people find this to be true.

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8 Things Not to Include on Your Resume

by A. Harrison Barnes on December 4, 2014

When it comes to your job search, your resume is very important.  Here are 8 things you should not include:

  1. Personal Information: Employers should never know from your resume if you are married or single.
  2. Religious affiliations: This information can work against you, no matter how great your credentials are.
  3. Political affiliations: The same logic applies here.
  4. Photographs: Some employers are not legally able to consider a photo in determining whether to grant an interview, so often those employers will not even consider a resume that is submitted with a picture.
  5. Information about high school education: If you have graduated college, employers will assume you have graduated high school.
  6. Negative information: Remember, the purpose of your resume is to market yourself to potential employers.
  7. Low GPA: The same logic applies here – if the information makes your application less attractive, leave it out.
  8. Use of personal pronouns:  A resume should be written in third person. It is marketing material, not a personal letter.

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An Advocate for Attorneys and Law Students to Get Jobs

by A. Harrison Barnes on November 20, 2014

In terms of helping attorneys get jobs, one of the more effective means for doing so is by approaching the specific types of employers you would like to work for (whether or not they are soliciting applications) directly through a focused campaign. Sporadically applying to jobs on job posting boards, classified advertisements, and through recruiters can work — but for many attorneys it can take a great deal of time and does not work for even the best attorneys. I formerly practiced law with a major New York City-based law firm and knew several attorneys with stellar qualifications who sporadically applied to jobs through recruiters, classified ads, and job posting boards for years. You probably know attorneys who have been doing this for a long time as well.

The “apply now and then” means of going about a job search (which is a common strategy for most attorneys) cannot possibly give you the type of market coverage (and corresponding offers) that you are capable of getting—or ensure you get a position in a timely manner. No matter how good a recruiting firm is–not all firms use recruiters, and not all recruiters have all the jobs. No matter how good a job board is–no job board has all the jobs and you will be competing with every attorney with an email account. Statistics also indicate that the vast majority of legal positions in the United States are filled by unsolicited and self-initiated contact attorneys initiate with employers. Incredibly, however, most attorneys never take the step of actually performing an aggressive self-initiated and targeted job search campaign to employers not soliciting applications. Even the National Association of Law Placement is clear that most attorneys get position by approaching employers who do not solicit their resume.

The problem with contacting employers on your own is that it is a tremendous amount of work and something few practicing attorneys have the time to do. In addition, an attorney’s time is valuable. The amount of work required to build a comprehensive list of employers and hiring contacts within each city is profound. Not all firms list themselves in Martindale, we estimate that less than 1% of the law firms in the United States are in the NALP Guide and–even assuming you had a comprehensive list of information–picking up the phone to make hundreds of phone calls to identify who to approach within each hiring organization is a ridiculous amount of work. Not to mention the cost of printing, the possibility for typos in the contact information and loading all that information into a database to print all those cover letters and envelopes.

In my opinion, the most effective way to get a legal position is by using a company called Legal Authority (www.legalauthority.com). Legal Authority probably assists more attorneys get positions than any single organization in the United States and what they do is nearly foolproof.

Legal Authority (working closely with you) will review and revise your resume and cover letter, and then laser print cover letters and envelopes addressed to the hiring contacts in the specific types of legal employers you are interested in. Legal Authority maintains the largest database of legal hiring contacts of any company in the world: There are over 40 attorneys and researchers working at Legal Authority, and the company operates 24 hours a day updating a database of more than 750,000 hiring contacts. There is probably a 99.9% chance that the next legal hiring organization you go to work for is already in Legal Authority’s database. How you get to these legal employers is up to you, but using Legal Authority will ensure you do find these employers. I strongly encourage you to review Legal Authority’s website at www.legalauthority.com.

If you are serious about getting an attorney position, you owe it to yourself to at least speak with Legal Authority and hear what they can do to assist you. Legal Authority offers a free no cost or obligation consultation where they will tell you how many employers match your interests in the area(s) you want to work, and will advise you on changes you can make to your resume to make it more effective.

One of the most important attributes any attorney can have is the ability to advocate. Legal Authority will make you your own advocate by, in effect, allowing you to do the type of work recruiters do on your own while providing you with (1) an effective and revised cover letter and resume and (2) personalized letters to every specific employer you tell them you would be interested in working for in any area of the United States, Europe or Asia.

This strategy is effective and works: Legal Authority assists hundreds of attorneys each month has been used by top partners in major United States law firms, General Counsels of important corporations, associates in small and large firms, and even law students. Legal Authority can assist you too.

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The Art of Networking

by A. Harrison Barnes on November 12, 2014

In almost every facet of one’s life, networking plays an important role in attaining one’s goals; sharpening this skill can be vital in your job search.Networking is what you make of it-there are no boundaries, no limits and no short-cuts.Networking has the ability to create opportunity, especially where one would not think to look.Developing these skills is definitely a recommended approach in landing your ideal position.

With the growing number of legal positions becoming harder to identify via the standard means of job searching, using the tool of networking can allow you to uncover positions that one would not ordinarily find advertised or accessible to the mass public.The ability to sell yourself through your resume is just one step in this process; moreover, the way you approach your job search is equally important as well.

This is where Legal Authority and its services may prove to be the well-needed addition through this long journey.It’s time to cross over to those new boundaries and explore every avenue; by doing so, you will allow yourself the satisfaction of knowing you have done everything in your power to reach the next level.

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It’s All About Who You Know (And Who Knows You)

by A. Harrison Barnes on November 4, 2014

You are in line to enter a club, and the group ahead of you gets a hearty welcome from the maître d’ and is seated at a table in the front by the stage. When your turn arrives, you are greeted indifferently and seated in the back by the bathrooms. Your companion turns to you and says, “They must know someone.” You hear about a former colleague who just has taken a fantastic job with a great title and even better pay. Your former colleague is now light years ahead of you on the career path. You think, “She must know someone.”

In both scenarios, you are right! It is all about who you know (and who knows you).

The idea of networking is as scary as public speaking to most people. But a network is nothing more than a circle of friends.

Family and Friends

We all have a personal network of family and friends. Some of our friends we consider really close, practically family. Some of our friends are merely acquaintances whom we see maybe once a year, and some are colleagues with whom we have lunch. Our family members are similar in that we may be very close to some and less close to others.

Your family and friends are the people you call to:

  • get advice from
  • complain to
  • confirm your thought processes
  • ask for referrals
  • just chat

Your personal network gives you access to the people known to the people you know AND to the people they know AND then to the people they know AND then to–you get the idea. If you need a recommendation for a caterer for your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, your Aunt Barbara may have a friend who just threw a party for her parents (which was soooo beautiful, according to Aunt Barbara); and she can recommend her caterer. You may now get special treatment because you were referred to that business by Aunt Barbara’s friend.

Your personal network need not be limited to your family and friends. Just think about all the other people you come in contact with in your daily life. Your dentist, your doctor, are all part of your network and can give you referrals.

It works the same way in the world of work. While you may have access to some great work advice and maybe even some business contacts through your personal family/friends network, you still need a business/career network.

Business and Career Colleagues

The building of your career network should start no later than college; for many, it starts in high school or earlier. People are the lifeblood of your network. The more people you know, the more information you have; and the more people and information you have access to over time, the more successful your network.

All of these people can and should be part of your network:

  • people you went to school with
  • people you work with
  • people you meet at conferences or seminars
  • people you meet at social gatherings
  • people who support the same organizations that you do

Are you getting the idea that it can be anyone and everyone you meet? You’re right.

Just as your friendships move along the spectrum from casual to “I wish we were sisters,” your business/career network relationships will also range from non-essential to vital. And, just as with friends, people may drop in and out of your network.

Maintaining Your Network

Just as you have to develop and maintain your family and friends’ network over the life of those relationships, the same is true of your career/business network. Your family and friends expect a certain level of communication on your part in order to maintain the connection. Some of this will be in-person visits. Some will be by phone or the annual holiday newsletter. However you do it, there is an ongoing communication between you and your family and friends. You have to let them get to know you.

You need to do the same for your business/career network. Keep in touch with people from school that you like and respect. Keep them current on your career changes, and keep yourself current on their career changes.

As you meet people throughout your working life, maintain a detailed contacts database with information you gather over time about their careers, families, interests, and anything else that gives you a connection to them.

People maintain their networks in a variety of ways, such as:

  • sending birthday cards/gifts
  • sending articles of interest
  • meeting for lunch, dinner, and/or drinks
  • attending sporting or arts events
  • calling occasionally to chat

For some people in your network, you may do all of these things and more! For others, it may be a once-a-year holiday card and phone call. Remember two things: First, your contact should always be sincere and well thought out in terms of who this person is and your relationship to him/her; and second, the idea is to keep the lines of communications open so when you really need to talk to that person, your call will be taken.

Other Peoples’ Networks

You’ve started your network and have been maintaining it, and one day someone calls you to see if you have any information about a job at your company. It is now time for you to realize that in creating your network, you have become part of the networks of the people in your network. It is important that you provide some “value” to the person calling you because you will expect the same if you call that person. Depending on who the person is and how important he/she is to you within your own network and career goals, you may provide different information. This is okay. If the person is a fairly casual member of your network whom you do not know very well, you may refer him/her to the human resources department and give him/her the name of the person to call and permission to mention your name. If the person is very important to your network, you may ask for his/her resume and personally deliver it to the person making the hiring decisions and give your personal recommendation.

Remember, you will also be ranked within the networks of others and may get different levels of assistance. This is why it is so important to devote time and energy to building and maintaining your networks. What you get out of your network is only as good as what you put into your network.

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Networking and Your Job Search

by J.J. on October 30, 2014

Networking and Your Job Search

Are you an attorney or law student who has just started your job search or is interested in transitioning to a new job? If you are, then don’t forget to include networking as part of your job search.

Some attorneys and law students feel that networking is not beneficial to their job search and career. However, networking is actually one of the most important and effective ways to land a job. It is also a skill that will help you long after you’ve obtained your new job (i.e., it will help you acquire and maintain relationships with clients). Other attorneys and law students feel that they just don’t have time to network. However, you should make time to network. After all, it is a great way to make connections that could possibly open up new opportunities and allow you to learn more about your areas of interest.

Preparing for Networking

Before you begin networking, you should think about what type of people you want to network with. Also, you should think about what type of job you’re interested in. Prepare answers to questions about your career and your interests. Also, make sure that you have business cards, resumes, cover letters, and references prepared. You want to be present yourself in a professional manner, and you want to be ready when the potential opportunity presents itself.

Ways to Network

1. One of the easiest ways to network is through local city, county, and state bar associations. If you are a law student, you can join the student membership section of the Bar association. Typically the different bar associations have meetings, seminars, and other gatherings where you can meet attorneys and other legal professionals in your areas of interest.

2. Another easy way to network is through your law school. Law schools have many social events and legal seminars that bring an array of legal professionals together. Additionally, ask your law school’s career counselor for a list of alumni who work in fields that interest you. While you’re at it check out the alumni from your undergraduate college too.

3. Also, don’t forget to network through those you interact with everyday, such as your friends, colleagues, and classmates. You’d be surprise of how resourceful your close associates can be.

4. Social networking sites are another great source for networking. It is the waive of the future. It allows you to display information about yourself and it allows you to learn about others. Some social sites many people are already members of are Myspace and Facebook. Myspace and Facebook are great for fun and social networking, but sites like Likedin and Lawlink.com are great for professional networking. Remember, when you become a member of these professional networking sites, to make sure all the information you display represents you in a professional manner. You don’t want to give the wrong impression.

Don’t Forget to Give Back

Once you’ve landed your job through networking, you should help others. Networking isn’t a one time event. It is a continual process. So, just like someone gave you a helping hand, you should give someone else a helping hand. Incidentally, by helping others, you will be building new relationships that could be beneficial to you in the future.

Remember, networking is a tool and skill that allows you to establish relationships where both you and your contacts benefit in some way. Just as the saying goes, “It’s not about what you know, but about who you know.” So, make sure you maximize your success by networking.

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