Knowledge Centre

Aspiring lawyers shouldn’t underestimate the power of networking

Written By - Yoned Khan - August 09,2019

Open days, insight evenings, mini and mega law fairs offer a chance to partake in a professional ritual familiar to all lawyers: networking. A ripe opportunity for training contract hopefuls to get an insider’s view on firm-focused questions — scooping up small details that make a big difference in any application. Yet, once the conversation closes with a handshake and maybe even a business card exchange, applicants are often left with the daunting question: ‘What now?’
According to Jessica Brickley, a professional support lawyer specialising in commercial law at Freeths, the answer is simple: follow-up. Brickley, who was one of five speakers at last week’s ‘Secrets to Success’ careers event held at The University of Law’s (ULaw) new Nottingham campus, said: “Most of the time we meet an awful lot of people so the chances of people remembering you and remembering the conversation you had is much higher if you connect with them afterwards over email or LinkedIn.”
But avoid sending out a request to connect without first adding a personalised message, the panel warned. Without an immediate reminder of who you are and why you’re getting in touch, recipients may be swayed to ignore rather than accept your invitation.
Building an online relationship, however, is more than a simple tick-box exercise, said Helen Parrott, a senior associate specialising in real estate at Shoosmiths who was also on the panel. “Just connecting with someone on LinkedIn is not enough. You’ve got to use that as a springboard for developing a conversation with them.”
Reaching out to touch base can also say a lot about a prospective candidate. ULaw Nottingham dean and former partner at Gateley, Andy Matthews, recalled being impressed with individuals who made such an effort — especially the ones who picked up the phone. “It actually shows that you’re really interested in the person you’ve been speaking to and wanted to follow-up with them,” he told students.
Beyond this, a web of online contacts may come in handy later down the line. As suggested by Matthews, LinkedIn can be used as a handy research tool ahead of interviews: you may find that you share several connections with your interviewer which could be a great talking point at the interview. Even further along in your legal career, the platform is hugely beneficial to senior lawyers looking to develop their business.
With over 500 million members, LinkedIn has replaced the defunct desktop Rolodex that stored a collection of business cards. Instead, the “really powerful tool” now offers modern lawyers an easier way to widen and connect with a potential client base, observed Selina Hinchliffe, a partner specialising in intellectual property at Browne Jacobson.
Law firms, too, are beginning to see the benefit of becoming more active on LinkedIn (much to the advantage of aspiring lawyers!) Accessible and free to use, the professional networking website enables them to share brand-building blogs and vlogs that offer valuable insight into their firms — bringing the pages of their graduate recruitment brochures to life.
For applicants unsure which firms match their personal values, book an appointment with your university’s careers and employability team. Services as such will be on offer to the 150-strong cohort of law students joining ULaw’s Nottingham trendy tech hub once doors open in September.