How to Get an In-house Legal Job: What Networking Truly Means

Why Connections Matter

Professional networks are always helpful, but in a competitive, relationship-based industry like law, your contacts can mean the difference between getting an interview and being passed over.

Internal recruiters see hundreds of resumes in response to job postings and ones that come from referrals are much more likely to get hired.

For example, the majority of Google hires are employee referrals – and internal recruiters admit that resumes referred to them by employees get first priority and more attention.

A Common Misconception

Some people seem like they must have been born with a networking gene that enables them to feel at ease in every social situation and be the life of a party. For the rest of us, just the thought of attending a networking function feels exhausting and fills us with dread.

The misconception is that people in the first group are good at networking, and that people in the second are not – but this isn’t necessarily true. True networking isn’t about being popular or trading cards with everyone in a room.

The Secret to Great Networking

The good news for anyone in the second group (and many lawyers fall in this category) is that good networking is about creating connections and meaningful relationships with people. So if you have one friend, congratulations! You can network effectively.

By developing relationships, you create a basis for someone to want to help you. Your friends and good acquaintances are the ones you can call on to ask for help in the future.

That’s why simply joining every group and passing out cards at an event, by itself, doesn’t mean that you’re good at networking. (There are great reasons to go to events, and we’ll cover how to maximize your effectiveness in those events in our next post.)

Now that you know that being a good networker means fostering relationships with colleagues and friends, here are some basic tips on how to be great at it:

  1. Be a good friend.Cultivate the relationships you already have.Go to lunch with your colleagues, attend non-mandatory work events, stay in touch with your friends (even the ones – or possibly, especially the ones – who aren’t lawyers).

    Getting to know colleagues outside work or school and deepening ties with all of your friends makes it more likely that you’ll stay in touch, and that they’ll be willing to help you in the future.

    Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Even if your friends aren’t immediately helpful today, they may be in the future, so it pays to stay genuinely in touch, rather than “come out of the woodwork” when a prior acquaintance becomes the GC of a new hot start-up.

  2. Expand your circle.Now that you’re keeping up with your existing friends, start expanding your circle.If you like sports, join the firm’s softball team. If you like food, start a quarterly event to check out new restaurants. If there’s a cause that’s important to you and someone else, find a way to volunteer together.

    Again, sharing experiences beyond pleasantries around the office coffee machine should be your goal.

  3. What goes around, comes around…so help your friends.Beyond just good karma, building goodwill makes good business sense and is a form of networking.You never know what may come from a simple act of kindness – like making an introduction or helping a friend look for a job, etc.  The more goodwill you have, the more likely you’ll be able to “call in favors” when you need help.

Just Do It!

Remember that everyone can be good at networking because it isn’t about being a social butterfly. Also, keep in mind that good networking doesn’t mean figuring out who can help YOU.  Rather, think of networking as opportunities to help others that have a high potential for future dividends.

Next Up: Advanced Networking Strategies

Stay tuned for our next post where we share strategies on networking effectively with (yikes!) strangers.

So far, our “How to Get an In-House Legal Job” blog series has included tips on resumes, adding to your substantive experience and acing your interview. Our last topic of this series will address making professional connections that facilitate in-house transitions.