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It’s all about who you know

“It’s all about who you know!” exclaimed my friend and law school classmate who had just been on a string of job interviews. We ranted for hours over drinks at a local watering hole about how GPA, class rank, LSAT score and various other numbers invented to measure your capabilities, mean nothing in the “real world.”

In a tough economy, many first-generation attorneys are left to their networking skills in order to find jobs. In addition to your typical network of family, friends, neighbors and LinkedIn connections (do people actually get jobs from this website?!), it is essential to reach out to other young professionals in the legal field. Do not underestimate the power of one-on-one networking. It is effortless and does not have to be an expensive ordeal. Whether it is inviting someone to get a latte or attending a brown bag lunch seminar at the courthouse, it is important to build these connections where you can make a lasting impression on an individual.

The easiest way to stumble upon potentially significant networking opportunities is to join your local bar associations. You can find a bar association in almost any area of practice. You may also want to be a part of legal associations focused on a common race, nationality, religion, or gender.

You can also find a good mix of professionals in a geographically centered organization. For example, if you are a young attorney living and/or practicing in the Baltimore city, think about joining the Bar Association of Baltimore City. The BABC Young Lawyers Division is constantly planning fun yet professional events where you have the opportunity to meet with local lawyers and judges. In fact, the same friend who was exasperated after her series of job interviews took advantage of these opportunities after a BABC happy hour where she met her soon-to-be interrogators.

Additionally, if you are an attorney practicing anywhere in Maryland (which presumably includes an overwhelming percentage of Daily Record readers), get involved in a Maryland State Bar Association committee. MSBA has committees for a wide range of practice areas, and the Young Lawyers Section Council is always looking for representatives from all 24 Maryland jurisdictions.

When attending these Bar association events, make sure to always carry a few business cards with you. Ask people you meet for their business cards and follow up with a short and sweet e-mail the next day. However, don’t make the mistake of waiting for too long to reach out – get’em while they still remember you! Try and recall a couple facts about their personal (or professional) life and bring it up in your correspondence. Keep the email light. Don’t come off sounding desperate. I jokingly (but I actually mean it) tell law students to “pretend a job interview is a first date with a guy/girl you really like and want to go out with again.” That first e-mail is comparable to the first text or phone call to your dream match. It sets the tone for the rest of your conversations with each other.

Similarly, the first time you ask someone for an informational interview or land an interview for that perfect job, dress to impress; speak clearly, succinctly and confidently; and articulate to the interviewer (or your date) exactly why it is in his or her best interest to see you again and what you can offer him or her that no one else can. And don’t forget to smile.

After the meeting, follow up with a short thank you email. We are all unique in some way, so use your “quirks” to your advantage and make it something the interviewer will remember about you. You would be surprised how rarely employers receive follow-up emails from candidates.

Set yourself apart from the others and never give up on the power of networking.