Monday, February 15, 2010

Networking 101 for Law Students (& Lawyers), Part Three, Specific Concerns

Last week I spoke to law students again at the University of Michigan Law School. This time the topic was event networking. A few specific concerns came up that I'd like to share here in a few posts. This advice applies to lawyers as well as law students. I coach some of my lawyer clients on similar kinds of networking challenges, even those who have been practicing law for many years.

Is it okay to ask a lawyer for her card? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Yes, yes, yes.

The student who asked this question was concerned about bothering the lawyer, and thought that perhaps a better thing to do would be to look up the lawyer's contact information later on the Internet. That strategy might fail if the student forgets the lawyer's name or doesn't have the correct spelling. That strategy also doesn't alter the student's belief that he may be bothering the lawyer by contacting the lawyer later. Keep in mind that you are talking with business people. This is ordinary behavior that is anticipated at business events and even at social events. (Don't be dissuaded by the surprising reality that many lawyers forget to carry their cards or carry just a few. They're just not savvy yet.)

Also, keep in mind that many people are flattered if you ask for their card. Even though they may know that you are looking for a job and they have none to offer you, they can still feel flattered that you value their advice or experience. And who knows, maybe you, a law student, will have business to refer to them now or later, or perhaps you will provide value in some other way. We never know. Networking is about building relationships.