How to work the room

By: September 20, 2016

If you network the right way, you just might land your dream job

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I know nobody likes networking events. They’re awkward and it’s hard to know what the point of it all is. Yet, law-firm open houses are full of partners and recruiters who might hire you. Here, I answer some common questions students have about lawyer schmoozing.

Why should I bother attending student events law firms put on?

You’ll meet new people, learn about firm cultures and find out what lawyers do day-to-day. Use this intel to stand out in cover letters and interviews down the line.

Are firms evaluating me?

That’s a big reason they throw open houses, so be respectful and engaged in conversations. If you RSVP to an event, attend. If something comes up, send an email to the event coordinator and apologize. Don’t risk having your non-attendance noticed when you apply for a job.

What do I talk about?

Small talk is a learned art. Have a few go-to questions in your pocket. Why did you choose to work at your firm? Is this where you started your career? Then, get creative. What was your favourite case to litigate, or deal to close, and why? What legal publications do you read? (Bonus points to lawyers who say Precedent.) Still feeling uncomfortable? Pair up with a friend and rub shoulders as a team.

How many people should I talk to?

Focus on making quality connections, not chatting with everyone for a few seconds. Will you remember the conversation later? If so, they probably will, too — congratulations, you’re on their radar.

What if I don’t drink?

Most events serve booze. If you’re not a drinker, it may feel awkward when everyone else has a vodka cranberry or glass of wine in hand. But you don’t have to drink. The solution: soda water with lime. This way, you’re holding something, which will make you look and feel like you fit in. And you avoid the oh-so-awkward “Can I get you a drink?” which is well- intentioned but, in this case, might have you explaining yourself a half- dozen times.

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