08 February 2017

By solicitor Frances Shipsey

The term ‘networking’ is often met with shudders. Networking events are often perceived as contrived social situations where you are forced to make small talk with strangers and somehow build relationships on superficial business enterprise. Are they really that bad? Here are a few reasons why you should start practising those skills sooner rather than later, and why it isn’t as bad as it seems.

1. You are already networking!

No matter what stage you are at, you will be networking in some form or another. Even before you enter the workplace, you are attending careers fairs, presentation evenings and information days. These are all great opportunities to meet people from the firms, find out as much information as possible and make yourself known to them i.e. network.

Next up are the assessment days and vacation schemes where you are usually in groups with people you have never met before in a variety of unusual situations. These can be potentially intimidating positions to be in, but most applicants who go through the process say that they enjoyed getting to know the other candidates.

Personally, I am still good friends with everyone I attended the vacation scheme with. Although we met in a work environment for work purposes, it may not necessarily be described as 'networking'. However, now we are spread across a variety of firms and could be useful contacts for each other in the future.

Bear this in mind before you burn any bridges in the application processes.

2. Everyone’s in the same boat

You know that stomach lurching feeling you get as you walk into a room full of strangers alone? You’re not the only one feeling that way. You may think that everyone else in the room is much more confident and comfortable in the situation than you are but people deal with these conditions in different ways.

The circumstances of networking events are unusual and uneasy as meeting new people will always require effort: remembering new names and faces, listening and remembering new information, and trying to effortlessly balance your glass and napkin of canapés.

But remember, most of the people there do not know anyone either and they are all there for the same reason: to network. So do not feel embarrassed to approach people and join a conversation. They will welcome another person to be acquainted with.

3. It is essential to the business

Networking is an important part of business, as well as your career as a lawyer. Despite its negative perception, new business comes about from relationships made, or reconnected, at networking functions. If it didn't, networking events wouldn’t exist.

As you rise through the ranks, although it may seem in the distant future now, your role in the business changes and your expertise in an area makes you an ambassador of the firm. This makes you a valuable asset to the firm attracting potential business. Therefore, by attending networking events, you are advertising the firm and what it has to offer.

After all, in the legal services sector, the most valuable asset of the business is its people.

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Networking: a beginner's guide for aspiring lawyers

You know that stomach lurching feeling you get as you walk into a room full of strangers alone? You’re not the only one feeling that way.
Frances Shipsey, Solicitor

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