Mentor in Law: Volume 5 | August 2020 | DOs and DON'Ts of Networking

VOLUME 5 | AUGUST 15, 2020

Practice Spotlight: Academia

Topic: DOs and DON'Ts of Networking

Contributors: Jennifer Fan, Collin Smith, Eric Goldman

5 DOs and DON'Ts about Networking
Dovetailing on last month's post on virtual networking tips, I wanted to share a few more DOs and DON'Ts based on the follow-up questions and feedback I received from all of you.  

1. Shift your mindset on networking - consider it relationship building. On my first day at the U.S. State Department, my boss told me to forget everything I had ever learned about networking.
🤷🏻‍♀️As he handed me a copy of the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, he told me to start framing it as relationship building, as it's simply humans meeting humans. The idea may seem profoundly simple, but it was life-changing for me. Like many, I didn't enjoy networking - it felt slimy, disingenuous, and transactional - but after I shifted my mindset, I started becoming much more relaxed and meeting people with ease, and actually really enjoying the process. In my experience, the negative connotation that is often associated with networking is because people don't truly understand how to network or grasp its value. Approach people with a genuine curiosity about their life instead of thinking about what they can do for you. People are interesting, and everyone has a story. You're not meeting them to get a job; you're connecting to learn more about them and their work, and to build a long-term relationship. Embrace the new - the person might be your next best friend, your next mentor, or your next boss. Relationships are built on trust, and trust takes time, so start early - better yet, start today. 

2. Consider the WHY of networking beyond the professional benefits. Most people think of networking as an essential step to get a job, and while that is often true, consider the personal benefits of building relationships as well. Meeting new people can help to connect the dots in your own life, expand your mind and perspective with new ideas, create a sense of community, enrich your personal life, and highlight different opportunities and possibilities that you didn't even know existed. Consider relationship building as an investment in yourself.

3. Know thyself. Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? How you approach networking and meeting new people will be different based on how you get your energy, so knowing this will help you to thrive instead of merely survive. As Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung observed, extroverts typically gain energy from being in crowds and external stimuli, while introverts prefer 1:1 interactions and observing/listening instead of talking. Most people fall somewhere along the introvert-extrovert scale, and some may even be ambiverts - people who, in equal parts, are energized by being around people and crave their quiet alone time to recharge and reflect. 

4. Understand the art and science of people. Listen carefully - people say a lot even when not speaking. Listen to their choice of words, their facial expressions, their body language, their tone, etc. This is more difficult in virtual environments, but it's easier with video chats. Also, consider the science of first impressions. Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School writes that our first impressions of people are comprised of two elements: 1) warmth; and 2) competence. Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person? To learn more, read her interview here and her book, Presence.
5. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile. After you reach out to someone, the first thing the person will likely do is look you up on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile tells the story that you want it to tell. Control your narrative by writing a short bio/summary, including a catchy headline, adding a photo, and filling out the rest of your profile. Get a vanity link, if possible. Your LinkedIn profile will likely be the gateway to your personal brand, particularly in a virtual environment, so make it count. 

1. Don’t stop building relationships once you have a job. Arguably, the best time to network is when you already have a job. You'll be much more relaxed. You don't generally build your network because you need it today; you do it so you can build assets that you can rely on when you need them. Nurturing and cultivating relationships is an ongoing, lifelong process.
  • "The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit." -Fabienne Fredrickson
2. Don’t focus on quantity over quality. Reasonable minds may differ, but I am not of the view that networking is an entirely numbers game—the quantity will grow naturally over time, but the focus should be on developing meaningful relationships with people, one person at a time. Strive to create genuine connections instead of business card collections (or LinkedIn connections). My networking style is less about superficially working a room, and more about being able to connect and strike up a conversation with nearly anyone. 
  • In the digital world, don’t add people on LinkedIn without context. Again, reasonable minds may differ, but I don't add people on LinkedIn unless I've had at least a conversation with them. In a real-life setting, you likely wouldn't give your business card to someone without a conversation, so why add someone on LinkedIn without any context? Be intentional with your virtual networking strategy.
3. Don’t be super formal, but don’t be unprofessional by addressing someone as “hey there” or “hi there” either. I have received emails from people that run the gamut from Dear Ms. Nyssa P. Chopra to Hey there to no salutation (can't forget that I've also been called Laura and Kevin, compliments of impersonal copy and pasted messages) – none of these are necessary/appropriate in this context. Hi Nyssa is perfect. 
4. Don't forget time zones when setting up meetings. This is self-explanatory but this happens more than you think. Always specify what time zone you're in, especially when suggesting possible times to talk/meet. Also, consider that it may be too late or too early for the other person.

5. Don't take it personal if you don't hear back. If you don't hear back, keep trying: If a week has passed and you have not received a response on your first message, send another message to follow up. The person is likely not ignoring your message - the message likely got lost with other emails, or it may be a particularly busy time for the person. Sending a second message can be helpful as a gentle nudge and it shows your seriousness of purpose. But make sure your initial outreach and followup emails don't reek of entitlement - be respectful and understanding. 

BONUS: don't forget GRATITUDE! Follow up, send thank you notes, and let the person know that you're grateful for their time. No one is entitled to anyone's time, so if someone gives you the gift of their time, the least you can do is give the gift of gratitude (and pay it forward).

Happy relationship building!
"Your network is your net worth." | Porter Gale
Meet Jennifer Fan
Jennifer Fan is an Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law. Her practice area is corporate securities and she is particularly interested in the intersection of law and entrepreneurship. 
  • What are three pieces of advice you would give to a law student interested in academia?
1) Cultivate strong relationships with your law professors if you want to go into academia. You will need one or more of them to serve as your reference(s).

2) Write! You will need to go out on the academic market with your job talk piece. This means that you will need to write a law review-length article.

3) Do a post-graduation fellowship at a law school or clerkship; if you can do both, that is even better. 

From Associate Professor of Law, Amanda Levendowski at Georgetown Law Center
Another practice area will be featured next month!
Meet Collin Smith
In Collin's words: "I am a U.S. Army Veteran and West Point graduate, originally from Alexandria, Virginia. Born in Germany, I grew up in a military family with a history of service dating back to World War II."
  • What is your current role and practice area?
At Microsoft, I’m an attorney supporting Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices product group. My practice area includes data protection, privacy, and software development.
  • Since hindsight is 20/20, what is one thing you would have done differently in law school? 
If I could do law school over again, I would have practiced more exam questions.  Doing the reading and briefing cases are fine, but practicing exam questions helps prepare for the pressure situation with a time limit.
  • What is something you wish you knew about the practice of law during your first few years of practice?
Law practice is practice!  Continue to read and research on your own, and keep up with both trending issues in the legal profession as well as in the industry that your practice area supports.
  • What is one myth you’d bust about being a lawyer?
That being a lawyer is miserable – absolutely not true.  Like anything, it’s what you make of it – don’t get into a practice area or join a firm just for the money if you hate the subject matter.
  • What is one prediction that you would make about the future of law?
Embrace the use of technology, for one, and absolutely work on public speaking, communication, and people skills.  Always remember – even opposing counsel is a human being; the ability to advocate and negotiate is just as much about the human element as it is about what you’re seeking to win for your client.
Meet Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is a Professor of Law, Co-Director of the High Tech Law Institute, and Supervisor of the Privacy Law Certificate at Santa Clara University School of Law. His research and teaching focuses on Internet law, and he blogs at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.
  • What subject(s) do you teach?
I teach Internet Law, Intellectual Property, and Advertising Law.
  • What is one myth you'd bust about law school?
The most pernicious myth among law students is that law school grades define their professional identity and dictate their professional success. Too many law students think that grades are the main thing they are selling and the primary thing that employers are buying. The reality is that most employers care more about other attributes than grades, and law students who figure that out and invest time to develop their other professional skills often can achieve better professional outcomes than the students who solely sell their grades. 

For example, it's conventional wisdom that students seeking in-house legal jobs need to work at a big law firm first, and that strong law school grades are required to get BigLaw jobs. Yet, over half of the SCU Privacy Law Certificate alumni have started their post-JD career as in-house counsel doing privacy law, without ever working for a law firm.  And here's the kicker: a number of those students got their dream jobs despite having grades in the bottom half of their class. How did these students outperform students with fancier grades? By acquiring and demonstrating the skills and expertise that employers valued the most. In many cases, employers hired those students without ever asking about their law school grades.
  • What is one practical skill every law student should master by the time they graduate? 
First, students should learn how to recruit mentors. Young lawyers need mentors to consult, look out for them, and make introductions. Law students need mentors too, so it's never too early to start building a mentor network.

Second, students need to master the information resources that are core to their targeted practice area. This includes subscribing to the publications or news sources that lawyers in the practice area regularly read, knowing who has the answers to tough questions and building relationships with them so that they will answer your questions when you ask, and becoming skilled at using specialized information databases catering to the practice area.
  • What is the best piece of advice you would give to a law student about how to maximize their law school experience?
Your law school peers are your long-term professional colleagues, not your competitors. Build personal and professional relationships with them, and those relationships will be a critical professional asset for the rest of your career. For example, Santa Clara Law alumni routinely refer work to each other; and our students routinely share job opportunities and help their peers get hired. The student peer network starts working for savvy students on day 1! 
  • What advice would you give to a law student about building genuine relationships with their professors? 
There's no magic to building relationships with law professors compared to building a relationship with anyone else. The key is to find and explore areas of common interest. Students who tend to stand out to me are intellectually curious about the areas I teach and write in. We start talking about one of those topics and the conversation naturally extends from there.

I also encourage students to keep in touch with professors after graduation. We love to hear how our graduates are doing and continue the conversations we started in school.


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