How Law Students Can Build Professional Networks While in School

November 10, 2011

Kristen Knepper

Networking is a crucial part of any job search.  However, for many law students, networking can be a stressful process.  We asked West Account Manager Kristen Knepper for some tips on how law students can build their professional network.

Q:  When law students ask you about career planning, what advice do you give them?

A:  In today’s legal job market, law students need to have realistic expectations of what’s out there.  Entry level positions in non-profit and public interest work not only gets “your foot in the door”, but can also help open up networks for future opportunities.

Law students also need to be knowledgeable about what is expected of them as a new associate.  They need to prepare themselves for what tasks they’re expected to tackle.  My first associate job after graduating from law school had me in a basement researching and filing paperwork for the first year.  While the work wasn’t exactly glamorous, it was valuable experience.

Q:  How can law students build their professional networks?

A:  Nine out of ten times, you’re going to land a job through people you know.  Law students should take advantage of their school’s alumni and career services offices to develop networks while still in law school.  Law students can look at alumni connections and seek an alumni as a mentor while in school.

The Profiler database in WestlawNext allows for searching within alumni networks for both undergrad and law schools.  Not enough law students take advantage of these resources and are surprised to discover how much information they are able to gather to help them in their networking efforts.

Q:  How else can students build their networks while in law school?

A:  There are a lot of opportunities to build your network while still in law school.  Law students should take advantage of clinics, trial practice, internships and volunteer opportunities to build networks with local practitioners.  Adjunct faculty are also another great resource for building professional relationships while in school because they’re actively practicing and can give insight into practice areas a student may be interested in.

Q:  Once a law student lands a job interview, how should he or she prepare for it?

A:  Law students should go online and look at basic types of interview questions they’ll face.  These are often along the lines of, “Why do you want to work here?” and “Why do you want to practice in this area?”  Law students should also research cases the law firm and attorneys have handled so that they can prepare questions for the interviewers.

Kristen Knepper has been a West Account Manager since 2005, and works with law schools in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and San Diego. 

For more information on job search, networking and interviewing, please join Kristen for a webinar on Monday, November 14, 2011.  Click here for more information and to register.  For additional career resources, please visit our Career Focus page on lawschool.westlaw.com.