Do law students need to network?

The phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is something which I have heard many times throughout my education. Yet I am not sure if I ever really understood the importance behind the meaning, until I began to think about my career prospects.

Networking should not be overlooked in any industry and as law firms are becoming increasingly business orientated, having links is a necessity in order to open doors in a competitive market.

So what is networking?

Networking is best described as making a collection of associates and keeping this connection active. This can be achieved by regular communication and is for the mutual benefit of all parties involved. Networking is not based on what you can get but how you can help.

For many, networking is not considered to be one of the most important attributes when preparing for a job and a lot of prospective employees will put their experience and qualifications necessary, above the power of knowing people in the industry. However, being acquainted with people in that industry could set you apart from everyone else.

Over 60% of jobs are being filled in a ‘hidden market’. This means that, unless you know someone in that company, you will not see a job advertisement anywhere.

However, networking is not just for people who are looking for a job, it is applicable to all professionals who want to expand their links and ultimately stay in a competitive industry. According to Lexis Nexis, networking can allow you to:

  • Enhance your profile in the industry;
  • Share and gain information and thoughts;
  • Get insight into other opinions so that you can take those on board and make changes.

Who should I network with?

It is not just about networking with people in Law. Networking can also be applied to people in professions other than your own. It can be helpful to know people in areas such as accountancy or business in case you need to refer clients to different people and, in turn, those connections can refer clients to you.

As a student what should I be doing?

Whether you are a fourth year student or a first year student or even a post-grad, it is never too late to begin networking. Networking events are running all of the time, you could volunteer at an organisation or join a student society and there are plenty of law firm networking opportunities. For example, Ward Hadaway recently hosted a networking charity quiz night. This is a perfect opportunity to make some links with a top law firm.

So what should you do before you turn up to a networking event?

In order to avoid awkward silences you should do some research beforehand. Try to find out who will be attending and prepare some questions which are relevant to their field. Questions are a really important part of networking as people enjoy talking about what they do and it shows you are interested in their personal careers.

How can I catch people’s attention at an event?

Preparing a short pitch can help you keep other people’s attention. Your pitch should include who you are, what you’re studying and what you want to do after university.

Business cards

A business card is a useful tool, but do not hand these out unless somebody asks for it! However, if a professional gives you their business card, use this to search them on social media and send a follow up email or tweet.

Good luck!

Charlotte P

This blog post was written by Charlotte Padgett. Charlotte is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University currently working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. In September, Charlotte is planning on working and volunteering in Australia for one year. Her interest outside of law include animal welfare and travelling.

Stay ahead of the game and think digital!

It is becoming ever more apparent that businesses need to keep up with the newest technology and IT systems available, in order to ensure work is completed in an efficient manner and to beat off fierce competition for work.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the event “Upload: LIVE” at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf, London. The event was hosted by Barclays Digital Eagles and Free Formers, who describe themselves as a ‘digital transformation company’ and run workshops all over the UK for all ages to help develop their digital skills.

The day was split into four interactive workshops:

  1. Social
  2. Code
  3. Lab
  4. Security

Here are some of the insights I gained from the day that I feel will be useful for anyone running a small business.

Social

  • Personal brand

The social session gave key insight into developing a personal brand, and showed me how to link my various social media pages together in order to create a bigger picture of who I am and how I work. Emphasis was placed on using online platforms to showcase a more human and humorous side to oneself.

  • Networking

We also undertook a 5 minute networking activity, based on a game of bingo. Everyone had a card and tasks were written on each square. The aim was to chat to as many people as possible to find out who fulfilled the criteria in each square. For example, one of the squares read: “Find a person who has more than 500 twitter followers”. In those 5 minutes, I must have spoken to more than 30 people, and got their social media page information so we could remain in touch after the event. This simple group activity showed me the effectiveness of networking and how it is a skill all of its own. Indeed, it often appears that the most effective tool for a small business to attain new clients is through recommendation by other people.

Code

  • Free resources for businesses

I was surprised to find just how many free resources there are online which teach coding, and that there are plenty of templates to give you a head start, which you can adopt and adapt for your own website for your business. If you have the time to devote to learning the skill of coding, this would be a fantastic way of saving money rather than paying a website designer.

  • Html coding

This was completely alien to me at the beginning, having never done any html scripting before. I managed to learn, in a very intense hour and a half, how to create a web page. I really took confidence from this session and it showed me that truly anyone can learn to code, and you should not underestimate your digital skills, as they can easily be shaped and developed with a little time, enthusiasm and persistence.

Lab

  • Creativity

I learned how to design and create an app, something I had never before imagined myself doing. The opportunity to be as creative as possible, and the challenge to come up with something a little obscure, brand new and perhaps controversial, was very inspiring for me.

  • Making an app for small businesses

This would be a fantastic step forward in putting your product out into people’s everyday lives. An app sits on your phone and once downloaded, the consumer will see the logo hundreds of times a day, and they can receive information instantaneously about updates to your product or services. Getting the image and brand of the business into the back of people’s minds is a great tool for marketing, as consumers are more likely to be a product or a service, from a company or individual who are familiar and comfortable in their minds.

Security

  • Think like a hacker!

The security session was packed full of tips to keep safe on the internet. There were warnings of phishing emails and identity theft, and how to recognise a secure website where information is safely encrypted, compared to a fake and insecure page. We were advised to look for the https:// at the start of a web page to ensure it is secure, and to look out for the green padlock symbol just above the address box, as this too is a symbol of a secure site. In order to remain safe online, we must think like hackers and be aware just how public information is once we put it online, as well as being selective about the information we give out to people we do not know.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Upload:LIVE event and would highly recommend the Free Formers team. In a world of quickly moving digital technology, it is important to stay one step ahead of your competition and think digital!

Details on booking a digital transformation course with Free Formers and more information on the company can be found here. Free online training guides and resources from Barclays Digital Eagles are also fantastic and can be found here.

This blog post was written by Juliet Gough. Juliet is an MLaw student working in a business and commercial firm at Northumbria Law School. On graduation she hopes to secure a training contract with a reputable commercial firm. She plans to undertake paralegal work in the meantime to broaden her experience and further develop the key skills she will use in practice.

Juliet