Back when I was in law school I had grandiose visions about working as a public sector employee. I fantasized about career stability, a defined pension, and set hours that never involved weekend work. However what attracted me most to the prestige of working for the gubmint was the prospect of never ever having to engage in the modern world’s worst labor abuse: networking.
To be clear I love socializing- or “chillaxing” as the cool kids are calling it. I just like keeping my work life and my social life as separate as possible in order to avoid having my coworkers know about the people I associate in my free time (and vice versa, given that I’ve worked mainly in politics).
However now that I’m a solo attorney, the luxury of spending my evenings reading books about failed leftist movements and/or watching the Venture Brothers while stoned is something of the past. In other words instead of doing what I like for fun, my livelihood depends on me hanging out with other desperate lawyers…which is not fun.
This ongoing practice is terrible — make no mistake about it — but it can be exponentially LESS awful if you put in some of that legal strategery that got your heavily-indebted ass to this point. So without any further delay, here are my five steps for surviving a networking event as a young lawyer.
1. Know The Audience
How did you find out about this event? Is this connected to a legal services product (and thus will be geared to lawyers who actually have money) or is this something connected to your law school (and thus is a glorified reunion where they are mistakenly asking YOU for money)? This matters for the obvious reasons like how to dress or what sort of Obama jokes you’re expected to laugh at, but it also 100% determines how you will perform at Step #2.
2. Find Someone To Talk To. Anyone, Really
Put away your goddamn phone and pick someone to make small talk with. And stick to small talk – this isn’t your first year con law class. The person you’re talking with either doesn’t give a fuck and/or has already heard your AMAZING analysis on how insurance subsidies affect interstate commerce. If you would rather be anywhere else talking with someone cool about a shared interest in TV programming it’s probably a good bet the schlub next to you is thinking the same thing.
3. Evaluate The Food/Drink Choices Carefully
Just remember that anything delicious contains some combination of things that could ruin your ability to make a halfway decent impression on someone who matters. A quick guide to surviving the buffet table:
• The myriad of appetizers that will instantly make your breath smell like a dumpster fire. Stick with boring cardboard crackers and rubber cheese.
• Modern “finger foods” might be delicious, but some fancy caterers enjoy serving crap that is impossible to eat without dripping half of it all over your face/suit.
• Keep a protein bar handy as a back up for anything- especially the dreaded cheap as a fuck events that don’t serve anything. Also too: GUM!
• Booze! It’s probably the one saving grace of the event you are at, so avoid it at all costs. Let the old and securely employed folks get drunk and say things they should regret.
4. Stalk The People Who Gave You Cards
Following up with people you meet has never been easier, which means people rarely if ever do it anymore. Therefore if you meet someone you like, or at least could stand talking to again, go ahead and friend them (or at least send them a Linkedin request that they’ll ignore for six months). As long as you’re not an impulsive moron on social media anymore there is a good chance they might actually grow to like you (and send you work eventually).
5. Network With People Who Are Not Assholes
There are lawyers who are decent and somewhat fun-loving people. FIND THEM! In my case the weed-law community has been a wonderful resource as of late, not just for professional development but as quasi “co-workers” in the practice I’m building. Obviously it helps that we share an interest in weed, but lawyers participate in every conceivable hobby out there and are probably looking for new people to chill with. Find these dorks, become their BFF, and maybe you’ll get some cases out of it. And maybe some weed.