Q: I will be graduating in May 2002. I attend Regent University in Virginia but will be moving to Tennessee and plan to take the bar exam in Tennessee. As of right now I do not have any networking set up. I don't know any attorneys in the Nashville/Knoxville area (where I plan to relocate). Do you have any tips on how to contact former Regent grads and begin setting up a network?
A: Your first move should be to visit your law school's placement or alumni office to see if there is any type of alumni mentoring or networking program in place. If so, are there any related professionals in the Nashville/Knoxville area that they can put you in contact with? Also, check to see if there's any type of reciprocal program between your University's placement office and those of colleges in your target city. If there is be sure to take advantage of that service.
Get in touch with all your current contacts your personal and professional network to see if anyone knows of someone in the Nashville/Knoxville area. Let your network know that these potential contacts in your target city do not need to be lawyers. Any contact you can establish in your target city could know of lawyers (or people they know could identify lawyers) that they can put you in touch with, thus enabling you to begin building a new network of contacts.
Some additional strategies would be to:
- Join the local bar association and related groups in your target city the membership directories can be used to identify potential contacts then once in your target city attend professional meetings to continue to build your professional network (even if you've obtained employment).
- Contact religious leaders who may be able to put you in touch with related members of their congregation.
- Contact civic groups such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Elks to see if they can be helpful in identifying related professionals.
- Consult the phone book for professionals you might contact.
What you might want to do is set up a week to visit your target city. Perhaps a month before let your new contacts know of your visit and try to set up informational interviews with them for that time. An approach letter is recommended outlining the type of information you're seeking (don't ask for a job). The purpose of meeting with these contacts is informational -- perhaps get questions answered about potential employers as well as brainstorm suggestions they may have for your job search. Request 20 minutes of their time (you may get more depending on the situation). Then, about a week after they receive your approach letter, follow-up with a phone call to schedule your meeting time.
Don't forget to make use of the services at FindLaw Careers. Another resource is the National Association for Law Placements annual publication National Directory of Legal Employers (available from the publisher at 800-787-8717) that has information on 1400 employers nationwide that's indexed by location, practice area and office size. Any contacts from these sources are potential recipients of your approach letter as well.