Before entering the legal profession, we seek a lot of advice from a lot of sources. We ask our teachers, distant cousins, uncles, and do a lot of research on colleges, curriculum, and what not.
We start preparing for the entrance exams and study legal aptitude, logical thinking, english, general knowledge, mathematics, current affairs. After getting into law college we get the training to become a lawyer, bar exam, etc.
The process of becoming a lawyer is extensive and time consuming. Before entering the profession most people do a complete reconnaissance.
There is no denying that any amount of preparation does not come close to the challenges of doing the job until you enter the real world.
In this world, all the training and knowledge seems to be insufficient. That is why there is a training phase or probation period where you learn how to do the job at hand.
There is a vast difference between the traditional training and its practical application. There are online courses out there which help you bridge this gap by training you with the practical application through exercises, assignments, research based article writing.
I have been in the profession for five years now. I can safely say that I have about a decade worth of experience in preparing for my profession. I believe, I’ll never be done learning.
Recently, when I was having chat with my colleagues about work, life, et all, it hit me. I have not been able to do as much as some of my counterparts, professionally speaking. I had good grades, decent internships, research papers, moot court experiences on my resume. My resume was based on my research on the industry requirements. But I did not get as much favourable responses as I’d hoped for in the beginning of my career.
What was that I was missing?
I could see people with lower grades or lesser internships, research papers working for the most sought after organisations. I figured there was some secret I was not privy to. I wrote it off as people with legal background and good referrals.
But while conversing with my colleagues, the bossman told me something very obvious that I’d missed! He told me the two most obvious and crucial skill sets that law students and even lawyers overlook – writing articles and networking right!
# Networking Done Right!
As law students and lawyers, we are networking from the moment we walk through the door. We interact with our peers, seniors, professors.
When we go for internships, we interact with lawyers, associates, partners and the likes. This way we are networking without realising!
This is when my colleague shared her story. A few months ago, she was entrusted the entire backend work of conducting a daily webcast we host where established legal professionals and experts come for an hour and talk about a subject of their domain on “An Hour With LawSikho”. One of her many tasks was to reach out and find esteemed panellists for the show. Question was, how does she find these panellists. Soon, the realisation dawned her that she could reach out to her network from college days, and voila! It was done. She managed to book through for a month and with ease. She reached out to her seniors, peers, professors, mentors and either they agreed to come as panellist or gave her a good reference to reach out to.
This is the example of networking done right.
The bossman shared a story about how NOT to network. He told us about a recent graduate who came all the way to see him from another city. He wanted half an hour of his time. He came, spoke to the bossman, shared his proposal and then went after having tea and snacks. I asked him, how is this an example of poor networking.
This is when the bossman broke down good networking for me. He explained that although it is important to have a network of people and advisable to reach out to them, there is a method to this madness.
One cannot simply reach out to a person in the network and ask for favour or a job. You must have a clear goal in mind before reaching out to someone.
What do you want from this person? Do you want a referral or a job itself? What kind of job? Do you have the necessary qualifications? Do you have the requisite skill sets? Do you have anything which sets you apart from the countless others who have reached out to this person so far. And then the most important question of all.
What is in it for the person in question? What do they gain from this interaction?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there are people who don’t do this for the greater good. There must be some good samaritans out there. Kudos to them.
But from a rational point of view, the exchange has to be fair. If your goal is to get the job, then you must have something to offer which has value, for the other person.
Before approaching someone from your network, the best shot is to do a little research and figure out where you can add value to the other person. They may have a pet research project they need assistance on, or journals they wanted to compile into a book, or an idea for the next best application in the market. It can be anything!
The point is not to go empty-handed. Make yourself standout by making an offer of value in return for your ask! It is simple, obvious and effective. No one teaches networking while studying, although it is an integral part of the profession and all other professions!
# Writing Articles
The bizarre realisation I had while writing this is that I have been writing for decades now. We write so much in law schools, moot courts, internships, research papers, etc. throughout our college lives, that becomes a second nature to us!
Without realising, we are picking a lifelong skill set! How weird is that?
But even the best of gifts does not help if unutilised or underutilised.
I used to want to write research papers in college. Just to have my work be part of the famed law journals. I used to write well researched articles for my assignments every semester and even wrote one for a paper presentation.
The point is that, we write a lot during our college days. But somehow, with time, this skill goes to a waste. We may be overburdened with work, life or anything else. This essential skill set goes stale without practice.
I know this firsthand. When I started writing basic articles, I was having trouble stringing two words, I was not able to adhere to the word count, and eventually missed deadlines. All of this simply because I’d gradually stopped writing in the last five years.
I can see the difference on a professional level since I have started writing again.
I am able to think and speak more coherently about topics beyond my domain. I even managed to interview industry experts on a couple of occasions! I got a couple of job offers right after I started writing as my profile seemed to now have improved.
There are peers of mine who kept writing papers on the area of law which interested them. So when the time came for interviews and selection, they knew more than their counterparts and had research papers to support their expertise as well! Needless to say, they bagged their dream jobs, simply because of writing articles.
Writing articles improves your research, language,and knowledge in a particular legal domain. This puts you a step ahead of those who do not write articles. They will not possess the thorough knowledge that comes from writing a well researched article.
Recently, one of the reputed law firms from Bangalore interviewed me for a job that I wanted, but I did not have the right number of years in terms of experience. Nonetheless, the partner interviewed me further about my current profile and was impressed enough to create a separate profile for me in the firm! They did not take me for the job that I wanted, but I came out with another job offer anyway!
The point is writing is an underrated and underutilised skillset. This skillset opens doors for you, where one did not exist!
These obvious skillsets are so obvious that we overlook their importance in course of work. But these skills are of utmost importance along with others. They give you an edge over the rest, if done right.
So start today. Write and network right!