Even if you don’t work anywhere yet, it’s a good idea to print a small stack of business cards to hand out. What’s the point of making meaningful connections if nobody knows how to reach you? Include your name, school and contact info, but avoid anything too cute or quirky. Jukeboxprint.com has a few good templates. Stick to something clean and simple.
1 WEEK BEFORE: Devise a plan of attack
Before showing up to the party, check out the guest list. Get a general idea of which lawyers will be there, from which firms, and why they’re attending. Then map out who you want to talk to and what you might say. If you’re looking for a job, ask attendees what they do, how they got there and whether they have tips for someone coming up the ranks.
1 DAY BEFORE: Ready your talking points
Come up with two or three fun conversation topics that make for common ground. Having meaningful conversations is hard, but it’s the only way to be remembered. Use non-professional topics to relate to party attendees — lawyers are people too, after all. Swap travel stories, compliment fashion choices or even canvass ideas for Dad’s birthday gift.
THE DAY OF: Prepare your exit strategy
Gracefully exiting a conversation is crucial — otherwise you could spend the entire night talking to one person. Your exit can be as simple as, “It was lovely to chat with you, but I have to excuse myself.” You don’t need to state a reason to leave the conversation, but wanting to grab another drink or catch a colleague on her way out are perfectly acceptable rationales.
THE NEXT DAY: Follow up
This might be the most important step for cementing your new connections after a law firm networking party. A quick email or LinkedIn invitation following a meeting is a necessary first step, but don’t stop there. Forward interesting articles to new contacts or, if you’re both likely to attend an event in the future, drop a note beforehand to say you’ll be there and that you look forward to reconnecting.
This story appears in our 2014 national Student Issue.