University of Wisconsin–Madison

Starting or Building your Network with UW Law Alumni

“Build your legal network and that group can help you in your job search.” “Make more professional contacts and they will lead you to the hidden job market.” “Connect with more attorneys or others in your desired field and once they get to know you those practitioners will be able to get your application to the top of the stack or recommend you when you are interviewing for a job.”

We regularly hear these axioms, but are often left with the question, where do I start? First, think about the network you already have. You most likely have a network established in your friends and faculty from law school and employers for which you worked. Talk to these current contacts and ask them for names of individuals they think you should meet, and then reach out to those people. Second, build upon your existing network. One of the greatest cadre of potential contacts are UW Law alumni. In order to tap into that valuable group, OCPD has developed Alumni Network Connect (ANC), a database of over 500 UW Law alumni willing to provide advice and guidance to current students and recent grads. 

ANC is a searchable database in Symplicity where you can look for professionals based on practice area, geographic location, practice settings, or even specific employer names. When the list of matches for your search comes up, you can click on each individual to learn about their background and find out how they want to be contacted. And they want to be contacted! The only complaint we get is that students are not reaching out to them enough.

When you reach out to alums, be sure to introduce yourself and tell them where you received their information. Then explain why you are reaching out. It may be to gain a better understanding of a particular practice area or setting, take the temperature of a geographic legal market, find out why they practice in their chosen area, or learn about a particular employer. You do NOT want to contact them to ask for a job. That is not what the alums are there for and it doesn’t make the best use of their time or yours. If they don’t have anything to offer – which playing the percentages, almost none will – the conversation is over and you have squandered an opportunity.

Any time the situation permits, take time to connect in person over breakfast, coffee, lunch, or for 20 minutes in their office to get them up to speed on your status. As you build these relationships, your contacts will be happy to hear news from you and will look for ways to help. That may be as simple as providing you with encouragement, but could also include additional connections, valuable advice, and unpublicized job opportunities.

No matter the state of your current network, building upon it and taking full advantage of the benefits it can reap will be the most beneficial action you can take as you are exploring career options and taking actions to succeed in your job search and Alumni Network Connect is an outstanding starting point. These are the folks who, after getting to know you, will not only be able to provide advice, guidance and leads, they can also be the ones to put in a good word when your application is in a stack of many or recommend you when that final push is needed.

Submitted by OCPD on August 31, 2016

This article appears in the categories: OCPD Articles