Networking for New Lawyers

By Jonathan R. Ratchik, Co-Chair, Social Events & Networking Committee

You just finished three grueling years of law school. Sat for (and passed) the bar examination on your first try. And, after months of searching, finally landed a job at a private law firm. You can finally take your foot off the gas, right? Wrong!

It may come as a surprise to many young lawyers that becoming an attorney is the beginning, not the end, of one’s professional journey. An important part of that professional journey is networking. Unfortunately, too many young lawyers (and even more experienced ones) do not understand the importance of networking, no less how to do it correctly.

To better understand what networking is, it’s important to understand what networking isn’t.  Networking is not showing up to a cocktail event, handing out your business card to anyone and everyone, and expecting them to call you to retain your services (or to refer new clients to you).  Nor is it meeting someone at an event for the first time and, after introducing yourself, asking them for a job (this happens a lot). Or connecting with hundreds of professionals on LinkedIn and developing a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep.

What is networking? When done correctly, networking is the development of a professional relationship with another that is mutually beneficial and built on a foundation of trust and confidence. This type of relationship is not created overnight but takes time to develop and nurture. Think of all the meaningful relationships in your life: your spouse, your best friend, a trusted colleague. Did they happen overnight? Probably not. Instead, they took months, oftentimes years, to develop. Are they one-sided? Not if the relationships are meaningful.  Meaningful relationships are (or at least should be) mutually beneficial. Each person in a relationship brings something of value to the table. The same holds true for the individuals who are going to comprise your professional network. For relationships to work, each person has to bring something of value to them.

How Should a New Lawyer Network? By getting involved! Join a committee through a bar organization such as the New York City Bar Association (which has over 150 committees covering almost every conceivable practice area). Attend events (the Social Events & Networking Committee co-sponsors events with the New York City Bar Association that are specifically geared towards new attorneys). Join your law school’s alumni organization. Have coffee or lunch with a colleague.

Finally, regardless of where you network, your focus should be on developing meaningful relationships. If you join a committee, don’t just attend the meetings – write something for the committee or organize a CLE. If you attend a social event, don’t just hand out your business card (or QR code) to anyone and everyone – follow up with attendees at lunch or over coffee and find out more about them and how you can help them and their practice. Not just once but on a regular basis. If you cultivate the relationships you make through networking, they will eventually bear fruit, whether it’s in the form of new business for your firm or solo practice, trusted professionals to whom you can confidently refer clients and others, or even a better job.

Jonathan R. Ratchik is Co-Chair of the City Bar’s Social Events & Networking Committee and the owner of Kramer, Dunleavy & Ratchik, PLLC, a boutique litigation firm

Editor’s Note: Check the City Bar’s Event Calendar for networking opportunities year-round.