Get a Job Through Networking |

Get a Job Through Networking


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There are many approaches an attorney can take to his or her job search, but one of the most oft-overlooked and/or frequently maligned approach is through networking.
Get a Job Through Networking

It's understandable that many would-be job seekers might be initially dismissive of "networking," since the very term itself has often come to be associated with, among other things, insincerity, paying to gain access to people and events, a "non merit-based" system that relies too heavily on connections and appearances, having to always be "on" in what would otherwise be a purely social situation, or something invented by consultants and vendors to justify the sale of their services to you and other unsuspecting potential clientele.

All of that may be true to some extent or other, and may even be an unfortunate byproduct of what I am talking about in this article, but networking can serve a vital, and oftentimes necessary, function in the job market for those seeking lateral or entry-level employment (not to mention laying the foundation for building a future book of business, which will be necessary for your long-term success in the legal industry). It puts you, directly or indirectly, in front of potential employers and clients in a way that a resume does not.

"Networking" is a broad term, and can mean a variety of things, but at its very core, it simply means expanding your social and professional circle in a face-to-face manner. This is important because the legal business, like any other business or profession, is a human enterprise. I have attorneys (and especially recent law graduates) tell me ALL THE TIME "I know I am capable of doing this job and would be great at it if I only got the chance to prove myself." And most of the time, this is very likely true. There are a lot of truly excellent (or potentially excellent) attorneys out there, and the major barrier to their employment is that there are just not enough jobs to go around. The competition in the current market is fierce, and any formally posted job opening is going to result in a large stack of resumes on the desk of the hiring partner, many of which represent attorneys who are fully capable of performing the work advertised.

You may already have noticed, then, why networking is important. A hiring partner looking through a stack of resumes is going to pick them based purely on paper, and unless you are a standout superstar, your resume is likely going to look like a dozen, if not a hundred, other resumes in that same pile. A well-written resume highlighting your strengths relative to the position will certainly help, but oftentimes that is enough to prevent your resume from getting tossed in the immediate reject pile, but not necessarily enough to have it stand out from the crowd. You don't get an interview this way. You don't get a chance to plead your case, or explain your enthusiasm for the firm and the work, and the hiring partner doesn't think twice about you after the brief moment they skim your resume and put it aside.

Now pretend that you are at an event, whether it is a local Bar Association meet-and-greet, a CLE course, or an industry convention filled with the type of potential clients to whom you hope to eventually provide your legal services. You talk to people, you ask questions, find out what they do, smile, shake hands, and do your best to make yourself known in a pleasant and positive manner. What happens then? Well, maybe nothing, and maybe you go home with nothing to show for it but having practiced your social skills (which, let me tell you, is important, if not essential in having a long-term, successful career). But maybe one of the people you are talking with takes a liking to you, and they happen to be a partner at a firm, or a client of a firm where you hope to interview, and they offer to get coffee with you, or pass your resume along directly to the hiring partner or hiring committee.

And now, all of a sudden, you have skipped the resume pile. Your resume did not need to stand out from the hundred others like it, because you have personally stood out to someone who may have some influence in the process, whether large or small. This will not always happen, but it absolutely won't happen if you don't give it a shot.

This is not hypothetical. This is how I got my first law firm job. I had worked for the Department of Justice my 2L summer - a very prestigious and selective position, to be sure, but one that did not offer a guarantee of future employment with the DOJ, and one that precluded me from summering at a firm with my classmates, which was the typical entry point into an eventual firm job. Many firms do not hire 3Ls, having already picked their incoming class from the ranks of their 2L summers, so formal opportunities to interview or submit my resume were few and far between.

During this time period while searching for a formal position, I tagged along with my then-girlfriend (a 2L) to a 2L networking event, and just started talking to people. One guy and I in particular hit it off, talking for a lengthy period of time. As we were leaving the event, my girlfriend turned and remarked to me "well, it looks like you and the managing partner are old friends!" Turns out that's who I had been talking to, even though his title never came up. When I saw him a few weeks later, he immediately remembered me, and I remarked I was on the market for a job. He said he wasn't sure if they had an opening for a 3L, but he'd love to take my resume and see if something came up. The next thing I knew, I was interviewing with the litigation department, and had a job offer in my hands a few short weeks later. And all because I went out there and just talked to people.

Now, you can certainly be more targeted in your approach, and try to find out who is going to be at any given event, being completely selective in who you talk to, etc. But watching friends, colleagues, and all manner of attorneys pitching business over the years, I can say that it will serve you best to just be open and friendly to everyone, and approach networking with a genuine sense of curiosity as to what people do rather than a mercenary approach as to how they can help you immediately. Because you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from.

To finish things up, and in case you are still not convinced, there are many fantastic opportunities out there (including most in-house positions and positions with smaller, local firms who do not work with recruiters) that will only become available to you via word-of-mouth. The more you network, the more mouths you have telling you about potential opportunities they have heard about, and the more people who will ask around on your behalf. When a job market is this competitive, it is often a numbers game, and networking will help you increase your number of opportunities exponentially.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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