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Maximizing Your Opportunities

September 12, 2010

At a panel at which I spoke recently, a first year law student asked about whether it was really important to get involved with different groups and activities.  The advice he had received before law school began was to avoid joining any organizations for a while and to instead concentrate solely on law school.

Unanimously, all the members of our panel agreed that such advice was misguided – for many reasons, both short and long term.  Certainly, there are immediate benefits, such as cultivating your interests in different fields or subjects and potentially enhancing your resumé.  Additionally, you also find some distractions and refreshing relief from law school studies.  Oftentimes, you can get too focused and burned out if all you’re doing is your studies.  Some other activities to do, other that school work, help avoid that problem.

As far as long term benefits, there’s that all-important piece of advice: networking.  Networking is something that we do in most every day of our lives.  It’s about presenting yourself in a professional way to others, meeting and developing relationships with others and having those you meet have a positive impression of you.  For law students, your fellow classmates will be your future peers, opposing counsel and possibly even employers.  When you are out seeking a job as a lateral transfer, potential hiring partners can and will ask the opinions of those who know or went to school with you.  If you left a positive impression with your classmates who now work at those firms, it can only help your chances.

The advice is true for young lawyers as well.  Sure, it would be easy to just go to work and home without any outside activities. Doing that, however, precludes significant opportunities.  Whether it’s involvement in bar associations, pro bono work, community organizations or even just professional networking associations, it is important to get involved.  There are potential clients and colleagues in all these groups.  True, you may not actually bring in a new client or get hired through any of these groups, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be involved.  It’s all about maximizing the opportunities you have.

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