10.7 – Building Your Peer Network


Building Your Peer Network

Essential to building future professional relationships

In this lesson, I'm going to talk about something that you might come out of law school with that is going to be very, very valuable, and that's a peer network. The reasons to go to law school are many. You might be wanting to earn the degree credentials so that you can take the bar and become a lawyer. You might want to learn stuff from your professors, and those things are very important. Another big part of it is actually developing a network of peers. Honestly, I think that's one of the things that makes the most selective schools particularly valuable and why people are willing to pay the high tuition. It's not because the teachers there are so much better than in other schools, it's because your peers maybe are people that are going to go on to be particularly successful.

Wherever you're going to law school, you are going to be in law school with a bunch of people that are going to go on to successful legal careers in different parts of the legal profession. Getting to know as many of them as possible and being friendly with them, I think is really going to be useful to you later on, and in ways that you're not going to anticipate right now. It could be that the person you're sitting next to in your first class of 1L year, fifteen years from now is going to be a general counsel of a company, and you're going to be in private practice, and they're going to remember you and like you and hire you to work on some $2 million piece of litigation. That's going to be the thing that helps you make equity partner or something like that. You just have no way to anticipate when that's going to happen, whether it's going to happen, and you can't really plan for it. All you can do is put yourself in a position that those kinds of opportunities can arise.

How to Build Peer Network

(1) Be nice, (2) share notes, (3) offer help, (4) socialize, (5) student organizations, (6) summer jobs

How do you do that? The first thing I would just encourage you to do is just be a nice person. Don't go out of your way to be competitive with your peers. It really gains you nothing. Any satisfaction that's going to give you in the short term of maybe rubbing in your grades to someone who didn't do as well, is going to be outweighed by the costs long-term. If someone asks to borrow notes, just share your notes. It's not going to make a big difference. It's not going to make any difference on your grade. Be helpful to people. Go out of your way to be a nice person. They're going to remember that, and they're certainly going to remember if you didn't do that, and that could come back to hurt you in ways you just can't even anticipate now. Really be thinking not just about, how am I doing? Do my professors like me? What grades am I getting? What jobs do I have now? But am I liked among my peers?

I don't mean you have to be a social butterfly necessarily. You don't have to be the law school equivalent of the prom king or queen, but just don't go out of your way to make enemies and just try to be friendly to people and try to, if someone seems like they're struggling, offer to help because people do really appreciate that.

You also should do your best to get to know as many people as possible. A lot of law schools have various kinds of social activities. Maybe they have events at bars. If those things work for you, I would say go to some things like that. Don't just spend all your time studying in your room. You do want to work hard. Also, it's good to relax, and also it's going to be professionally rewarding for you to get to know some of your peers, maybe people you're not in classes with.

There's other ways you can get to know people. You can get involved with student organizations. You can, if you work on the law review your second and third years, or you work on a journal, you're really going to get to know a bunch of peers that way. Use this time as an opportunity to get to know people. Then also think about this: your peer network doesn't just end at law school. There might be people that you're going to meet in your peer network that are at other schools, that you're going to meet through other avenues. If there are organizations, student activities you can get involved in that put you in contact with people at other schools, that's really nice.

If you can do a summer job for an organization that has a lot of other summer interns working there, maybe you go work at a law firm your second summer that has a lot of other summer associates from other schools, that's great because not only are you getting this work on this cool job, you might be getting to meet a lot of people from other schools who, again, can be a valuable part of your peer network later on.

Then as you go on in your legal profession, find ways to meet people, go to events, go to activities, be in contact with people, and try to stay in touch with people. That doesn't mean you have to text them every day, but drop people notes every once in a while to let them know how you're doing, ask them how they're doing. Try to do little things like remember people's families, remember people's partners' names. That stuff is really, really going to be valuable to you.

Building the network is not a strategy but part of being a good person.

Ideally, you're not doing this all strategically. It's just something that you're going to get in the habit of doing because it's just part of being a nice person. It's part of being a good person. All the sort of warmth and goodness you put out there in the world is ultimately going to be reflected back at you in ways that are both immediately professionally rewarding, but also just more indirectly satisfying. You'll have more friends, you'll have more people you care about. You have more people who care about you. Think about this as something that is just really an important part of being a lawyer, is knowing a bunch of people, what they used to call a Rolodex back in the days when people kept phone numbers on paper in these little Rolodex things, but just basically having a network of people that you can call on if you want advice, if you need help with something, you want to hire somebody for a certain kind of law, things like that.

Again, you just don't anticipate right now how this might be valuable to you, but I can promise you that it can. There's been a bunch of instances where even just a decade into my legal career, I interacted with peers from law school in different avenues, different aspects of the legal profession in ways I never anticipated. Because I hadn't gone out of my way to make enemies, those interactions, for the most part, went very well, and I was grateful for that.

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