Networking is a divisive word among legal professionals. Some thrive at it, while others view it as a chore, and others just avoid it all together. Stephanie Willing, the social events coordinator for the New Lawyers Section of the HCBA, insists that networking does not have to cause that much consternation.
Willing, a native of Seattle, knew very few lawyers when she moved to Minnesota with her husband after graduating from the University of Oregon Law School. She first got involved with the HCBA after attending some all-member socials. The New Lawyers Section intrigued her.
“They seemed to really develop camaraderie and all were doing really interesting projects. It was a group that I really wanted to be a part of,” she said.
She recognized that just sitting behind her desk might not the best way to advance her career. “I was working at a small firm, so there were one or two new lawyers, but we kind of had the same mindset and we saw the same things every day. It’s been incredibly helpful to be able to meet other new lawyers that are doing other things and hear what’s out there and learn about the firms,” she said.
Through the HCBA, Willing also connected with other more experienced lawyers that she might not be able to meet otherwise.
“It's good to see what other people have done and how they've gotten to where they are. The more experienced members of the HCBA have been incredibly willing to hang out and talk to me, just kind of informally,” she said.
While Willing misses her law school classmates, she enjoys how easy it is to develop relationships within the local community.
“That’s been one of the benefits of the HCBA, as opposed to any other bar association. It’s the people you see in the skyway. It’s the people you can meet for lunch easily,” she said.
Willing asserts that networking does not have to be so challenging. “Start out by trying a bunch of different places and then narrow it down to the ones you actually enjoy going to. And then networking is not such a chore. It’s actually fun,” she said. And of course, the New Lawyers Section also sponsors a number of events, including after-work happy hours.
New lawyers may even have an easier time at these events than they think. “People are always really happy to meet you and to ask you what you are doing… Even if you don’t have a job yet, sometimes it can be intimidating to go to an event with lawyers if you don’t have a job, but really everyone is always excited to meet new grads and help them on their way,” she said.
Willing said the most important part of networking is to not be afraid to meet new people, “Don’t be intimidated.”