Networking: A Student’s Perspective by Abigail Gillett
Networking: interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Why is Networking important at University?
Networking is a chance for students to interact with professionals; people who were once in our position and who will understand how difficult it is to achieve our aims and ambitions. Connecting with them during University, and staying in contact, could give you a slight, or even more than slight, advantage over your other colleagues and may open up opportunities for gaining work experience; a training contract or even a full-time job. The legal profession is known notoriously for being a ‘who-you-know’ system. Although there may be arguments that this is slowly changing and developing, it still helps to know someone in the legal profession – and it having contacts within numerous professions always helps.
How did I organise and plan the event?
To plan this event, I started by firstly contacting firms who have I knew had an association with the University of Brighton. I had replies from some firms, interest from others who wanted to know more, and some who just outright did not reply. I planned the Networking Event at the beginning of September, with the aim of engaging the interests of our students, and the intention of creating a controlled and fun environment where communications could be made between us and the professionals.
The second step was to target firms who you think would be interested; those who are local within Brighton and also inclusive of those high street and regional firms who may not have attended an event at the University of Brighton before. This was an effort to expand the community for students and to try and engage as many different types of firms as possible.
When thinking about firms who would be interested, it was key to think logically. National and international firms are often too busy and even some of the smaller high street firms are likely to have prior engagements and be limited due to their small numbers of staff.
Eventually, I settled upon around 20 law firms whom I believed would may take up the opportunity, targeting the ‘in-between’ High-Street Firms. Initially, there was a smattering of interest, but the majority did not reply. Refusing to give up, around 10 days later, I telephoned each of the firms within Brighton and Burgess Hill and spent several hours contacting each firm in turn to ask again, perhaps a little more personally. Although some said no immediately, persistence was key and I believed that the more firsts that I contacted, the more would attend. This appeared to work.
Throughout this, it is important to mention that you just remain diligent throughout this organisation, and ensure that everything runs smoothly from start to finish (which would not have been possible without Carolyn Lewis – our Law with Business Course Leader and the fantastic Law Society Team)! It was also important to follow up those who had offered confirmation of their attendance and I was even still arranging things last minute, and on the day of the event!
How did it go?
Thankfully, the event came together. It was so successful that there were more professionals than students, and everyone was impressed, enjoyed the event! It was a lot of work but eventually came together as a total success! Some professionals even networked between themselves. Personally, I have gained a few contacts, a potential work placement and consideration for a mini-pupillage, all at different law firms. Moreover, the majority of professionals would be interested in coming to another networking event that will be hosted at the University in the future.
Personally, I was not daunted by networking. Not only have I previously attended networking events, but due to personal experiences and my job, I know how to openly start a conversation with someone. For those of you who are daunted by the thought of networking with a group of people, my advice would be to think of some basic questions beforehand. A few students at the networking event came with questions printed out. Not only does this show preparation and impress the professionals (as they informed us), but it also means you always have conversation starters to break the ice with – the first word is always the hardest! Also, you can always feel free to contact any of us at the Law Society to ask questions, and at each event we host, we will try and give a list of who is attending, or firms, so that you can always be prepared.