Use the following tips to help you in brainstorming an initial list of contacts.
Your Life Before Law School
Begin with family members, friends, social contacts, previous work contacts, and recreational contacts. Don’t forget service contacts (your doctor, insurance agent etc.), as well as contacts via professional affiliations, religious affiliations, and volunteer organizations and activities. Don’t prejudge or exclude people from your list of initial contacts. Write down everyone you can think of and fine tune your list later.
You don’t have to leave Myron Taylor Hall to begin networking. Many upper class students have indicated that they would be willing to share their job search information. Find out why (if) someone had a great experience with a particular organization or firm (but remember that what makes something a good or bad experience for someone else might elicit a different response from you. Always put the information you receive in context based on your own goals and needs.)
Don’t wait for a formal invitation - network with your classmates over lunch. Talk to people who grew up in an area you’d like to explore. Chat with folks who worked as paralegals before coming to law school. Find out where their family and friends have worked. Don’t be afraid that your classmates won’t want to share their contacts. Most students are happy to share their connections, knowing that they can ask you for the same help when they need it!
The job market wisdom and loyalty of Cornell alumni/ae can lead to valuable career advice. Alumni/ae of Cornell Law School, other professional schools you’ve attended, and your undergraduate institution can all be good resources for both informal interviews and actual job searches.
To assist you in contacting someone who truly wants to help, and to let you know what kind of assistance a particular alumnus/a is prepared to offer, the Career Services Office has developed an alumni/ae mentor network. Alumni/ae register for the network if they are willing to discuss their careers, provide information about the job market, and assist with arranging informational interviews if appropriate. Visit Symplicity, under “networking” to search the alumni mentor database.
You can also use external databases, such as Martindale Hubbell, to identify alumni. Click on "Advanced Search" and select the "People" tab. By putting "Cornell" in the "Law School Attended" box, you will generate a list of alumni. Further narrow your search by including location, practice area, or a specific employer name in your search.
The Career Services Office also organizes a Winter Break Alumni/ae Shadow Program which matches first year students with alumni/ae for a one or two day workplace “shadowing” experience during the break between the fall and spring semesters. An organizational meeting for this Program is held each November. Contact Lyndsey Bullock, Assistant Director of Career Services for more information.
Another source of information about specific areas of legal opportunity is the faculty and administration of the Law School. Students are encouraged to pose questions in specific interest areas, rather than asking for general job-search advice.
Volunteer and Part-time Work
If you want to work in a particular field of law, one of the best things you can do is to get experience in and make a point of meeting people who are already practicing in that field. Part time and volunteer work can help you get to know, and be known by, people who may become vital links in your networking chain. See Karen Comstock, Assistant Dean for Public Service, for advice on locating pro bono opportunities in the Ithaca area during the school year. You can also contact Phi Delta Phi, Cornell’s law student service fraternity, or the Cornell University Public Service Center at 255-1148.
Other Sneaky Tricks (to generate contacts)
Here’s one: read. By reading newspapers, bar association publications, magazines, and relevant web sites, you can reap two different types of contacts. First, when an attorney’s work is highlighted in an article, you can contact that person and talk to them about the work that was featured. Also, you can reach out to the author of the piece. Especially in bar publications, the writers are volunteers who actually practice law for a living. You can contact the author, letting him/her know that you liked the article and wanted to learn more.
Another great place to cultivate contacts is within bar associations. Even the smallest towns have bar associations (including Tompkins County). Nearly all of them also maintain web sites, so you can find information about them easily. These organizations are always led by volunteer lawyers who actually like to talk to people. Bar presidents or heads of bar sections (e.g. Litigation Section, Criminal Section, etc.) are a great source of information. They can tell you about the kind of work they do and how they got there, and they can also connect you with other members who might be helpful contacts.