For law students, networking with attorneys should be a great way to cultivate relationships. Yet, most networking events hosted by law schools fall short of these desired results. And there is a good reason why.
Law school networking events consists of a crowded room with wine and hors d’oeuvres. Having a disproportionate amount of law students fighting over a few attorneys’ time. Asking cookie cutter questions to kill time. So they can work the room and meet as many attorneys as possible before the event ends.
The savvy law students who were able to get business cards before the attorneys ran out. Will likely follow up via email to set up a coffee date. At the coffee date, each party will share their backgrounds. The law student will likely communicate her interests and ask for advice. After, there is a small chance a mentor relationship will cultivate. The probability is contingent upon varying degrees of meshing factors. Such as practice fields, backgrounds, shared interest, and distance of both parties.
Repeating this process over and over. Without finding a suitable mentor can be an exhausting experience while trying to balance schoolwork, campus involvement, and finding a summer internship. Traditional networking will definitely expose you to more practicing attorneys. But this process has not proven effective for creating mentor relationships.
Finally, a new alternative is on the horizon for law students to network with attorneys. And has potential to be more efficient for creating mentor relationships with attorneys.
Seattle University School of Law launched a new Agile Mentoring program. Designed to connect students with in-house counsel at Microsoft. The Agile Mentoring program provides an opportunity to develop relationships with Microsoft attorneys. Small group meetings take place rather than at-large “speed-networking” events.
Jason Barnwell, a technology attorney at Microsoft stated:
“Agile mentoring can be a useful alternative to classic pairing approaches. Because it presumes most artificial pairings do not stick. The goal is to provide several different touches that might create a helpful relationship. Removing the presumption that there must be a second, third, and fourth date. Will allow parties to come in unburdened with expectations. That can be a healthy place to start the relationship.”
Several law students and Microsoft attorneys communicate in a group chat entitled “Career Talk.” The chat takes place over an app called “Yammer.” Students and attorneys discuss various topics and career advice. Yammer is a social enterprise network from Microsoft that helps teams communicate and collaborate. Furthermore, the Yammer platform has many features, including direct messaging specific attorneys, among others.
The agile mentoring approach can streamline the communication gap between law students and lawyers. Providing a more efficient manner to communicate. Agile mentoring does not have to take place over the Yammer. But through any platform that allows streamlined communication. Slack is another platform that provides this experience.
Dan Choi, the Architect of Yammer at Microsoft stated:
“Mentoring is a personal and individual process. It depends on the mentor as much as the mentee. As well as factors like their separate career and life choices, geography, etc. Any form of mentoring that happens is good. What I’m hoping for with agile mentoring is to provide a different way for the two groups to find each other. That isn’t already possible with formal mentoring programs.”
With widespread adoption of agile mentoring in the legal profession. Across practice areas, I believe agile mentoring could save time. And provide the flexibility to cultivate the seeds for meaningful mentor-mentee relationships. Agile mentoring can take place over a variety of platforms and settings. This agile approach can be implemented after your internship over the summer as well. So go head and pitch agile mentoring to your employers, the worst they can say is no. At the least agile mentoring will take the pressure off awkward law students. Forced into artificial settings at traditional law school networking events.
*All quotes from Microsoft employees are personal opinions. And are not representative of Microsoft’s position on the topic.