Monthly Archives: March 2013

Networking Tips for the Awkward

I have an admission: networking terrifies me. Wine and cheese functions give me serious anxiety. I’ve observed other students networking like pros, charming everyone in their wake and carrying reams of business cards. I am not that person. However, I’ve managed to get past that and find some value in going out of my comfort zone to meet people. On some occasions I’ve even enjoyed it and have found it to be a valuable experience (for more about the value of networking, check out Beverly’s post).

During the wine and cheese functions I’ve been to, my palms have been sweaty from nervousness and I’ve been scared to shake people’s hands. Either that or my hands are full and I have to do that awkward glance around to try to find a free space to dispose of my plate and glass. When I do shake hands, people invariably comment on my firm grip (a byproduct of rock climbing). I still have yet to perfect a segue from, “My, what strong hands you have.” I’ve even had someone draw back and shake out their hand as if they were in severe pain. Apologizing for crushing someone’s bones is usually an uncomfortable way to start a conversation. I can imagine that if it were the opposite and I had one of those weak handshakes that feels like a dead fish, the ensuing conversation would be equally awkward. This brings me to my first tip:

1. Seriously consider your handshake. Maybe try it out on a few friends. At a wine and cheese function you will likely shake a lot of hands, and if you are a bone crusher/dead fish, this may not play out in your favour.

Another thing I’ve mastered is making awkward jokes that rarely get a laugh. I can’t help it; when I’m nervous I try to diffuse the situation with humour. I like puns, but not everyone does. I’ve had a few uncomfortable silences as a result of this. Until you’ve truly gauged your audience, don’t try to make them laugh. So, my tip for the awkward:

2. You might be the world’s greatest stand-up comic in your own mind, but your mind doesn’t necessarily mimic reality. Save your jokes for later.

You might see an email about a wine and cheese function and think, man, I’ve only got $0.37 in my bank account. This is a great opportunity for a free feed. If you aren’t interested in meeting anyone, then game on. But, if you actually want to use the wine and cheese as a networking opportunity, don’t get too food-focused.

3. Know your purpose. Are you actually there to meet people, or are you there for the free food? If you are actually at a networking function with the purpose of networking, take advantage of the time when the hot food first comes out to introduce yourself to a few people. Many other students will be weaving in and out of the crowd chasing crab cakes.  However, if your purpose is to get a free feed, get in there early! Keep an eye on the door and suss out your hot food options. 

One of my worst mistakes has been going up to an employer’s booth and starting a conversation purely because there was no one else there. This is not in and of itself a bad thing to do, but I once went up and spoke with someone from a firm that specialized in Securities Law for ages. I realized early on in the conversation that I had absolutely no idea what securities law was. I just nodded along and said, “Oh, that sounds interesting,” at what I figured were appropriate moments. I gained very little from the experience, and I’m sure that the person talking to me could tell that I was only half there.

4. Learn a bit about which firms you’re interested in and who you want to talk to. If you have a purpose, this will likely make you feel less awkward. Do some research and think of some questions you might want to ask. By doing this, you can learn quite a lot of interesting things about what life might be like working in different areas of the law.

Networking need not be a source of anxiety. It can be a perfectly enjoyable experience provided that you go prepared and with a clear focus. 

Good luck, and happy networking!

I Know What You Did Last Summer

If you are a 1L, chances are you’ve been thinking about your summer plans lately. In deciding what you may want to do, considering all you’ve been through so far in first year, you have probably considered one/a combination of the Usual Suspects: a law-related job, a non-law related job, research, volunteering, traveling, switching to medical school, or simply attaining 8 daily hours of a mythical entity known as sleep.

Besides having to choose which lunch-time event to attend based on its free food’s quality (Panago v. Samosas), figuring out what I want to do after first year has been the toughest decision I’ve had to make for a while. I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the whole thing-the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- in hopes that it may be helpful, or at least minimally impair your right to be amused by blogs.

The financial benefit of choosing to work over other options of the non-paying variety is obvious. Law school is an expensive endeavour and Vancouver is not a cheap city in which to live. Our collective debt is simply rather Big. So this first observation is nothing Earth-shattering.

My second observation from talking to past students, lawyers, and recruiters is that students are not expected to do a full time law-related job after their first year of law school. Most firms do not have specific positions for first year students, and most recruiters do not count lack of a law-related job as a fatal flaw in your application. On the other hand, some lawyers have advised me that having a law-related job is a good choice for people whose marks may not exactly be Smokin’ Aces coming out of first year.

Of course, your first summer’s plans shouldn’t be wholly dictated by whether they will help you secure a job after law school. Your interests and values should obviously play a role, too. Research, for example, is a great way to explore and develop your interest in a particular area of law, while applying some of your shiny new legal skills. Catching up on or getting involved in volunteering opportunities which first year’s busyness may have kept you from is also another great option. For some, a long break from any school or academic work may be just The Thing to de-stress from first year, while others can’t wait to further immerse themselves in the field. And of course, for those of you like me who are perpetually in a state of Wanderlust, four months of break is the perfect opportunity to globetrot.

The point is that there are many options available, and most of them are good for you. You can go down conventional paths, or do Something New. I have come to learn that the whole process of getting to and going through law school includes having to make some important decisions without having all the information you may want. It is about making the best possible choice with limited information, accepting that there is no way to know with certainty The Road which is best. Kind of like those multiple choice questions, where 5 out of 5 answers are correct, but 2 of them are just correct, 2 of them are extra correct, and one of them is slightly more correct than the extra correct ones. Be honest about what you want and try to keep as many doors open as possible. And all you have to do before getting on with your summer adventures are a few little tests. Also, The Lord of the Rings. There, I really wanted to use that one and couldn’t fit it in the dominant subject matter of this post for the life of me.

10 Reasons to Get Involved from 10 Students

I thought I would give you some fresh perspective by asking 10 amazing peers who volunteer in the law school community to briefly share their thoughts with you about why they get involved or why it is an invaluable experience to do so.

Disclaimer: There are lots of ways to get involved and it certainly does not have to be a law-related extracurricular activity. The following is just a snapshot of what opportunities are available at Allard Hall.

Campaign paraphernalia from students getting involved in Law Student Society (LSS) Elections

“A legal education is only partially complete if it is without the extracurricular activities. There is a lot to learn beyond the concepts taught in the classroom.  Getting involved has taught me a lot about the actual practice of law and has given me insight on what type of law I enjoy practicing.” – Clinic Head, UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program

LSLAP gave me a great opportunity to learn how to work with and manage clients. I liked having the opportunity to go to court and represent a client. You can sign up for files on areas of law you are interested in.” – Clinician, UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program

“Participating in pro bono is a great way to explore areas of law you may be interested in. It really opens you to the diversity of issues that are current and important to the legal profession in that field” – Pro Bono Student, West Coast Environmental Law

“Through my placement I came to really appreciate the skills we were learning in Legal Research and Writing and regular contact with the lawyers there was an invaluable exposure to the day to day of practicing law” – Pro Bono Student, West Coast Environmental Law

“I like being part of ILSA because it is a great community brimming with diverse people. ILSA puts on several events throughout the year so there are many different ways to become involved, as well as other unique opportunities I never would have heard of!” – Member, Indigenous Law Students’ Association 

“UBC Legal Education Outreach was fun. I enjoyed going back to high school to speak to students about the law and about law school. I received good feedback from the class; I feel it was a learning experience for everyone.” – Presenter, UBC Legal Education Outreach Program

“The reason I joined the club is because its a refreshing opportunity to get away from all the books while doing something meaningful!” – President, UBC Asia-Pacific Law Club

“I felt so welcomed by everyone when I started at Allard that I wanted to return the favor for incoming students.” – UBC Law Ambassador

“Volunteering allows me to broaden my horizons and to explore my strengths and weaknesses in non-academic settings.” – UBC Law Careers Committee Representative

“Joining Law Review is a great way to hone the legal research and writing skills you learn during your first year. It also gives you a chance to contribute to a reputable legal journal, and to get to know upper year students!” – Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief, UBC Law Review