Susan Smith Blakely

Networking Tips for Young Women Lawyers

Summertime brings more than just beach time and fancy drinks with little paper umbrellas by the pool.  That's for relaxation.  Good for you.  You deserve it.

But most of you also have jobs to do in the summer, and that usually includes a fair amount of networking opportunities.  Here are some tips from to help you to become a proficient networker.  It may not start off as your favorite thing to do, but it will get easier over time if you follow this advice.  Some of it is pretty fundamental, but it is all part of a larger package.  Just go with it!

  • Handshake:  Two shakes and let go.  You do not want to become permanently attached to the person or make the person feel uncomfortable;
  • Name Tag:  Put it on the upper right side of your chest.  The eye of the person you are meeting will travel up your right arm as you are shaking hands, and Voila, there will be your name;
  • Networking Supplies:  A pen you can afford to lose; a Sharpie to fill out your name tag so it can be easily read; business cards; and a breath mint for emergencies;
  • Wardrobe:  It is always better to be over dressed than under dressed.  When in doubt, go up a notch;
  • Good Topics of Conversation (Ice Breakers):  Begin with "tell me" which gets any conversation going.  If you ask your conversation partner about himself or herself, the hope is that he or she will turn it around and ask about you.  Be ready to deliver your "elevator speech" followed by more details.  If you do not know what an elevator speech is, see my blog on the subject;
  • Bad Topics of Conversation:  The usual suspects:  Personal stuff like intimate details of relationships; sex; religion; and politics (just what your mother told you!);
  • Length of Conversation:  In general, three to five minutes and move on.  If you are really engaged, up to eight minutes but no more.  Watch for body language and eye contact to know when to end the conversation.  Remember that you want to meet and engage as many people as possible;
  • Eating:  Stick a nutrition bar in your purse or briefcase so you can eat it on the way to the event and do not arrive hungry.  You are not there to hover over the shrimp platter or the guacamole and chips because you forgot to eat lunch.  You are there to meet people.  Also be careful with messy food.  Those mile-high sliders are delicious, but they can be hard to navigate.  Stick to the easy stuff;
  • Drinking:  Know your limits and be a responsible drinker and driver.  If you want to have a glass of wine, follow it with sparkling water for the rest of the night.  That is always my rule, whether it is dinner with a client or a law firm mixer.  You have no idea how "mixed up" you can get at a mixer with too much alcohol.  The results are not pretty and will make you a bad legend in a short time; and
  • Follow Up:  THE most important part.  Send out an e-mail the next day saying something nice about your meeting (You DID get business cards from everyone you talked to, right????) and offering to keep in touch.  If you want to make a really big impression on someone you know will appreciate it (like someone senior who remembers how to lick stamps), send a handwritten note.  You will be surprised at the impact.

And, one last bit of advice from me.  Be prepared to walk up to a group of people or a sole person and introduce yourself.  If it is a group, ask whether you can join their conversation.  They usually will welcome you.  If it is a solo person, that person will probably be grateful for someone to talk to.  Do not spend all of your time in the ladies' room because you feel awkward initiating conversations.  That is what you are there for.  Just do it!

So, follow this good advice from, with a little editorial license from me, and you will become an effective networker.  Who knows, you might just like it!

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Become a Member

FREE online community for women in the legal profession.



Subscribe to receive regular updates, news, and events from Ms. JD.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe