If you intend to work in BigLaw, social events are unavoidable. Whether you’re an introvert or a shmoozer, cocktail hours can be painful.
Here are 8 suggestions to help you conquer the cocktail hour and make a great first impression:
1) Find a buddy. Everyone feels more confident when they have a friend to lean on. Plan to approach a few attorneys in tandem during the beginning of the cocktail hour before breaking off to speak to people individually.
2) Research. Don’t overlook the wealth of information at your disposal on each firm’s website. Learn as much as you can about the host firm and its attorneys so you can come up with three or four good conversation starters.
3) Go early. People tend to trickle in to these events. Head to the event right when it starts. Fewer people will be present and you’ll spend less energy trying to get time with the attorneys with whom you want to speak.
4) Look for the loners. You will almost always see someone that isn’t engaged in conversation. Approaching these folks one-on-one is a lot easier than breaking into a conversation with a large group.
5) Listen. If you find yourself chatting with someone who is more extroverted, let ‘em talk. Be sure to be an active listener so you can ask relevant questions to move the conversation forward.
6) Remember, it’s the quality of your interactions that matter, not the quantity. Hasty 3 minute exchanges will tell you very little about a law firm’s culture. The point of attending firm events is to learn which firm will best suit you, so take the time to have meaningful conversations.
7) Follow-up. Commit to getting coffee or lunch with at least 1 or 2 attorneys. Connecting one-on-one in a more relaxed setting will be much less strenuous than straining to hear each other in a crowded room.
8) Practice. Chatting up attorneys (and other folks) during a cocktail hour is something that you will get better at over time. Figure out what works for you.
You do not need to be a social butterfly to be great at networking. Focus on your strengths: research, prepare, listen, and follow-up. Before you know it, you’ll be the one handing out business cards over a highboy.