Speed-Networking in the Virtual World

Tomorrow, SCU Law’s OCM department is hosting a speed-networking event geared towards recreating some of the offline mixers we were once blessed to have in-person. With that, I’ve received several questions from 1Ls about how they can make the most of that experience. I did a write-up about virtual networking earlier this year. These are just some more tips tailored to tomorrow’s event. As usual, I don’t claim to be a networking expert – especially as I’m still trying to navigate the virtual networking experience myself – so take these thoughts for what they are: a few quick tips from your fellow 3L colleague!

What’s the Goal?

There’s all sorts of goals when it comes to networking. Personally, I think a great goal for a virtual speed-networking event is simply to make a few interesting connections. Of course, the ultimate goal is to get a job but that shouldn’t be top of mind for tomorrow.

For now, this is an excellent opportunity to start meeting industry professionals in your field that might later become close friends, mentors, and maybe even managers. I landed my current role at Google thanks to one of these one-off networking events. I had met my now manager at an informational interview during my 1L year. Interestingly, I had never spoken to that person again aside from the follow-up email I sent after the event, noting that I really enjoyed our conversation. But when my name came up in the application pool earlier this summer for my manager’s team, I was picked out immediately. My manager recognized my name and remembered our conversation and that’s all it took for her to hire me.

That’s the goal you’re working towards here. Make the connections, follow-up via LinkedIn or email, and the opportunities will follow. You’re playing the long game, so be patient.

A final tip: keep track of who’ve you met in a spreadsheet so that you can follow up later. Yes – it’s totally okay to drop your LinkedIn in the chat and to ask if the folks you met with are willing to connect.

What is an elevator pitch and how do I make one?

An elevator pitch might seem daunting. I find it funny that as soon-to-be lawyers, we’re so good at advocating for others but we’re awful at advocating for ourselves. It’s weird to talk about yourself (it might even feel kind of braggy). Try to ditch that attitude.

Your elevator pitch is an opportunity to share the most important or interesting aspects about yourself in a short amount of time to an absolute stranger. Now, I might be in the minority view on this one, but I actually disagree with the sentiment that your elevator pitch is your “one shot” to make a good impression. I think that’s silly and completely disregards a lot of the social norms and conditions that create a relationship. So, I suggest relieving yourself of any pressure that suggests the elevator pitch is your make-it-or-break-it moment. It’s not. And if there’s a connection to be made, that connection will evolve and blossom regardless of your 30 second nervous-rambling about yourself.

Anyway, now that you’ve hopefully taken some pressure off of yourself, you can think about building your pitch. I’ve narrowed my pitch down to three points:

  • Who am I?
  • What is something interesting or unique about me that makes me stand out?
  • What am I looking to get out of this conversation today?

The who are you should be easy: name + year in law school + maybe what you did in undergrad.

The something interesting could be where you’ve worked previously (or currently), what inspired you to go to law school (or pursue a specific legal field), a relevant project you’re currently working on, or a weird wrist tattoo of a law that you’re oddly obsessed with (hey – it’s gotten me some job offers in the past…).

The what am I looking to get out of this conversation is completely left up to you to figure out (which you should really try to pin down before going into these events). Maybe you’re looking to learn more about a field you’re interested in. You might be interested in hearing about various career paths. Or, maybe you’re simply looking for more industry connects (that’s totally fine too…that’s the whole point of this).

Here’s an example of my pitch from 1L year.

Hey, I’m Jess Miers and I’m a 1L. I graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Computer Science. In my previous career, I was a software engineer but I was always more interested in advocating for innovation rather than coding. I’m interested in studying Internet law and I’m looking forward to learning more about careers and opportunities in that field.

  • Who: Jess Miers, 1L, Computer Science graduate
  • Something interesting: I used to be a software engineer but now I’m interested in pursuing Internet law
  • What I’m looking for: to learn more about careers and opportunities in the field of Internet law.

Simple. Easy. Quick and to the point.

Here’s an example of a more specialized and personal pitch. I still remember it because I was trying to impress the great Professor Mark Lemley at SCU’s Internet law works in progress conference (so I practiced A LOT beforehand):

Hey, I’m Jess Miers. I’m currently a 1L and I’m super passionate about Internet law and specifically Section 230. Earlier this year I gave a TED talk on the law and since then, I’ve been working closely with Prof. Goldman as his research assistant on related scholarship. My research opened the door to a lot of your scholarship as well so I’ve been excited to meet you!

I assume I made a good first impression, but I’ll leave that up to Mark! Just a few things about this particular pitch to note:

  • I knew a bit about Mark before I met him so I knew he was already quite familiar with Internet law and Section 230. That meant that I could just launch into the topic without much explanation. I also knew that Mark and Prof. Goldman have worked together in the past, so bringing up Prof. Goldman’s name worked a bit to my advantage by establishing some credibility up front.
  • My 230 TED talk was my “something interesting” for the remainder of my 1L year and the majority of my 2L year. Sometimes I’d also show off my tattoo if I wanted to look a little extra crazy.
  • My “something to get out of this conversation” was simply the acknowledgement that I’ve read some of Mark’s work and that I really just wanted to meet him.

You might be able to pull off something similar with your pitch if you (1) already know who you’ll be meeting tomorrow (do some research) and (2) if you’ve already narrowed your interests down.

Here’s an example of my current elevator pitch/bio (as an example of how yours might evolve over time):

I’m Jess Miers and I’m 3L at Santa Clara Law. Throughout my law school career, I’ve studied Internet law and policy. Since my 1L year, I’ve interned with Twitter’s legal department, as well as at a tech policy think-tank in D.C. Currently, I’m an Internet law and policy foundry fellow, a research assistant to Prof. Eric Goldman, and a research associate for the UCLA institute for Technology Law and Policy where I write and speak about intermediary liability law. My scholarship primarily covers Section 230 and content moderation. As of recent, I am also a full-time legal policy specialist at Google within their Trust & Safety department.

You might go about crafting your pitch completely different from mine. That’s 100% okay. Your pitch should be YOURS and whatever you come up with, you should be totally and completely comfortable with it.

One final tip: as you’re crafting your pitch, start a doc and save it. It makes it so much easier to have these pitches on hand, especially if you need to write a quick intro email or include a bio for a speaking or writing opportunity in the future.

What Should I talk about?

I get it – networking is weird and uncomfortable, especially if you’re more on the introverted side. Here’s my sample list of questions I like to lean on when I’ve just met someone for the first time:

  • Can you tell me about yourself and how you got to where you are now?
  • What were you interested in during law school and are you still pursuing those same interests today?
  • I would love to hear more about your role as <role> at <company/firm>. Do you mind sharing?
  • What are some of the day-to-day projects or tasks you’re currently working on?
  • What is something you love about your current role and something that you wish you could change about it?
  • What kind of skills and experiences does someone in your role have that helps make them stand out in an application pool?
  • What are some skills I could be working on right now as a 1L if I’m interested in obtaining a similar role?
  • How do you stay up on the latest news and changes in the law in your field? What are you currently reading? Do you have any favorite recommendations?
  • What is one piece of advice you wish you could have told your previous 1L self? What have you learned now about your role that you wish you knew during law school?
  • Is there anyone else you would suggest I reach out to for more information about <your company, your role, this field, etc.>?

Any of these questions should be enough to start a lively conversation. Remember, lawyers love to talk about themselves!

What do I do after the event?

Hopefully you grabbed some LinkedIn connections and emails. Add your new connections to your spreadsheet along with some notes regarding what you talked about (do this while it’s fresh in your mind!!). Start drafting some follow-up emails thanking everyone you met with for their time. For those connections you’re especially excited about, perhaps suggest a one on one follow-up/coffee chat and start establishing that relationship.

Pat yourself on the back for a successful day of networking!

Best Practices for Group Virtual Networking

If I understand correctly, I believe OCM is grouping students together for these speed-networking chats. Since we’re all still learning how to do things in the “new normal,” I figured I’d also include a quick list of best practices that I personally follow when virtual networking within groups:

  • If you’re comfortable and in a space that allows you to do so, turn your camera on.
  • Mute yourself when you’re not speaking. Don’t be that person. Also, un-muting is usually a great cue to others that you have something to say.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation. Remember that while you’re excited to meet new people, your colleagues are as well. Give them some room to give their elevator pitches and ask some questions.
  • Go the extra mile and support those that might be struggling to get a word in. If you notice one of your colleagues constantly un-muting and muting, they might be trying to jump into the conversation. Take note of it. If you’re on the more extroverted side, you might use your voice to amplify someone else’s. I like to jump in and say “hey, I think my colleague wanted to say something!”
  • NEVER (and I mean it, NEVER, seriously this is one of the TOP WAYS to get on my bad side) be disrespectful to or say something negative about one of your colleagues. It’s so tacky and gross and you’ll come off looking like a complete ass. This also applies to being a “no man.” It’s okay to disagree with your colleagues. Consider voicing that disagreement like: Yes, but to add to that point, I think… You’re networking as a SCU Law team. This is not the time to put people down (is there ever really a time for that?).
  • Use the chat strategically! Try not to hold long/substantive conversations in the chat. But, you can totally use the chat to drop a LinkedIn link, interesting articles, or anything else that might be relevant to the topic at hand.

That’s it from me! Above all, relax, be yourself, and enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and learn more about your future career. You’ll get more out of the experience if you stop fretting about the end goal and just try to have fun with it.

As always, if you want to chat more about anything here, just ping me (miersjessica@gmail.com).

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