How Law Students Can Network with Adjunct Professors

Most attorneys highly recommend taking practical skills classes in law school. Skills-based classes are a great chance to develop skills you may otherwise not develop during law school.

Many of these classes are taught by adjunct professors—which provides an excellent networking opportunity. May the most of those opportunities by following some of these tips.

Step 1: realize the value of the networking opportunity

All professors provide a valuable networking opportunity. But many students overlook adjunct professors because they aren’t tenured professors. That may be true, but many adjuncts can actually be more helpful to a law student’s job search. Adjuncts are practicing law in big firms, government jobs, and even run their own practices.

Your adjunct professor might be part of an OCI hiring panel, part of a recruitment committee, or may directly hire individuals if they own their firm. Your adjunct is also probably pretty good at networking if they are teaching a class.

In other words, they might be able to help you get a job, might be able to put in a good work for you, or at a minimum, can help you develop networking skills.

Step 2: make yourself known (in a positive way)

Unlike tenured professors, adjuncts probably only teach one or two classes, and are not around campus. That means your chances to interact may be limited to before/during/after class. Asking questions before or after class is great way to have an actual conversation with your professor and show your interest in the class and actually getting to know them.

During class, you don’t have to answer every question or voice your opinion on every topic. You do, however, have to do more than sit in the back and check your Facebook page. Classes with adjunct professors are usually smaller, which makes it that much easier to spot non-participants.

The more of a relationship you can build with your adjunct, the more likely they are to help you out. Doing well in the class helps, but if you can develop a relationship over the semester, that is just as important.

Step 3: ask for feedback and incorporate it

Practical skills classes usually involve simulations, which provides more opportunities for feedback than one final exam. On top of that, you are going to get feedback from attorneys who are out in law-talking-land interacting with judges, clients, and opposing counsel. In other words, this is very valuable feedback.

Don’t be satisfied, however, with the voluntary feedback you receive. Pick a couple things you want to improve on and ask for feedback on those particular points. When you get feedback (assuming it’s constructive and helpful), incorporate that into your next simulation.

Showing improvement establishes that you can listen, you can improve, and you are actually interested in becoming a lawyer. All of those things will leave a great impression with an adjunct.

Step 4: saying thank you is never a bad idea

Adjunct professors are rarely motivated by financial reasons for teaching a class. Most adjuncts do it because they enjoy teaching and want to help law students become better lawyers.

That means they get satisfaction from hearing about how law students enjoyed the class, learned to do a specific skill, or even learned what not to do. Taking that extra step can a long way towards building a relationship.

Networking isn’t always easy, but it isn’t rocket science either. Follow these tips and start creating some relationships that will be beneficial down the road.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/devleermuis/2437921613/)

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  • http://www.passthebaton.biz/ Susan Gainen

    It is never too early to make a real connection with any faculty member. Three years of law school is over in a virtual minute, and you have the rest of your life to begin to use what you have learned, and to keep learning from your teachers.

    You may also get to turn the tables and teach your teacher.

    Five years from now when you are working through a knotty problem that relates to something you learned in law school, I hope that you have the good sense to call your teacher for advice. Most are happy to hear from former students and willing to engage with you in your real-life problems. Sometimes you may resolve your issue over lunch (you pay, of course). Who else might you call on as an expert witness (appropriately compensated, of course) or for introductions to other academic experts?

    Keeping your connections with faculty can lead to invitations for you as a guest lecturer, co-author, and for additional teaching and learning opportunities.

  • Rachel

    Wow, you write simple, yet amazing articles! I am still a junior in high school, yet I’m going to try to incorporate these networking skills in my life. I live in the heart of Silicon Valley, so you never know when you meet someone important. (:

    Thank you!
    - Rachel