Make Friends Before You Need Them

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friendsI recently spoke at my alma mater (University of Wisconsin Law School) on job hunting tips and tactics.  Although I speak frequently, my audience is usually lawyers, not students. While preparing the speech, I wanted to add some new tips that would be relevant to students.  I then asked myself, if there was one thing I wish I had done differently while attending school in Madison, what would it be? It did not take me long to come up with the answer.

Like most who spend time in Madison (whether for a weekend or years), I had a great time and made some very good friends.  Looking back though, I wish I made more friends. Who knew at the time that all the people I was going to class with were likely to be my best referral sources? Who knew that had I joined certain student organizations that I thought I had no time for, could have created valuable relationships that would be paying off today? Whoever even thought of joining the Bar Association as a student to meet other lawyers?

Oh well, hindsight is 20-20, but if you are a student now, do not just worry about getting good grades. Get out and meet your classmates, too.

(photo: steveleggat)

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  • As a weekend law student at Hamline, I was out of the social loop for the most part. But I did recall the advice we received on the first day of law school: these people around you will be your colleagues for your entire career, so start acting like a lawyer now. I managed to make a lot of friends in the weekend program, and I didn’t make any enemies (that I know of). I was, however, astounded at the vicious personal attacks engaged in by some students who were at war in the Student Bar Association. It was stunningly immature, and no doubt damaging to them in the long term.

  • This is so very true.

  • James M.

    Had the same regrets exactly, reminding me especially during reunions. I realized that these are people I should have made real strong bonds with while I had the chance then. Of course, I could still make friends today but it would never be the same. Friendship is like some sort of wine that gets better with age.

    Well, one good thing about this realization is that I could prod my children and convince them about the value of making really good friends today. “When the time comes, you’ll understand, my son…” :)

  • One of the unexpected pleasures of starting my own practice and trying to build a referral network is that I’ve made many new friends. Build good relationships first and the referrals will follow. And even if they don’t, you can never have too many friends.