Networking effectively while in an online legal education program

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Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

The good news is that more law schools are starting to offer online JD programs. This allows for tremendous flexibility. But how do you still network when you are in an online program? Opportunities to be on campus are very limited.

I recently spoke with Annette McLaughlin, Director of Fordham University’s Office of Career Services, and career expert, about this topic. Here are our suggestions to still effectively network when you are pursuing online education:

-Utilize LinkedIn: You do not have to wait until you are about to graduate to network on LinkedIn; start now.  “Have a robust LinkedIn profile,” recommends McLaughlin. Most schools have a LinkedIn group, and there are many alums in the group that you can connect with for networking. Most of the alumni would not be physically present on your campus, anyway. “Alumni networks are key,” said McLaughlin. “The alumni want to pay it forward.” Connecting with people online is probably as important as it would be to connect in person, these days. “The new currency is social capital,” McLaughlin added.

-Go to Zoom Office Hours: Most professors are willing to meet you online for office hours, even as we return to in-person meetings. Professors are tapped in to the legal community. They can be a great source of networking and potential internship and job recommendations. They can also brainstorm with you about different legal career options.

-Be Aware that Employers Are Accustomed to working with Online Applicants: “It is very common now to connect online,” according to McLaughlin. It is not at all unusual for an entire interview process to have a candidate operate remotely. It may also be a benefit that you are in an online program, and therefore likely to be familiar with technology. “Because you are learning online, your technological competency may be a benefit to an employer,” McLaughlin added.

-Take Advantage of Your Time on Campus: Many online programs have some in-person classes required, whether that be on weekends or a few concentrated weeks during the semester. Schedule in-person meetings with career services, your professors, and any alums in the community that you want to meet with in person in advance of your visit to campus.

-Register for Online Job Seeker Platforms: Your school probably utilizes Handshake, or another online job platform to post jobs and offer career events. Most of the job listings and many of the events will most likely be offered online. Make sure that you are signed up to view the job listings, and register for online recruitment events. Many of the in-person events are also probably recorded, for you to access at your convenience.

“The new world of work is hybrid,” McLaughlin commented. So given that, there has probably never been a better time to be in an online program, and still take advantage of networking opportunities.

Hillary Mantis works with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is Assistant Dean for the Pre-law Advising Program at Fordham University and author of career books, including Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can reach Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.