During a fun, interactive workshop with a panel of lawyers from Montgomery County, UB School of Law students had a chance to develop and practice their “elevator speeches” and overcome jitters about networking.
Steven J. Bienstock, president of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, led the Jan. 15 workshop, which was organized by the UB Law Career Development Office. He was joined by colleagues Eduardo S. Garcia, Julie Petersen, Leslie R. Janis, and UB School of Law alumni Donna E. Van Scoy and Magistrate Clark E. Wisor III.
“Networking can be a source of anxiety,” Bienstock told the students, who crowded the 12th floor and enjoyed pizza during the presentation. To keep nervousness at bay, he said, be mindful of your goals when meeting new people. Ask yourself, how can this person be helpful to you, and vice versa? What do you want to learn from this person, and how do you want him or her to remember you after the encounter? Make sure you exchange contact info so you can continue the conversation another time.
He emphasized that in the business world, new acquaintances are more likely to judge you on how you answer questions than on the answers themselves. Your ability to present information, advocate for a point of view, and respond to feedback are often as valuable as your command of facts in a given situation, he said.
Bienstock got the students out of their seats to role-play in several networking scenarios. He prompted them to “be succinct,” anticipate questions they might be asked and have answers ready, and remember that “first impressions are crucial.”
The panelists described how networking helped them at various points in their legal careers, whether it was obtaining clients, finding a new job, or working out a difficult negotiation. “Friendships matter,” said Magistrate Wisor. “They will save your behind time after time.” Another tip he offered was, “Learn your bench. If Donna (Van Scoy) comes before me and she says it’s raining, I don’t have to go look.”
Effective networkers see opportunities everywhere, said Bienstock. “Everyone you meet is a potential client, a potential employer, a potential friend, a potential relationship.”