The OPIA Blog

Exploring Public Interest Resources at HLS: Networking

Networking is an essential part of getting to know the world of public interest law. But sometimes, it can feel intimidating to approach a potential contact, or hard to know where to plug in and get started. Review the Q&A below to help make networking a smoother part of your professional journey.

Why is networking important?

The purpose of networking is not to emerge from every connection with an internship interview or offer! Networking offers an opportunity to learn more about a particular field of law, organization, or individual practitioner’s journey. Try to meet people who can offer advice for your search, answer questions about career choices, and provide you with more contacts who may be able to help you progress in your internship search. They can give you a closer look at the practical aspects of their own jobs and provide details that you may find critical when deciding where to apply.

I don’t have a big network. How do I even learn about who to contact?

It’s OK not to start with a big network. Every person you meet along the way can help expand your network more and more by linking you with other contacts or paths to consider. Some places to start building your network include the Who Worked Where lists, our current and past Heyman Fellows, and student contacts in the Helios public service organizations database. Check out more sources for creating a contact list. You can also come to drop-in office hours and/or make an advising appointment to ask about potential contacts within particular organizations or tips for your outreach.

How do I reach out to someone with whom I’d like to connect?

You can send an email to a potential networking contact and ask for a phone call or virtual meeting. Make sure that your contact understands that you are not looking for a job interview, but only an opportunity to discuss your career journey and obtain some professional feedback. Review our sample networking emails and thank-you notes.

What are some things I should keep in mind when networking?

Make sure that you prepare for your phone call or virtual meeting with a networking contact by researching their organization and biography in advance. After spending a few minutes breaking the ice during a networking meeting (also called an “informational interview”), it will likely be up to you to focus the conversation and ask questions. Refer to our Professionalism Guide and our list of sample questions to ask during informational interviews to help you prepare. Also remember to keep a pen and paper handy during the meeting, in case you need to write down any names, phone numbers, or other information.

How else can I build or brush up on my networking skills?

You can plug into ready-made opportunities to network through OPIA, like our upcoming Virtual Public Interest Networking Reception on Wednesday, January 19! Other opportunities to network throughout the year include attending events and one-and-one advising sessions with Wasserstein Fellows, and reaching out to HLS faculty with a public interest background or focus.