Networking events are so awkward. You are expected to make lasting relationships based on a thirty-second elevator speech and end up stuck in awkward conversations all evening. The good news is that there is a better way to network—by getting involved in the community and participating in activities that other professionals are involved with.
For example, the San Diego County Bar Association constantly posts volunteer opportunities. If you spend the day working with a group of attorneys building a house with Habitat for Humanity or counseling homeowners at a HOME Clinic, you naturally bond with your fellow volunteers and will likely want to keep in touch.
Keep in mind that your networking doesn’t have to be limited to the legal community. I play tennis on Sundays with young professionals from a variety of sectors, including lawyers.
I even found my first legal job through my involvement in a nonprofit. The organization sent me to a conference in Washington D.C. While having drinks with the San Diego delegation, I told one of the board members what type of law I was interested in practicing. He immediately pulled out his blackberry and put me in touch with one of his lawyer friends. I met with the attorney for an informational interview and ended up with a great job.
In sum, hang out where other professionals hang out, and you will see a genuine network develop from which you can draw in the future.