How to Find Alumni Networking Contacts Using LinkedIn

So you have heard the CDO tell you time and time again that you need to get out and network? You have heard that the Notre Dame alumni network is one of the strongest assets available to NDLS students. Why is networking so beneficial? How can you find attorneys to network with? How can you take advantage of the great Notre Dame alumni network?

Notre Dame lawyers in your target market and lawyer graduates of any school, who work in the practice area or city you’re interested in, can be an invaluable resource in your job search. Meeting with alumni and other lawyers who do what you want to do can help you in several ways:

  1. You will learn what the day-to-day work of a practicing lawyer looks like.
  2. You will gain available insights into organizations’ hiring practices and how to make yourself a strong candidate for a summer or post-grad position.
  3. You will narrow down the kind of work you are interested in. If you’re still working on figuring out practice areas that interest you, there is no better way to learn than to speak to people working in that practice area.
  4. You will build contacts in organizations you’re interested in so that they may alert you to future job opportunities and/or advocate for you among the sea of resumes that they receive.
  5. You will position yourself to write more targeted and effective cover letters and to give more targeted and effective answers to questions in interviews because you can refer to your conversations with attorneys and show that you have done your research on the practice area or organization.

So how can you locate Notre Dame alumni and other lawyers who do what you want to do? One great resource is LinkedIn. There are several ways to search for attorneys and alumni in LinkedIn and this blog post addresses them all below.

Keyword searching using the NDLS Alumni page

As of this writing, 5,618 Notre Dame Law School alumni had profiles on the site. You can easily search this group using LinkedIn’s Notre Dame Law School Alumni page. This search function allows for basic keyword searching. You can search in specific markets, for employer names, or practice areas.

For example, if you are looking for attorneys who practice immigration law in Chicago, try searching for “immigration” and “Chicago”. This basic search yields 44 matches, including 2015 Shaffer Fellowship recipient Jessica Binzoni who is completing her fellowship at the National Immigrant Justice Center and is a great contact for students interested in public interest and immigration in Chicago.

As with many other online searches, LinkedIn’s keyword searching only displays results when the specific word you searched for is found within a member’s profile. So attorneys who do not primarily practice immigration, but whose profile lists “immigration” in some other place (maybe a law school summer position or volunteer experience) will still show up in this type of search. Similarly, searching for “intellectual property” will not display alumni who have decided not to put the term “intellectual property” in their profile but have instead described their experience as “IP” or a specialization within IP such as “trademark” or “patent prosecution.” Be aware of these limitations and don’t give up if an initial search does not yield any results. You may need to rephrase or broaden your search to find relevant alumni.

Fortunately for us, as of 2017, humans are still more advanced than computers so you will need to cull your LinkedIn searches carefully. But engaging in this process is worth it; if you spend time with your search results, you will almost always find someone with experience you’re interested in learning more about.

Advanced searching using LinkedIn’s search filters

Another option for finding alumni using LinkedIn is to run a search of all profiles and narrow down results using the site’s filters. This type of searching can be particularly helpful to find current contacts at specific employers, including government or in-house employers, who do not often have attorney bios on their websites like most law firms.

Start from the People Search page. Then use the “Filter people by” option on the right side of the page to narrow your search. To limit your results to alumni, filter using the education option and select “Notre Dame Law School.” You can and should also add “University of Notre Dame” to capture undergrad alumni who may have received their law degrees elsewhere. Undergrad alumni with law degrees from other schools are still considered “Notre Dame Lawyers” and many are very willing to assist NDLS students. Indeed, many of the mentors in the Notre Dame Mentorship Program only attended Notre Dame for undergrad and went somewhere else for law school but they are still so excited about speaking with NDLS students that they have signed on as mentors.

Don’t forget about alumni from your undergraduate university. If you are planning to build your career in Los Angeles and you went to USC, USC alumni are a very valuable resource for you and because there are so many USC alumni living and working in Los Angeles, you will get some great results by including them as well.

After you have filtered down to the Notre Dame or your undergradate alumni, then use the other filter options to search for specific employers, locations, or keywords. For example, to find alumni who are working as AUSAs, search for “United States Attorney’s Office” under the “current companies” filter. A recent search with these filters yielded 53 results, including Andy Hatfield, a 2014 NDLS graduate who became an AUSA in Lubbock, Texas only two years after law school and loves to talk with students who may be interested in a similar career path. This search also turned up many current NDLS students who are working for the USAO this summer and could be good resources for how to apply to a summer job in a United States Attorney’s Office.

If you want to narrow your search to specific markets, use the “location” filter. Using this filter and the NDLS education filter together will show you all alumni whose profiles indicate they are working in that particular market. For large markets like the “Greater Chicago Area” those search results will include hundreds of alumni, but for smaller markets or places where it is harder to find alumni, this search can help turn up people you would not have found otherwise. For example, filtering for NDLS and London results in 34 potential contacts, including 2013 alumnus Isy LeBlanc, who works for KPMG as a tax lawyer in London.

If you have a specific interest or practice area in mind, feel free to look beyond the Notre Dame alumni network

The more specific you are about the career path you’re interested in, the less likely you are to find success in starting your LinkedIn searches by searching for Notre Dame alumni. If you know that you want to practice in a very specific, niche area of law such as equine law, for example, there are only a few attorneys in the country that specialize in that type of law so your priority should be getting to know them, regardless of where they went to school.

Networking and reaching out to people is all about commonality. You are more likely to get a response to your networking outreach emails when you are emailing people you have something in common with. The fact that you and the ND grad you are emailing are both part of the Notre Dame network is a great commonality but at the end of the day, if you know you want to practice in a niche area of law, that is just as good a thing to have in common as being part of the same school network. The bottom line is: to maximize your chances of success in finding a job in a particular area of law, you need to know people in that area of law and should not feel like you cannot reach out to them because they went somewhere else for school.

Making contact once you have located alumni

Once you locate an alumnus or alumna you want to contact, how do you go about reaching out? The dirty secret of LinkedIn is that it is great for finding people, but most people do not have an email address or other contact information listed on their LinkedIn profile. You can send a request to connect with that person via LinkedIn, but many people do not approve requests from contacts they don’t know already.

Instead, use the information you can get from the potential contact’s LinkedIn profile to see if you can find their contact information another way. The Notre Dame Alumni Directory is a great hack for tracking down emails for Notre Dame alumni you find on LinkedIn. While the Directory is cumbersome to effectively search by keyword or employer, once you have someone’s name, it is easy to look them up in the Directory and they often have a contact email address listed. (All Notre Dame students can access the Notre Dame Alumni Directory for free but you do need to set up an account.)

Try also searching the website of the person’s employer; even if they don’t have a biography, there may be a master list of contact information. Another option is the state bar website where the person is practicing law. Many states maintain public lists of admitted attorneys with contact information that can be searched by name. Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg or even a simple Google search can also be good resources for finding contact information once you have someone’s name and employer.

Another fun trick is to find the email of someone, anyone, working for the organization at which the person you are trying to contact works. More often than not, the email algorithm for that organization is the same for everyone in that organization. So if you are trying to meet the General Counsel of American Express, who for the purposes of this blog entry we will say is named Karen Adams, and the janitor for American Express, Brian Smith, has a blog and lists his email as brian.smith@americanexpress.com, Karen Adams’ email is probably Karen.adams@americanexpress.com!

By the way, if you are trying to find the email of the actual General Counsel of American Express, you can go to the Leadership Directories (username and password are listed in the CDO’s Resource Center under #18 under “Employer Research Resources”) and search there. The Leadership Directories lists the top leadership of most companies and organizations, almost always with their emails. According to the Leadership Directories, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of American Express is Lauren Seeger and her email is indeed listed.

The CDO is also here to help! Contact a CDO counselor if you have trouble locating alumni or finding contact information for attorneys you find on LinkedIn.

Take action! The Notre Dame alumni network is only valuable if you take advantage of it

Finding alumni who do what you want to do is just the start of the process. This information is only beneficial if you act on it! Reach out. Ask to meet or talk on the phone. The CDO has sample Networking Meeting Request emails to help you craft an effective initial email. And remember, lawyers are busy and won’t always get back to you right away but if you don’t hear from someone for a while after your initial email, just email them again.

Make it your goal to talk with at least two new attorneys per week and keep sending emails until you meet this goal. And don’t forget to nurture the relationships you build. Send follow up emails to particularly helpful contacts. Stay in touch. Creating an army of people who know you and are dedicated to your success is the best way to get where you want to go!

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