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Student Lawyer

Professional Development

Authentic Networking Is the Key to a Successful Legal Career

Jennifer Trusso Salinas


  • Jennifer Salinas, senior vice president and general counsel of Cerence Inc., emphasizes the critical role of genuine connections in networking for career success, stressing that the quality of relationships is more impactful than the quantity of contacts.
  • New lawyers should invest their time wisely, focusing on building sincere connections with individuals and groups who share common interests or experiences.
  • Authenticity matters, not just for job opportunities but also for understanding the unwritten rules in the legal field. It is important to keep an open mind, learn from diverse networks, and cultivate authentic relationships outside the law to enhance your skill set and uncover potential niches.
Authentic Networking Is the Key to a Successful Legal Career
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Your network is only as good as the people in it. Choose those with whom you have genuine bonds.

You’ve surely been told the importance of networking as you look toward life after passing the bar. I know I was.

While I certainly understood that having a strong network would be helpful in my career, I don’t think I could have possibly imagined back in law school just how fundamental my network would be to achieving success.

Build Sincere Connections

Networking is a broad term that many (including a younger me) tend to define as attending industry events and mingling with as many people as possible. However, I’ve learned that the kind of networking that has the power to impact your career fundamentally isn’t about how many business cards you collect or cocktail parties you attend.

It starts and ends with quality human relationships built on authentic connections.

As human beings, we thrive off connecting with others who share our interests and experiences. Networking becomes more natural and authentic when you identify what someone else has in common with you—whether that’s a hobby you both enjoy or a work situation you’ve both gone through or are going through.

For young lawyers, time is at a premium. It’s important to invest it wisely. Find the individuals and groups you can build a sincere connection with.

Why Authenticity Matters

Your network will not only be important in sourcing job opportunities. It will also be your guide to understanding the unwritten “rules of engagement” in the legal field.

Success in law is more formulaic than I realized. Of course, good work is table stakes. What sets the best lawyers apart is that they’re the go-to people in the room—whether for a certain person or group of people or a certain topic.

Becoming a go-to person doesn’t require decades in the field, but it does require having a strong network of people you can consult, learn from, and grow with.

When I think back to law school, I wish I’d known that networking didn’t have to be a stressful night of planned conversations with everyone in the room. A large network full of opportunities was achievable just by being me.

By freeing myself to focus energy and time networking where I felt most authentic, I was able to build a broad, wide, and diverse network of mentors, friends, and colleagues. Together, they’ve helped me each step of my career and continue challenging me in ways I never imagined.

Keeping an Open Mind

So much of what I think has defined my career hasn’t been what I read in a law school book. Rather, it’s been what I learned by keeping an open mind and listening to those in my network—including those outside of law.

Having authentic connections with people in industries and professions outside of yours will help round out your skillset. Soft skills transcend industry. Leadership is leadership, whether you’re in law, technology, or something else. You can learn a lot from those who’ve been successful in their own industries and apply the same skills to your career as a lawyer.

I’ve found that perhaps surprising to a younger me, cultivating authentic relationships outside of law can help in uncovering and developing a niche. My focus on AI and patent law resulted from networking with those in the technology field in my early days as a young lawyer. By taking time to authentically connect and really understand what others were doing in their respective industries, I was able to best set myself up as an expert in areas poised for growth.

What you’ve heard is true: networking is important. But your network is only as good as the people in it. Make it those who bring out your best, including stretching you far more than you ever thought was possible.