A Young Lawyer’s Guide to Networking at the Barristers Benefit Ball

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Annual Barristers Benefit Ball for the past three years. As a young lawyer, I was at first hesitant about this event. It seemed somewhat intimidating, and I didn’t know what to expect. That changed in 2011, however, when my firm purchased a table at the Ball and my husband and I were encouraged to attend. I am so glad that we did! It was far from the stuffy event that I’d imagined. People were mingling, drinking and generally just enjoying each other. The prom-like photographs were a big hit and it was fun to watch other groups and couples get photographed. I’m also happy that my husband and I have some posed formal photos to look back on.

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If you’re considering buying a ticket to the Barristers Ball, or filling a seat at your firm’s table, you will not regret it. I have genuinely enjoyed each ball that I’ve attended. I am always pleasantly surprised by how many people I know once I get there, and I’ve met some great people while waiting in the cocktail line, or sitting at a table together. The theme has changed over the years, but the jovial mood remains. Last year was the first Derby-themed ball. I enjoyed dressing a bit more casually and seeing the wide array of outfits and hats. Some people stuck to the standard black tie dress code, but many more embraced the Derby style, decked out in seer sucker suits, bright dresses and extravagant hats. The mint juleps were a great addition and put everyone in the right frame of mind for a fun night!

Still unsure about whether you’d be able to make the most of this event?

Here are a few tips for networking at an event like Barristers Benefit Ball:

Don’t be afraid to be friendly. I’ve found that people at the Barristers Ball are there to enjoy themselves and have fun. Senior attorneys that may seem intimidating at a formal event are often in a more social mood and open to conversation. Introduce yourself in the cocktail line, compliment someone’s outfit, join a group conversation, or strike up a random one. I’ve found that networking feels far less forced, and is more beneficial when you’re in a less structured environment such as this and you can enjoy a pleasant conversation with someone.

Be cautious with drinks. Beer, wine and those mint juleps are flowing at the Barristers Ball! Take stock every once and a while to make sure you are still in control and able to make a favorable impression on those around you. You do not want to meet people in a manner that makes anyone think you are belligerent or out of control. Most attendees are imbibing and you can too, but as a young lawyer, it is important to remember that this is still a professional event with many senior attorneys that could someday sit across from you in an interview.

Try to remain low key. If you are on the job hunt and want to meet as many people as possible, this is a great opportunity—however, keep in mind that this is a social occasion. Interactions should be friendly and social in nature, not aggressive.

Touch base with people you meet. Swinging by and telling people you just met how nice it was to meet them means a lot. Touching base leaves a favorable and lasting impression of you—the perfect scenario for those job-seekers out there.

For first-time attendees, I recommend getting to the event right around the start time so that you have a chance to check out the activities, including purchasing a “mystery prize” for $50 which has a guaranteed minimum value of $60. Prizes include hotel stays, spa packages, restaurant gift cards, most valued much more than $50. You can also get in line for your picture before too many people are there. Come prepared to have a good time and definitely plan for transportation home—those mint juleps have a kick!

By Elisabeth Mankamyer, an associate attorney at Benjamin, Bain, Howard & Cohen, LLC. She practices in real estate transactions and corporate law, with a focus on real estate sales and acquisitions, leasing and business formation. Beth is a graduate of the University of Colorado Law School and Western Washington University.

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