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Networking in Portland: Reflections

by Yochanan Zakai, UO 3L

In the Spring of 2011, I spent a semester as an extern in Portland. The opportunity to obtain significant legal experience in the General Counsel’s office of a company in my chosen field was helpful. UO’s Portland Program offers externships with Apparel Manufacturers (Columbia and Nike), Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Companies (Vestas, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Energy Trust of Oregon), local government (Metro and Tri-Met), public broadcasting, MercyCorps, the Federal Courts, and others. If the opportunities that the school has arranged are not a good fit for you, you may be able to set something up on your own, as one member of my class did with a software company.

The externship itself was a good experience, but I valued the networking that I was able to do in Portland even more than the job. My goal was to meet an attorney for coffee or attend a networking event every week. I was easily able to do so, and I established many good contacts as a result. Here’s a sampling of groups offering events where you can meet attorneys in Portland:

  • American Constitution Society: The left’s answer to the Federalist Society, this group hosts many events that draw attorneys from a wide variety of practice areas.  I attended the annual dinner for about $25, which included a cocktail hour and a really nice meal. The Society has several other events each year as well.  Also worth mentioning is its Portland Mentorship Program, which matches law students with attorneys in the areas in which they want to practice.
  • Multnomah Bar Association: This organization offers free membership for law students. It hosts many events, including lunchtime CLEs, happy hours at mid-size firms, and bowling. The “Young Lawyers Section” hosts especially fun events.
  • National Lawyers Guild: This civil liberties group has a very active policy committee that meets for drinks and dinner monthly. It supports local legislation that empowers low-income citizens and protesters. If you go to observe a protest, you receive a green hat that says “legal observer.”
  • Oregon State Bar Sections:  Every area of law, from Admiralty to Worker’s Compensation, has a section of the bar dedicated to it. See the full list at http://www.osbar.org/sections. Many of these sections host lunchtime CLEs, where you can meet experts in the area you want to practice in. Getting on these email lists is a benefit, too, because you’ll become familiar with the active attorneys and the issues they are interested in; sometimes you’ll even get a request for research help. Some sections advertise student rates for membership or events; if not advertised, email the organizer and ask about a student rate.
  • Alumni Kickball Team: If networking in a suit isn’t your thing, consider playing with the recent grads who have put together an alumni kickball team or two in Portland.

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Oregon Law » » Career Center » March 20, 2012 » Networking in Portland: Reflections