How to Work a Room Notes

As you may know, it is sometimes imperative (or at the least, valuable!) to network as a lawyer. For that reason, I recently read up on best practices when networking.

Below are the most useful tips I garnered from reading Susan Roane’s book, How to Work a Room, in both video and text forms:


  • Consider bringing a buddy.
  • Arriving on time minimizes stress from being in a crowd.
  • It’s rude not to respond to an RSVP request.
  • Plan both event activity and follow up.
  • Always bring cards.
  • Read professional journals for conversation topics.
  • Use other people’s stories, and prepare jokes. Don’t complain about things.

During the Event

  • A good self-introduction lasts 7-9 seconds, begins with your name, and establishes what you have in common with other people at an event.
  • Look for people standing alone.
  • Try to behave as a host (meeting people, starting conversations, introducing others, and making sure people’s needs are met) rather than a guest.
  • Try to have a little banter ready.
  • Ask relevant questions, but not too many.
  • Ask groups if they don’t mind if you join them. No one ever says no to this, but don’t do it if people’s backs are to the room.
  • Excuse yourself by saying “Nice to meet you,” followed by a summary of the conversation.
  • Thank the actual host before leaving.

After the Event

  • Send physical thank you/condolence cards, not texts or emails.
  • Consider making a rolodex of contact information.

Everyday (and additional notes)

Use Twitter. Follow people. Add thoughts and links to valuable articles, videos, and information as Tweets, and retweet others.

Susan Roane has a chapter on speaking for an audience too, and one on trade shows.


Lawrence v. Texas

Key Facts– Here, Texas made it a crime to have intimate contact with members of the same sex. Lawrence appeals his conviction under the statute.

Issue– Does a statute prohibiting homosexual conduct violate the Due Process right to liberty?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– Sexual conduct and lifestyle choices related to it should be respected by the state. This is a part of the “realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Further, there is no legitimate state interest that justifies this.

Romer v. Evans

Key Facts– Colorado passed an amendment to its constitution to prevent the passage of laws protecting homosexual and bisexual people.

Issue– Is this a violation of Equal Protection?

Holding– Yes

Result– Amendment stricken

Reasoning– This law changes the legal status of homosexual and bisexual people as a group, preventing them from receiving any protection from discrimination, now or in the future. This desire to effectively harm a vulnerable group that is politically unpopular can never constitute a legitimate state interest.

Nguyen v. Immigration & Naturalization Service

Key Facts– A US statute determining whether or not the child of one US citizen parent and one non-US citizen parent was a US citizen imposed different requirements depending upon whether the mother or father was a US citizen.

Issue– Does this violate Equal Protection?

Holding– No

Result– Law affirmed

Reasoning– It’s easy to be certain of who a child’s mother is. It is much more difficult to be certain of paternity, especially when the parents are unmarried. From a practical biological standpoint, there are very real reasons for a legal difference in treatment.

United States v. Virginia

Key Facts– Virginia Military Institute (VMI), a public military college, admitted only men. Virginia’s discrimination against women was ruled unconstitutional in the Fourth Circuit.

Issues– Does VMI’s exclusion of women violate Equal Protection? If so, what is the remedy?

Holding– Yes. The remedy is to end the exclusion.

Result– VMI opened to women

Reasoning– There is no “exceedingly persuasive justification” for the state discrimination here. Rational basis is not enough, given the long national history of discrimination against women.

Frontiero v. Richardson

Key Facts– The uniformed services permitted a husband to claim his wife as dependent, but did not allow a wife to claim her husband as such, for allowance and benefits purposes. Lieutenant Frontiero sues to obtain the ability to claim her husband as a defendant under the uniformed services’ rules.

Issues– Does gender constitute a suspect category of discrimination under the Constitution? Is it unconstitutional for a government organization to discriminate based on gender in allocation of benefits?

Holding– Maybe and yes.

Result– Policy scheme overturned

Reasoning– Women, like minorities, have faced significant discrimination through American history. Here, the law violates basic norms in allocating legal burdens in an unnecessarily discriminatory way. Not all justices (only four) join the opinion that sex-based discrimination requires strict scrutiny, however.

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1

Key Facts– The schools in this case chose to adopt student assignment plans relying on race to determine which schools children would attend. Parents sue, because their children were excluded from some potential schools solely based on race.

Issue– Can a public school system classify students by race and rely on that in making school assignments?

Holding– Only if necessary to correct past discrimination

Result– Racial classification plan overturned, lower court overruled

Reasoning– Only one of the two school districts discussed ever had a segregation program in the past. At present, its past segregation has already been remedied. There is no legitimate rationale for the present system that would survive the Court’s strict scrutiny. Further, the Chief Justice argues: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Washington v. Davis

Key Facts– A qualifying test used to select police officers in Washington, D.C. is challenged here, because it apparently led to inequality of result in terms of the racial composition of the police force.

Issue– If a government policy has an unequal impact on different groups, yet is designed for neutral ends, should it be held to strict scrutiny?

Holding– No

Result– Test affirmed

Reasoning– This test is neutral on its face. If the Equal Protection Clause can be applied to strike down policies that are neutral,but may lead to discriminatory outcomes, there is virtually no limit to its application.

Palmore v. Sidoti

Key Facts– A Florida court made a ruling divesting a mother of custody of her infant child, because she remarried to a person of a different race.

Issue– Is private racial bias and the possible injury it might inflict on a child a permissible consideration in removing an infant from its mother’s custody?

Holding– No

Result– Mother’s custody restored

Reasoning– The Constitution does not tolerate prejudice. While it cannot eliminate private prejudices, the law must never give it effect.

Korematsu v. United States

Key Facts– During World War II, people of Japanese ancestry were “excluded” from certain areas, without Due Process. This was to prevent espionage and sabotage. Korematsu sued in opposition to this, after having been convicted for remaining in San Leandro, California.

Issue– Is this order, if based in sufficient grounds in terms of military necessity, constitutional?

Holding– Yes

Result– Exclusion order upheld

Reasoning– Military necessity justifies actions against potential threats. Because there was evidence that some Japanese Americans were disloyal, and there was no efficient way to separate the loyal from the disloyal, this necessitated action against the group as a whole. This was not based in racism per se, and at the time, it seemed justified, so the Court declines to impose the knowledge they have in the present in judging the past decision.