October 24, 2012
by Courtney Peck
It’s all about who you know. Well, maybe it isn’t all about who you know, but it doesn’t hurt to have a solid network of attorneys who know who you are and who might be willing to answer questions throughout your law school career.
Informational interviewing is one of the best ways to build your network. At the same time, it allows you to get a good feel for specific practice areas or law firms in which you are interested. Since informational interviewing was completely new to me when I first started law school, I thought it would be helpful to write this blog post about how to approach attorneys for informational interviews, as well as the etiquette of informational interviews.
Use the resources you already have. If you’re interested in learning about what it’s like to practice a specific area of the law, ask your mentor if he or she knows anyone practicing in that area. You can also ask the folks in Career and Professional Development Center if they know of any alum. Once you start applying to jobs, you can do the same thing for the places you are applying. If neither your mentor nor the CPDC office knows of someone (which is highly unlikely), you can also look on firms’ websites to find someone to contact.
Contact the attorney. I like to send an email including the following pieces of information: 1) any mutual contacts we may have (my mentor, someone in the CPDC office, etc.); 2) why I am interested in speaking to them; 3) a brief list of my availability. Attorneys are usually available to meet for coffee or lunch and many times are delighted to speak to law students about their careers. However, if an attorney does not reply to your email, do not pester him by sending another one. There’s probably a good reason for his non-response.
Informational Interview Etiquette:
- Be on time. Try to arrive ten minutes in advance of your meeting time.
- Look sharp. Business casual is usually okay. But if the attorney asks you to meet at her office, wear a suit.
- Use your manners. Don’t order buffalo wings or other messy foods!
- Have a list of questions prepared.
- Offer to pay. They will almost always deny your offer, but it’s still nice to show them you weren’t just trying to get some free lunch.
- Send a thank you note. Ideally, you would do this within the first 24-48 hours. But it is better to do so late than not at all. Handwritten thank you notes are the preferred way to go, but if you have terrible handwriting, email is also acceptable.
I was terrified during my first couple of informational interviews. But I quickly realized that most attorneys are extremely nice and love being helpful. With that in mind, I hope you’ll take the plunge into the wonderful world of networking!