Legaljob was recently asked the following question:
Q. A professor told me to contact [Joe at big law firm], but he ignored my initial email and follow-up email. Should I call him at the risk of annoying him? Alternatively, should I email or call one of his colleagues? Or should I give up and just mail them both a resume and cover letter?
Good questions. Some reactions to your approach and your questions: Read More…
LegalJob thought the article attached here about networking at legal events provides some useful advice.
Some additional thoughts:
- Do not eat or drink at these events. Keep your eye on the ball, which is to obtain contacts for follow up. Water may be ok as a mechanism for getting out of a conversation because you can finish quickly and have to refill;
- Do not stay for dinner. If there are two parts, cocktail hour and dinner, skip the dinner even if free. Folks are usually worn out by dinner and if you have done your work, you have obtained sufficient cards to work with. At dinner you may end up talking with one person who is not that useful to you when you could be working on your follow up for possible helpful contacts;
- Do not overstay in the conversation. Get what you need and get out;
- Take notes at the time. Every time you meet a new person, take two minutes to write three facts about that person on the back of his or her card. Perhaps one physical characteristic and two other facts that you may be able to use in your follow up. So bring a pen with you; and
- Come early. You can be the one that greets the first couple of guests as they arrive. It will give you something to talk about and get you in the chatting mood. Plus, you want to make sure to connect with as many people as possible in a short period of time.
This post continues on the topic of job searching outside the traditional path.
After you have “picked your major” and networked with people to get a sense of what you might want to do within that major, formulate a specific plan and execute. As an example, suppose you decide securities law is your major and you are interested in working at the SEC in enforcement to gain some experience (and potentially obtain your first job out of law school). The plan is to work for free initially and impress such that you are offered a full-time position there or meet people there that help connect you with other job opportunities. To get the first opportunity, try the following steps:
- Ask the law school career services department for information about events where relevant SEC attorneys (SEC is a big place so be specific in your search, i.e., Investigations Counsel) will be speaking, perhaps on a panel or at a conference. Brainstorm about which events make the most sense for you to attend.
- Attend the events and stay after the speakers present. Explain that you are interested in contributing for free as an extern or intern, depending on availability, if an opportunity should arise.
- Come with your resume and a cover letter. Think about preparing a cover letter for everyone on the panel so that you can be ready to give the letter to the person you end up meeting.
- If it makes sense, try to connect with multiple people after the event but do not be obvious about it or cut your conversation short just to get this done.
- The goal here is obtain contact information for at least one person and ask permission to contact them from time to time in case something opens up.
- Learn something meaningful about the person (and as a bonus something that connects you to that person) for which you may be able to reference when you follow up with the person.
- Follow up by e-mail first and then maybe by phone, depending on the facts (i.e., how receptive the person was to you, etc.).
- Ask that person if he or she knows anyone else that may be helpful to speak with about his or her career as a securities lawyer (not about jobs).
LegalJob recently participated in a panel with current law students and alum discussing how to maximize opportunities outside of on campus interview program. Below are some highlights:
- Pick a major. To make the most out of networking, it will be helpful to have some idea what type of law you are interested in. At a minimum, it will be helpful to determine the environment in which you would prefer to practice. For example, do you have interest in being a government lawyer, a big firm lawyer, or an-house lawyer? There are various resources to help sort through all the options. Check out Top 25 Practice Areas And Sample Practice Settings,” University of Michigan Law School Office of Career Services and the Office of Public Service
- Network with a purpose. Obtain lists of alumni from the career services center at the law school. Contact people to ask how they ended up doing what they are doing. Make it clear you up front you are not asking for a job but just want to learn about their experiences. Ask permission to update that person with your search. Meet with people with whom you have things in common, i.e., same hometown, undergraduate school, background, etc. If person was helpful, look for reasons to stay in touch. For example, send them a relevant news article that concerns a project in which they are working.
Here are some additional items to consider if you are thinking of leaving your law firm for a stint in government:
- Consider how your move could help the firm in the long term
- How can your move to x part of the government help with the firm’s current practice? For example, the firm has thriving tax practice but does not have a strong tax lobbying presence. Your move to the Hill and subsequent return could help the firm attract clients in that area.
- Always have a long view and articulate that view even if at this point in time you believe you will not return to the firm. You never know and you could be missing out on some valuable assistance for getting to that next step now.
- This is not BS. Before you approach folks at the firm (especially the partner who supervises you), be sure you have thought about and are prepared to talk about the reasons why your move will help the firm.
- Related to this point – be open to feedback from partners about opportunities you may not have considered and optimal timing for you to leave.
Are you thinking of leaving your law firm for a stint in government? Here are some items to consider:
1) Plan ahead
- It is never too early to start thinking about the next step in your career. No one else will and even if you have a good mentor, you have to be proactive and make sure you leave on a high note.
- It is preferable not to wait to consider leaving until you don’t make partner or you have several years with low hours.
- Leaving after two years may be too soon. Leaving after eight years may be a bit late.
- Perhaps you want to make partner first before you leave but leaving right after being admitted may be poor form.
- A good rule a thumb would be to figure that it could take up to one year to secure the position you want.
Some advice when interviewing for a firm job (or any legal job)
- Confirm your understanding (based on prior research) of the employer’s clients and the types of matters it handles
- Inquire as to the employer’s overall mission statement as communicated to its employees
- Think of three attributes you have that could benefit the employer (based on its work and mission)
- Prepare the initial list before your meeting
- You may want to supplement based on information your learn at the meeting
- Some examples
LegalJob was recently asked about advice concerning participation on a legal journal. Below are some thoughts:
- Definitely join a journal. The more you can demonstrate writing experience (particularly technical writing) to a potential legal employer, the better off you will be.
- Consider in advance of the write on competition which journal (or journals) that interests you. Prestige of the journal is important (so it generally makes sense to join the law review if you are able) but so is the topic area. Some items to consider:
- Experience with the subject matter from your undergraduate education or prior work experience
- Interest in working in the particular area of law that is the focus of the journal
An important practice management tip is to make sure to follow appropriate law firm (or wherever) protocol, including being sensitive to proper chain of command when taking any kind of significant action or making requests. In the law firm setting (and in many other legal jobs), there is generally a process and guidelines to follow before taking most actions. First. determine what the protocol is (i.e., face to face meeting, e-mail, formal memo, etc.) and then follow that pattern.
While following the proper steps, pay particular attention to whom you need to contact. For most issues, you will likely be required to contact your direct supervisor first before going above or even around him or her and contacting others. Remember that people are sensitive (particularly at law firms) so taking the extra time to follow appropriate procedure and contact the right person can only help you and potentially get you in trouble if you do not.
Some examples — looking for new work projects, performing client conflict checks, asking about your firm statistics (billable hours, collections, etc.) notifying people about or requesting vacation time, completing self-evaluations, asking for a raise, asking to modify your work schedule, asking about expense reimbursement policy, etc.
LegalJob recently offered the following advice for interviewing for a law firm job (or any legal job).
- Use as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate your legal reasoning and analytical skills by diving into the substance/weeds of legal issues (that you are interested in or worked on) in a concise way
- Go as deep as you can (almost like you are summarizing a law review article but you are the main character so the story is active with you playing a key role in getting to the bottom of the issue.
- The regulations provide x. That language could be interpreted to mean ______. That language can also be interpreted to mean.
- Commentators have noted ______