Chronicles of a law student intern — tips about informational interviews

Chronicles of a law student intern will be a series of posts that track a rising 3L through the process of securing his dream job.  These posts will be written by the student who will discuss which strategies have been helpful and provide additional ideas for securing a job, based on his success.  This post provides his insights about informational interviews.

"OCI was a disaster, however LegalJob gave me plenty of practical advice that led to a productive year of job hunting.  Following LegalJob’s advice I ended up with a summer position with a tax boutique, and a whole host of contacts that I can call on for my first full-time job after graduating.  Below are my thoughts about informational interviews.

Forget OCI and Symplicity; informational interviews are how most students will get summer and/or permanent jobs.  If you do not get a job through OCI, please do not sit around waiting for that perfect job to appear on Simplicity; it won’t happen.  You need to get out there and start meeting attorneys.  Fortunately, this should be a lot of fun.

How to Get One
LegalJob has already written about how to get informational interviews, so I will just add some of my personal experience.  It is worth pointing out that it is not easy to get these meetings.  With this economy, you can only imagine how many emails and calls attorneys are getting from law students.  You need to make sure you stand out from the crowd.  A sure-fire way to get a meeting is to make first contact at a panel or other networking event.  This way, when you email the attorney it is more of a follow-up, instead of initial contact.  If you can’t meet them after the presentation, just email afterwards to say how interesting you found it and ask if they can spare any time to discuss the issues further.  I had a lot of success with this approach and I highly recommend it, especially if you are struggling to find other points of common ground with attorneys.

If you are near a big legal community, it should be relatively easy to find events in fields that interest you.  Make sure you are a member of the ABA (there is a discounted student rate) and select a few areas of interest.  You will be sent plenty of invitations to presentations that usually offer free admittance to law students.  If you can’t attend in person then a webinar may be available.

What to Expect
You should prepare as if the meeting is an interview.  Although you are there to find out about the attorney’s career, you should already know their background and any other information that is on the website.  Have a few particular questions in mind in case the conversation dries up.  You should also be looking for opportunities to point out where you have similar experience or something interesting to add.  If you can show that you have already dealt with similar situations then you will leave a positive impression.

The informational interview is unlikely to lead directly to a job offer, but it should lead to further points of contact.  On more than one occasion, the attorney gave me the contact details of the hiring partner for the firm.  Before you know it, you will have a huge collection of contacts within your local area and may even begin bumping into them at panels and networking events.

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