LegalJob received the following timely (given recent posts) question (and provided the answer below) in the Mailbag Monday series.
Q: You advise to reach out to successful attorneys practicing in your desired field with which you have something in common. Good advice and I have tried that several times but have not even received a response to my e-mail. How do you get them to respond?
Answer: This is a common question and LegalJob has a couple of posts on this subject because it bears repeating. LegalJob advises that folks are more likely to respond if it is clear that you have a plan and know what you want out of the contact. Many people want to help those who are looking for a job. If they agree to meet in person or talk with you on the phone, that is the proof. The problem is that those looking for a job generally do not ask for anything further than the initial meeting.
You are likely to increase your chance of getting a meeting if you have done your research about the practice and the firm and can articulate your specific purpose clearly, succinctly, and right upfront. Also, if possible, give the person a reason to be interested in talking with you (other than because they are interested in helping people or you are a friend of someone). You need a hook. A hook is something you bring to the table that you have reason to believe (based on your due diligence) that the person could benefit in some way from your skill/experience/talent/contact, etc. For example, you understand the firm does X work with a concentration on the unique sub-specialty of ________ and you do the same work at your current job, or you just wrote an article on the subject, or know of a helpful article or recent case, etc. LegalJob will post more on this subject later.
Do not merely say you are interested in learning about the firm at which they work or their career path. That may be part of what you want to know but if you that is all you leave with (assuming someone even responds to that generic request), you have not accomplished as much as you could have.
Ask for items like two additional contacts in the field whom you can talk with, any inside knowledge he or she has about firms xyz and abc, or the chance to get your resume in the file cabinet if and when the firm has an opening, or specific career advice (like government versus big firm) based on that person’s personal experiences.