By Paula M Jones • August 31, 2020•Writers in Residence, Careers, Other Career Issues, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Internships and Clerkships
“If it makes you happy, it is what you are supposed to do” – Pat Rodegast
In Part One of “How To Find A Job You Love”, you learned to identify your Networks and reach out to Network members to expand your contacts within your field of interest. Now, you are going to reach out to those contacts and set up meetings with them.
Each meeting is an opportunity to expand your Network even more. Yes, you will receive good advice and an opportunity to speak to people in your desired practice area. Yes, you will hear all kinds of different perspectives from a variety of practitioners. However, ultimately, you are trying to find a job. The more people you meet with, the greater the likelihood that when an opportunity arises, your name will be top of mind. That is the crucial purpose of each of these meetings.
At the end of Part One, you sent out emails requesting names of people to contact from your Network members. You now have some contacts in your desired practice area that you want to meet with. Now what?
Step Three: Set Up Meetings
The most likely method by which you will garner responses is by stating that your Network member suggested that you contact them. This is crucial. People are far more likely to respond to you if introduced by someone they know well. It is all too easy to ignore the many emails sitting in one’s inbox, especially those from people with whom one is unfamiliar. This is the philosophy behind the expression, “Go ahead and use my name.” It’s gold.
Always ask for an in-person meeting if the contact is geographically close - and if we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic. Otherwise, ask for a video chat, since, thanks to our global pandemic, just about everyone is now familiar with this mode of communication. A phone call is the least desirable mode of communication, but it is still a communication.
Example #1: Professor Yeadon suggested that I contact you. I’m a former student of hers with a degree in Communications and am interested in a career in entertainment law. I would love to hear any advice you can give to a student about your practice. Do you have some time in the next couple of weeks to meet briefly? I just need 30 minutes of your time.
Example #2: Meaghan Sullivan suggested that I contact you. She and I went to high school together and she thought of you when I mentioned my interest in IT law. I would really appreciate any career advice you might give regarding your experiences in that area. It will not take any more than 30 minutes – do you have an opening in the next couple of weeks for a video chat?
Example #3: Jane Doe, a fellow member of Law Students Facebook Group Member suggested that I contact you. I am moving into my third year at XYZ School and would really appreciate a call to discuss your experiences in practicing law. I could use all the advice I can get! Do you have some time in the next couple of weeks for a video chat?
If you hear back from 50% of the people you have contacted, that is a massive success. Some people will be really nice about it – they will not only give you 30 minutes but they might go overboard and invite you out to lunch. Others might be somewhat dismissive and perhaps say that they don’t think they can give you much advice. Thank them for their response, assure them you would benefit from anything they had to say and tone down your request to a brief telephone call, rather than a meeting.
A couple of weeks after your first round of emails, send follow up emails to those who haven’t responded.
Step Four: The Meeting
So, you’ve scheduled a meeting or two with real, live practicing lawyers. They can broaden your understanding of the daily life of lawyers, but more importantly, they know a bunch of other lawyers. You are going to borrow their legal Networks to expand your own.
Hopefully this part goes without saying, but, you are going to:
1. Be on time.
2. Dress appropriately.
3. Shake hands firmly.
4. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
5. Do not exceed the amount of time you requested of them.
Once you have said your hellos and sat down, you can start a conversation by mentioning the person you know in common. You might say something like:
So, Professor Yeadon was one of my favorite professors. It sounds like you’ve known each other a long time.
Meaghan Sullivan and I went to high school together. She had all good things to say about you.
I’m a member of the Law Students Facebook Group and Jane Doe is a member, too. She was kind enough to respond to my request for good people to meet with.
It may seem surprising to know that the person you are meeting with might be just a nervous as you are, despite being much older and much more experienced. People are human and meeting with someone can be nerve-wracking. So, help them out by having ready questions or comments, to prevent any awkward silences.
Be prepared with a list of questions you might ask, which might include:
1. How did you wind up practicing in this area of law?
2. What is a typical day like for you?
3. What advice do you wish you had been given when you were in my position?
Be prepared to work in enough information about yourself to let everyone know you are serious about working in the field, are a capable person and would make a good colleague. You want to make it easier for people to recommend you for any opportunity they may hear about in the future. Make yourself “an easy sell”. Be prepared to communicate the following points:
1. Articulate what drew you to this field of interest.
2. Work into the conversation any law-related coursework you’ve taken or extra-curricular activities in which you’ve been involved.
3. Mention any current events related to the practice area.
You might really connect with the person you are meeting with and gain some helpful advice. You might not. It doesn’t really matter. Be at your best, make a good impression and again, the main purpose is to get at least one – but more like three – names of other people with whom you can email and ask for advice.
So, as you approach the end of the 30 minutes of time you requested for this meeting, it’s time for the Big Ask. Say something like: “Well, I really appreciate your time today. Is there anyone else you can think of that I should talk to for advice?” Write down the names they mention and thank them for helping you out.
The final step in your meeting is to stand up, whip out your resume and say, “If you hear of any opportunities, here is my resume. Feel free to pass my name along. I’m really interested in this area. Thanks again – so much!”
Meeting adjourned. Take the names you have been given from your meetings and go back to Step Three, above. Repeat.