Ms. CyberLaw: Three Ways to Build Mentorship Through Emails

When we are first exploring law schools, trying to get a sense of specializations in law, or just aiming to draw inspiration from those who have achieved success in the legal field, we can overlook a valuable resource right under our noses: connectivity through email. Emailing a stranger can be intimidating, but what's there to lose in putting yourself out there and potentially gaining a valuable mentorship experience?

So, here are three ways to maximize your chances of connecting with others in meaningful ways through email exchanges.

  1. Do your homework: When first reaching out to someone, skip the types of questions you can find answers to online or through research. Don't waste time asking someone about what their current position is, for instance. Instead, try to build a deeper focus in the email message with questions aimed at how they developed their career trajectories and things you can't necessarily find independently online. It's never a bad idea to mention that you found something about them online and would now love to get some more elaboration on. To that end, if there is a topic you've explored or researched and now need help/perspective on something, make sure to let the person you're emailing know the steps you've already taken and the things you've done to try to help yourself first before seeking out advice/guidance.
  2. Be humble: Never expect and never demand that the person you are emailing is obligated to answer your question, engage in conversation with you, or help you out in some way. Be sure to very briefly introduce yourself and explain to them succinctly why exactly you are reaching out. Do not try to impress them by elaborating on your amazingly unique successes. Instead, be inquisitive and curious, with ears open and attentive. This might go without saying, but it is more likely that you'll get a response if you explicitly state that you understand that you are okay with not getting a response to your email inquiry.
  3. Follow-through: Once you've established a connection with someone, do not consider it history and done with. Humanize these exchanges as much as possible and always remember that there is a human (for now, at least) at the other end of the email message. If you then spot an interesting article along the lines of the person's work, shoot them a quick email letting them know it made you think of them. If you're in town and think they might have a moment to meet in person over coffee, reach out and cultivate the connection.

I hope this tiny piece gives you the courage to explore the opportunities around you and to take the time to be proactive about mentorships -- they don't simply magically appear; most of the time, they require some effort and initiative, and perhaps even a click of the "send" button.

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