Informational interviews are essential for all professionals, but especially for lawyers.
Lawyer interviews help us learn more about what working in different practice areas or for different employers is really like while simultaneously helping us to grow our networks. Informational interviews can also help us determine which path to take to get where we want to be in our careers. But how do you figure out who you should be interviewing?
Whether you’re about to graduate law school or have been practicing for a decade, it’s easy to find interview subjects who can help take your career to the next level. Here’s how to get started and find the lawyers whose brains you’ll want to pick over a cup of coffee.
Once you’ve decided on the type of lawyer you’re interested in learning from, start with what you have: your current network. Who do you know who’s had a successful career? Who do your parents know? Who does your brother-in-law know? Think as well about professors you’ve had whose advice you value or former colleagues who might be able to help you. If a friend or loved one refers you to someone else, be sure to mention your friend’s name when you reach out. Before your interview ends, ask who else they might be able to introduce you to—something that goes for any informational interview you conduct.
Alumni networks (for both your law school and your undergraduate institution) can be extremely helpful when you’re looking to set up informational interviews. The best way to connect with alumni is to request a phone or in-person interview via a short and direct email that introduces you and explains that you’re interested in hearing about their experiences. Remember that every lawyer has likely benefited from the generosity of someone at some point during their career, and even the busiest of attorneys will likely make time to speak with you.
No matter the area of law you’re interested in learning more about, there is a professional legal association tied to it. And chances are, that professional association has a branch in your area. Research relevant associations and attend events if they’re offered, starting with your state bar association. Reach out directly to the organization (most have contact numbers listed) and explain who you are and what you’re looking for. Professional associations are a great place to go if you’re struggling to find anyone in your personal or alumni networks. Note that interviewees don’t have to hold the exact job title you want; they just need to have relevant experience that will help you define and clarify your goals.
Online networking sites like LinkedIn can help you identify people to interview as well, especially if you’re looking to learn more about what it’s like to work for a specific employer. Search via the employer’s name or by job title and reach out to anyone who seems likely to be able to offer advice. Since you’re contacting these individuals out of the blue, it’s extremely important to learn as much about them as you can. Read their bio on their employer’s website, as well as any articles they’ve written or been quoted in.
Chances are, setting up informational interviews will require you to write and send a number of email introductions and requests. Remember that these are business correspondences, and that your writing should be concise, free of errors, and respectful.