Let’s say you’re a newly-minted rising 2L who is just beginning your post-1L year summer internship. You have made a list of undergrad and law school alums who work at firms where you could see yourself working. You have already sent the email asking for their help (remember, people love to help people, especially when you share an alma mater). Congratulations on getting this far. Know that most rising 2Ls won’t do this (at their own detriment).
So you’ve set up the time to talk (making whatever time works for them work for you).
Now…what do you talk about?
It’s understandable not to know what to say. Maybe you have dealt with lawyers at some point in the past or someone in your family is a lawyer – but this is different. Here are a few tips to help frame your mindset in these conversations:
It’s OK If It’s Awkward
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you have these conversations. Though it may feel like an interview, it’s an informal conversation with someone who has taken several steps to help you – just by merely being on the call! They are in your corner. Not every conversation I had during that rising 2L summer was productive or led me to an interview. But all of them helped reinforce this second point…
You’ve Already Won by Getting on the Phone
Barring some catastrophic slip of the tongue, just having the conversation is enough to show you are legitimately interested in the firm. After being a biglaw associate for a few years, I can count on one hand the number of students from my law school who have reached out to have these types of conversations. Unsurprisingly, one of those who did reach out and had this type of “informational interview” now sits down the hall from me.
Focus on Them
The point of this conversation is to learn about what they do and show you are an enthusiastic law student willing to work hard to get that job. The substance of the conversation should focus on how they chose the firm out of law school, what they like and don’t like, and what they would recommend to someone like you who is going through the job-hunting process.
Willingness to Adapt
When introducing myself on these calls, I consistently changed my story about why I wanted to talk to this particular alum. As a 1L who was more focused on getting a biglaw job than working in a specific practice area (how a 1L would even know this always confounds me), I was adaptable. I feigned interest in almost every practice area that law firms offer: M&A, litigation, antitrust, white collar, and the list goes on. On one of these calls (with an associate at the firm I eventually joined), I read their profile on the website and said I wanted to work in practice area X, coincidentally the exact same practice in which they worked. Or so I thought. It turns out their profile was out of date and they had moved into practice area Y. Losing all sense of shame or bashfulness, I immediately said practice area Y is also something I find “very interesting.” I didn’t really care where I ended up, I just wanted to end up at a firm that would allow me to pay off my law school loans. One year after that call, I started as a summer associate at that firm. Two years after that call, I began as a first year associate in practice area Y.
Time and Effort
None of this is complicated, but it does take effort and time. Keeping a spreadsheet in a google doc helped me stay organized. It was more a matter of googling alums on firm websites across the country and then crafting the emails and having the calls that led me to offers – in whatever practice area was hiring.