Author Archives: kreid

Informational Meetings: Preparing Your Introduction

The way you introduce yourself to your informational meeting targets is incredibly important.  You must present yourself as someone seeking to learn about the local legal community and market, someone with genuine questions about their career path.  Depending on the circumstances, you may be introducing yourself verbally or via email.  To prepare yourself, draft an introductory email, which will force you to think through what you will say.  It is also helpful to have a Career Services Counselor review your draft for suggestions.  Focus on key phrases that reflect your theme, such as “excited to be returning home to practice” or “eager to learn more about the local legal community.”  Some other helpful phrases are “researching the legal market” and “gathering information.”  Tell the practitioner you appreciate the “value of their insight” and that they have been “incredibly helpful.”

Informational Meetings: Prepare Your Questions

Informational meetings are a great opportunity to obtain the insight and guidance of practicing attorneys in your job search.  They can give you tips on how they decided what type of law to practice, the local legal economy, and the culture of local legal employers.  To make the most of these interviews, you need an effective list of questions.  For example, ask attorneys what they love and what they hate about their jobs and the type of law they practice.  Ask how they obtained their first position, how firms in the community tend to hire, and how you can get to know local practitioners.  Finally, request referrals to other attorneys with whom they think it would be helpful for you to speak.

Preparing for Informational Meetings: Identify Your Targets

An informational meeting is an interview you conduct with a practicing attorney to research a field of law or a geographic area.  Informational meetings are also wonderful networking tools since they allow you to introduce yourself to members of the legal community and to follow-up with them to further develop your relationship.  The first step for successful informational meetings is to prepare a list of your targets.  This list should include attorneys who practice in the area of law in which you are interested, attorneys who practice in your chosen geographic area, attorneys you know, and attorneys who share interests or other affinities with you.  You can compile the list utilizing resources such as Martindale.com, the state bar’s web site, and the local bar association’s web site.  Each of these resources list attorneys’ addresses, phone numbers, and emails.  Compile this information in an organized list to identify your targets.

The Advantages of Small Firms

There are numerous advantages to working in a small firm.  For example, associates in small firms often have direct contact with clients and are able to gain practical experience with increasing responsibility in a relatively short period of time.  In addition, small firms offer the camaraderie of working closely with a small team and more opportunity for community development.  To make yourself marketable for a small firm, obtain as much practical experience as possible and network through bar associations and by conducting informational meetings with local law firms.  For assistance in developing your individual action plan in that regard, schedule an appointment with a Career Services Counselor by logging into Symplicity or contacting our office at careerservices@fcsl.edu.

What Are Small Firms Looking For?

Small firms look for clerks and associates who are bright, hard-working, articulate, creative, and who have good business sense.  Practical experience through clinics, internships, or any other experiential learning is extremely important, especially if you plan to practice in litigation.  Most small firms need associates who can hit the ground running with a small learning curve.  As such, you should work to obtain a minimum of 400 hours of work experience prior to graduation.  In addition, law firms seek candidates who have roots and connections in the local community.  These connections make you more likely to remain with the firm long term and enable you to better relate to the firm’s attorneys, staff, and clients.

Decisions, Decisions

When deciding whether to accept an offer, you should be examining whether it is a good “fit” for both you and the law firm.  Review the information you know about the law firm.  Will you be comfortable working with the people in the firm?  Do the members of the firm enjoy their work?  Do they seem to like each other?  Do they respect each other?  Do you like the geographic area?  Does the firm offer growth potential?  Weigh each of these factors and consult with a Career Services Counselor for guidance on your decision.

The Value of Small Firms

In a down economy, all law firms are affected in some way.  However, larger law firms are often affected far more than smaller law firms.  Small law firms have less than 50 attorneys and are likely to be in the range of 25 or fewer lawyers.  Because they are more lean and do not overstaff, but rather, hire as needed, they generally do not suffer the lay-offs and reductions of larger firms.  As such, small firms are often more likely to hire in a down economy than the larger firms.  Since small firms rely heavily on word-of-mouth when hiring, it is imperative to network and to utilize informational meetings to introduce yourself to key partners in small firms.  Contact the Career Services Department today to schedule an appointment to discuss your strategy for reaching out to a small firm.

The Value of First Impressions

If you will be clerking with a law firm this summer, it is important to understand the value of your first impression.  Each partner, associate, and staff member will be sizing you up when they meet you.  To make a good impression, dress professionally and have a confident demeanor.  You can bolster this confidence by meeting with a Career Services Counselor prior to your clerkship to discuss how to ensure your success.  For example, you can discuss what questions to ask when you receive an assignment and how best to approach a partner when you have a tricky question.  To schedule an appointment, log into Symplicity or email us at careerservices@fcsl.edu.

Pitfalls of Being Passive

In today’s challenging job market, if you want to find a job with a law firm, you can’t simply be passive.  One of the worst things you can do is stay at home, avoid networking, or just not follow through.  If you have a lead, you need to follow up on it.  Find local bar events that are likely to attract firm participants, and consistently attend.  Join a bar committee so that you can actually work with law firm members.  Law firms rarely hire through job posting sites, so don’t fall prey to the trap of sitting home and passively monitoring the internet for opportunities.

How to Work a Room

If you are planning to attend any bar functions or other networking events this summer, arm yourself with these tips on how to work a room:

  • Be genuine and be a good listener.
  • Make eye contact with a great smile.
  • Have a firm handshake.
  • Read newspapers, magazines, and practice journals before the event for conversation topics.
  • Practice department statements, such as “Please excuse me, I’m going to refresh my drink.”
  • Circulate.  Spend no more than 10 minutes with any person or group.
  • Always thank your host before you leave.