Once you have discovered a practice area that you want to learn more about, you should talk to attorneys who are practicing in your area(s) of interest. You will gather better information about what practicing in a certain area of the law is like from talking to actual practitioners than you ever can from reading, and talking to people is how you get jobs!
Who should you talk to and how do you go about it? Begin with the easiest source, your personal network, and talk to everyone about what you want to learn more about in order to generate a list of potential contacts for informational interviews. Follow these four easy steps:
1. Make a list of everyone you know living in the city you want to work in who is invested in your success.
Be sure to include:
- Your extended family
- Your friends from high school and undergrad – especially any who may have gone on to law school before you
- Your parents’ friends
- Your friends’ parents
- Contacts from religious or community organizations
- Your professors/coaches/mentors from undergrad
- Former employers who were impressed with your work
Are there any lawyers on this list? If they are close personal friends, simply call them up and talk with them about what they do. If your relationship isn’t close enough for you to feel comfortable doing that, then use the same techniques outlined in the informational interviewing section to approach those contacts.
For those on your list who aren’t lawyers, don’t assume that they can’t help you – they may know lawyers they would be happy to refer you to. For those contacts, move on to step 2.
2. Come up with a short introduction to what you are looking for that you can use as you contact these people, something like:
- As you may know, I started law school at Loyola this fall. I’m loving it. So far my favorite class is Legal Writing. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what area of the law is right for me, and I’m thinking that some sort of deal-making transactional practice might be right for me since I’ve got a business background and love to work with people. I’m wondering if you know anyone who practices corporate transactional law that I could contact to learn more about the practice area?
- Law school is going well so far, I love my professors and I’ve made a lot of great friends. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what area of the law is right for me, and I’m torn between two really different areas of the law. On the one hand, I’m drawn to commercial litigation because I think I would learn something new with every case. On the other hand, I love the idea of developing a real expertise in a specific area, like Tax or Employee Benefits. I’m wondering if you know anyone who practices in any of those areas that I might call to talk to about what they like about their practice?
3. Set a schedule to contact everyone on your list. Aim to make one or two phone calls a day over the course of the next month. Find a time when you can be in a calm, quite place (preferably on a land line), and begin making calls.
4. Keep meticulous records of every lead someone in your personal network gives you – you will want to remember who referred you to a great contact after you speak with them so that you can report back and say thank you.
In addition to your personal network, the law school has resources that will help you identify attorneys to contact for informational interviews. The School of Law Alumni Directory is a great place to start.
Additionally, conducting an advanced search on LinkedIn is a great way to find Loyola alumni practicing in a specific geographic location or working in a particular area of the law.
Talk with your assigned counselor about searching for attorneys in specific practice areas. Finally, check with the alumni relations office at your undergraduate institution as well to see what resources are available to identify alumni currently practicing law - especially if you graduated from a school with an extensive alumni network.
Information Gathering Step 3: Informational Interviews