Why Set Up an Informational Interview?
In the last post in the law school series I discussed questions you should be asking yourself before deciding to go to law school. I also mention the importance of meeting different lawyers and law students to discuss the profession. Whether it’s meeting for coffee or talking over the phone, meeting lawyers and law students for an informational interview can be very helpful when deciding if law school is right for you and what type of law you might want to practice (or want to avoid).
It’s really hard to summon up the courage to meet with people you don’t know and ask them questions. I completely understand, I’ve had to do it myself on several occasions and it’s scary but what’s the worst that can happen?
I am a naturally shy person but this is one of those situations where you need to be brave and get out there. Remember, as long as you approach it the right way, many lawyers and law students will be happy to speak with you.
Once you find your courage, how do you find a lawyer/law student to invite for an informational interview if you don’t know any?
Speak to Friends/Family
The easiest people to approach are friends and family. Even if you don’t know any lawyers directly, some of your family members might.
Perhaps someone you know works in a law firm or legal department in a different role – as a clerk, administrative assistant or in IT. If he/she works in a “lawyer rich” environment, ask him/her if you can reach out to one of the younger lawyers or someone who works in your area of interest. If your friend/family member explains to the lawyer that you are interested in learning about the law school experience and the legal profession he/she will likely take the time to meet for a quick coffee or phone call.
Lots of other professionals (accountants, real estate agents, bankers etc) interact with lawyers all the time, as do both small and large business owners. Put your feelers out and see what you can discover.
Speak to Law School Admission Coordinators
Most law schools have an admissions coordinator who handles admissions related questions.
Search the law school directory of a couple of schools in your area, find that person and send him/her a quick email introducing yourself. You can explain your interests, where you are in your education and that you’d like to reach out to students and ask them a few questions.
Typically the admissions coordinators are happy to help and have a list of students who are delighted to speak with potential law students.
Contact your Local Bar Association
If you have an interest in a certain type of law you can search out lawyers who practice in that specialty. One place to start is your local bar association. Most have “sections” based on different practice areas. For example, the Ontario Bar Association has 39 sections ranging from Animal Law to Trusts and Estates Law.
You can email the section “executives” to see if they can speak with you, but remember, these individuals are often senior practitioners who are seasoned experts and they might not be able to respond due to other commitments. When contacting a section “executive” you can try asking him/her to get you in touch with a more junior member of the section who might have more time to speak with you.
Most bar associations also have a division or section for young lawyers. You can email these lawyers to speak with them or to see if they might have connections in your area of interest.
Speak with Lawyers/Law Students in Various Practice Areas
Even if you have a strong idea of what type of law you’d like to practice, I would strongly suggest that you speak to a variety of people who work in different practice areas. After speaking with practicing lawyers, you might find that actually working in a certain area might be completely different than what you thought.
My Experience with an Informational Interview
When I was first investigating law school I thought I might want to practice family law. My wonderful mom (who is not a lawyer) bumped into an old classmate who happened to be a big name family lawyer in our city.
Always thinking about her daughter, my mom asked the lawyer if I could contact him to learn more about his work. He was very kind and invited me to job shadow him for a few days. Thank goodness he did. Based on that experience, I learned very quickly that my perception of family law and the reality of being a family lawyer were very different. Family law was not for me and I never would have found this out so early on without reaching out to this lawyer and spending time with him.
The next post in the law school series will go over setting up the informational interview, preparing for the informational interview and how to properly follow up with the individuals you’ve spoken with.
Have you had luck reaching out and meeting up with any lawyers or law students? Please share your tips!