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TheLegalSeagull

Niche question re: unemployed new call and cold calling

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Hello everyone,

I'm a long time lurker, first time poster. I have a niche question with respect to cold-calling etiquette.

A little bit of background: I summered with my school's legal aid clinic and articled in a litigation-focused government office which did not hire me back, although not for performance reasons. I was called to the Bar just last week. I invested very little time during law school or articling on networking (too invested in the raw legal work that I loved!), but now that I am considering civil litigation opportunities in the private sector, it's time that I should. I am definitely a litigation generalist, having dabbled in a few different practice areas during summer/articling.

My question is: when a firm has made a formal job posting, is it seen as inappropriate to cold-call/e-mail a lawyer from that firm for a coffee/informational interview, or request the listed recipient of applications (e.g. HR/office manager) to be placed in touch with a lawyer of interest from the firm for the same purpose? 

This really just comes from a desire to get to know a firm more intimately before making a formal application (and also wanting to avoid sending in cold applications) but I wouldn't want to do this if it's generally seen as disingenous or spoils a first impression before applying. This is of special pertinence as I just started seeking work now, and there is a mass of postings from various firms of interest.

Thanks so much!

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This is what I did to land my 1L summer & article. I cold-emailed because I am a chicken about calling, but same idea.  I got meetings with 7 firms and formally applied to 1.  I have run into every person I met with since I started my summer as well, and I think the connections I made with them are positive ones despite my not choosing to apply. 

Get in touch with your local CBA branch and Law Society as well.  Make sure you go to events they host, and work the room a bit.  Reach out to anyone you were close with in law school who works somewhere you are interested in, they may be able to meet with you to talk about their firm, or even put you in touch with someone in the firm. 

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, TheLegalSeagull said:

My question is: when a firm has made a formal job posting, is it seen as inappropriate to cold-call/e-mail a lawyer from that firm for a coffee/informational interview, or request the listed recipient of applications (e.g. HR/office manager) to be placed in touch with a lawyer of interest from the firm for the same purpose? 

This really just comes from a desire to get to know a firm more intimately before making a formal application (and also wanting to avoid sending in cold applications) but I wouldn't want to do this if it's generally seen as disingenous or spoils a first impression before applying. This is of special pertinence as I just started seeking work now, and there is a mass of postings from various firms of interest.

Nope, it is not inappropriate. I always try to reach out to firms/organizations I'm applying to before I submit, or in tandem with, my application. Contact is essential for me. 

How you go about cold-contacting is the real question. Because while it isn't inappropriate, it could be seen as an annoyance for the receiver, which depends on where you're applying.

I definitely wouldn't cold-call a random or partner in the practice area you're applying at a large busy firm in a big city. I'd cold-email an associate. Same goes for a government or large company. Don't start at the top. I'd also definitely think about whether I knew anyone there, or had a friend or relative who knew somebody there who could connect us (that, by the way, is one of the best reasons to grow your network: getting quick and painless connections as opposed to cold-calling can be very effective in the job hut).

might, however, cold email the name partner of a smaller boutique, sole, or small organization with a polite "Hi my name is such-and-such, I'm super interested in what you do and familiar with your work, and I'd love to find out more about the position posted in the OR today (or whathaveyou). Totally understand if you're busy and happy to be redirected to your associate, so-and-so, if she may be the ideal source of information about the role and your firm". (And be honest, or else become familiar with their work. Definitely never misrepresent your knowledge of someone's practice, or your legal interests/passion for that matter.) Write your email with a professional and respectful but affable tone. I've done this with great results. I've also done this and never heard back. Results vary.

You can feel out in any case whether a call is better than an email. I tend to flipflop on which is better. When I'm on the receiving end, I cannot stand an email back-and-forth and scheduling (then the inevitable re-schedules because I'm always busy) of a quick informational chat about my firm or whatever else I get cold-emails about. Instead, I'm always happy to field a call, and if I'm busy I'll just say "call me back in like X minutes or tomorrow". But when I'm the sender, I never make cold-calls in advance of an email. Whatever you do, if you call, be prepared for that call with your questions and narrative. Good luck.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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Thank you Iheartcats and FineCanadianFXs! Your advice was very nunanced and helpful, and also re-affirms the general approach I thought was sensible.

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I'm in the same boat as you @TheLegalSeagull. Over the last month I've cold emailed around 15 firms with a blurb that introduces to them who I am and inquires whether they would be interested in hiring me. About 3 firms rejected me, 5 didn't respond, 7 firms asked for a full application, and I was offered formal interviews with the other 5, which are ongoing :(. They are all 30-200 lawyer firms, so I don't know if this would work for even smaller shops. 

I've had the most success with applying to firms that either didn't have many junior associates in the relevant practice area, but had an active practice there (I searched Westlaw to check), or firms that posted job advertisements in areas of law I don't practice, and where I just mention I know you are hiring X, but would you consider Y? One thing I would do is always try to provide them with a writing sample, so they know I have good research/writing skills, which came up in every interview as a positive. 

But, to attempt to answer your question, I never asked for an informational interview like you referenced, and instead just asked for a regular interview. I see how you are trying to show you are interested in their firm by requesting that, and trying to show that you really want to go private (I get asked that at every interview so far), but i think now we can just rely on our previous work experience to demonstrate our interest. Like when you think about it, I don't know other professions where it is common to offer to meet someone from an organization you intend to interview at before the interview to get to know them, so I've never thought to do that. This is all just my opinion; I'm open to being corrected by someone more knowledgable.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, adVenture said:

...Like when you think about it, I don't know other professions where it is common to offer to meet someone from an organization you intend to interview at before the interview to get to know them, so I've never thought to do that. This is all just my opinion; I'm open to being corrected by someone more knowledgable.

It is relatively common outside law.

 

 
 
 
5 hours ago, adVenture said:

.... I see how you are trying to show you are interested in their firm by requesting that, and trying to show that you really want to go private (I get asked that at every interview so far), but i think now we can just rely on our previous work experience to demonstrate our interest. ...

I don't think merely requesting it does anything to signal specific interest in a prospective employer nor would it prove the candidate wants to change their area/field/go public-to-private.

Asking for an informational coffee, chat, whathaveyou, pre-interview---in any profssion---is simply a tool that a candidate can use to gather intel (about the organization, about the hiring/interview process, about the kinds of people who work there, etc.) before an interview. It is also a tool that a prospective employer can use to gather intel on the candidate (and potentially rule them out, or increase their interest in them) before interviewing them.

As it is a tool, it's always optional. But in my view, if you're affable and good at interviews, asking for an informational chat is a no-brainer: it allows you to gather information, it demonstrates that you're the type of person who takes initiative and is prepared, and depending on who you met with, it gives you bonus "interview" time or sets you up to have someone who may provide positive feedback about you. It also provides both candidate and employer the opportunity to realize or determine that the interview might be a waste of everyone's time.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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Excellent advice!

Question, should you schedule one of these pre-interview chats before the interview is scheduled (i.e. before you know specifically who you will be interviewing with); or should you wait for the interview to be fully confirmed first?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, teg4455 said:

Question, should you schedule one of these pre-interview chats before the interview is scheduled (i.e. before you know specifically who you will be interviewing with); or should you wait for the interview to be fully confirmed first?

Why would you wait until you've confirmed an interview?

The whole point of cold-emailing--regardless of whether an organization has posted a job opening or not--is for the people involved to get to the interview. For you to get an interview. Apologies if my above posts aren't clear. The idea of an informational chat is to connect with someone you either would like to interview you or to whom you are actively applying.

If you've already applied and have an interview, you would just go to the interview.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs

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@teg4455

Yes, to what FC says above. Do not be requesting a pre-interview chat if you already have an interview scheduled. No employer is going to be happy about someone trying to do that.

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