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I’m looking for advice on whether I should modify my approach for cold emailing potential employers about articling positions in light of COVID. Any tips would be appreciated, but some of my specific questions are:

  • Older threads I've seen suggest setting up an initial meeting to build a rapport before asking potential employers about hiring. Given the circumstances, should I try to do some form of distance networking before inquiring about an articling position? Or is it better to just get right to the point? I know many people have "Zoom fatigue"/are currently dealing with added stress in their lives and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but I also don’t want to hurt my chances of finding a position by being overly blunt.
  • Is there anything COVID-related I should include in my email to help me stand out? For example, I could highlight that I have legal experience working remotely for my 2L summer job (which doesn't have an articling program, unfortunately). Or, on the contrary, is there anything employers might already be sick of seeing from students? Having trouble deciding if I should keep my initial emails basic or tailor them to current circumstances. 
  • I’m looking for a position for the 2021-2022 term. I know some firms or practitioners likely have reduced resources/work/hiring capabilities due to COVID, and might not know if they're able to take on a student at this point even if they are interested. Any tips on if/how I should address this? 

For context, I’m planning to reach out to smaller firms and firms/soles outside big cities, starting with areas to which I have a personal connection. Not sure if I’m completely overthinking this haha, so any input would be really helpful!

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What you want to do is use the phone. I know we all hate this. Do it anyway. Call the office. Do this in the afternoon and NOT first thing in the morning when no one will have time for you. 

You call and you be friendly and respectful to the person who answers. This is either going to be the lawyer or their right hand employee. You want this person’s good opinion. They will be passing it on afterwards.

A good way to start would be to say “Hi, I’m a law student in my third year at UBC and I was hoping to chat with some one about the work you do. Do you know if anyone might have time for me sometime in the next couple weeks?”

DO NOT open with “Are you hiring?” Because that is a yes or no answer and if the answer is no it’s a waste of time. But an indication of interest in the work, and interest in connecting with a possible mentor - that’s different.

Even if that firm isn’t hiring any lawyer willing to give up twenty or thirty minutes of their time to talk with you will feel an investment in helping you move forward. If they have work they will let you know. If they don’t they will likely point you in a few directions with some inside info (“Try Alexia, she’s about to start a big trial and might need some one” etc.) You need to be more than just a pdf in an email. You need to be a voice and a personality. 
 

Good luck. 

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I love cold emails; they are very easy to ignore. I literally have never responded to one (and I’ve gotten quite a few). 

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53 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

What you want to do is use the phone. I know we all hate this. Do it anyway. Call the office. Do this in the afternoon and NOT first thing in the morning when no one will have time for you. 

You call and you be friendly and respectful to the person who answers. This is either going to be the lawyer or their right hand employee. You want this person’s good opinion. They will be passing it on afterwards.

A good way to start would be to say “Hi, I’m a law student in my third year at UBC and I was hoping to chat with some one about the work you do. Do you know if anyone might have time for me sometime in the next couple weeks?”

DO NOT open with “Are you hiring?” Because that is a yes or no answer and if the answer is no it’s a waste of time. But an indication of interest in the work, and interest in connecting with a possible mentor - that’s different.

Even if that firm isn’t hiring any lawyer willing to give up twenty or thirty minutes of their time to talk with you will feel an investment in helping you move forward. If they have work they will let you know. If they don’t they will likely point you in a few directions with some inside info (“Try Alexia, she’s about to start a big trial and might need some one” etc.) You need to be more than just a pdf in an email. You need to be a voice and a personality. 
 

Good luck. 

 

21 minutes ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

I love cold emails; they are very easy to ignore. I literally have never responded to one (and I’ve gotten quite a few). 

Thanks for the replies! What I'm getting from this is that I should call rather than email--but other than that, I should just go with my pre-pandemic approach? 

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I got my articling position through cold email applications this past June after my original opportunity fell through due to the pandemic.

Here's my thread/comment on what my strategy was:

My phone calls were ignored at a higher rate than my emails were. I was often directed to leave voicemails, none of which were ever met with a response. My emails resulted in multiple interviews. One firm told me they weren't hiring, but sent me opportunities they knew of at other firms. 

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I much prefer receiving cold emails to cold calls. I would be annoyed if I received a cold call, had to call that person back, play phone tag etc. I do respond to cold emails which usually lead to calls but then at least things can be scheduled and the process is less annoying.

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Whether the office will respond at all to an email or a phone call is probably very office/lawyer specific. Some small offices have phone trees that are impossible to get through - you cannot reach the lawyer. Some lawyers will pick up any phone call, some lawyers will prefer an email. 

I have also seen students who want to work in my smaller town contact the local Law Association, who will then circulate an email with the student's general cover letter and resume. I haven't seen this lead to any hirings but personally I do review those emails. If at some point in the future I want to hire and I saw an email like that at the right time, and the candidate looked solid, I would contact them. 

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2 minutes ago, canuckfanatic said:

I got my articling position through cold email applications this past June after my original opportunity fell through due to the pandemic.

Here's my thread/comment on what my strategy was:

My phone calls were ignored at a higher rate than my emails were. I was often directed to leave voicemails, none of which were ever met with a response. My emails resulted in multiple interviews. One firm told me they weren't hiring, but sent me opportunities they knew of at other firms. 

Thank you, this is interesting and very helpful! I guess my millennial brain just assumed an email would be more effective (and I also found an internship through cold emailing in 2L), which is why I didn't mention cold calling in the original post. I appreciate the different perspectives! 

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7 minutes ago, canuckfanatic said:

One firm told me they weren't hiring, but sent me opportunities they knew of at other firms. 

That was one thing that surprised me was the amount of support I received from the lawyers i contacted in my job hunt. I cold called a big law firm for a position at one of their satellite offices and ended up getting a call back from one of the partners who took the time to chat with me and gave me some leads on who might be hiring in the area.

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5 minutes ago, BringBackCrunchBerries said:

Whether the office will respond at all to an email or a phone call is probably very office/lawyer specific. Some small offices have phone trees that are impossible to get through - you cannot reach the lawyer. Some lawyers will pick up any phone call, some lawyers will prefer an email. 

I have also seen students who want to work in my smaller town contact the local Law Association, who will then circulate an email with the student's general cover letter and resume. I haven't seen this lead to any hirings but personally I do review those emails. If at some point in the future I want to hire and I saw an email like that at the right time, and the candidate looked solid, I would contact them. 

I did read somewhere else that contacting the local Law Association can sometimes work but wasn't sure how effective it would actually be, so this is good to know. Thanks!

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I am seeking advice about writing firms for 2021 2L positions in BC/Alberta. Is it appropriate to include cv in cold email? Is it better to just reach out first? If there is a thread about this please share. Thank you! 

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I got both my 2L summer position and my articling position through cold emailing my application. In order to have any chance at success, you can't send cookie-cutter emails. Research each firm and write a cover letter and email that demonstrates why you want to work for that specific firm. 

Also, don't send emails to the general/reception email addresses. Send your emails to partners (managing partners or HR directors if you know who's in those positions). Try and pick people who may have something in common with you, i.e., same law school, same home town, same practice area interest, etc.

Edited by canuckfanatic
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On 10/25/2020 at 10:08 PM, Oneluv said:

I am seeking advice about writing firms for 2021 2L positions in BC/Alberta. Is it appropriate to include cv in cold email? Is it better to just reach out first? If there is a thread about this please share. Thank you! 

I merged these topics :)

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Can also confirm that cold emailing works - I got my articling job that way, although I didn't hear back right away and it actually took a few months for them to get in touch with me for an interview. Like @canuckfanatic said, try to email HR or a senior partner who does the work that you're interested in. If their email address isn't on the website, Law Societies will probably have a directory with their email addresses that you can use (the Law Society of BC does at least). 

On 10/25/2020 at 10:08 PM, Oneluv said:

I am seeking advice about writing firms for 2021 2L positions in BC/Alberta. Is it appropriate to include cv in cold email? Is it better to just reach out first? If there is a thread about this please share. Thank you! 

I always included my CV - I felt that it's better to include it if they decide to read your cover letter and it saves them the effort of having to email you to ask for it.

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I think others have covered the OP’s circumstance better than I could, but I do have a general observation from my experience as an employer (non-legal field) that I thought worth sharing.

It seems to me that in these situations – vying for an interview or job opportunity or even with generic networking – people often lose site of the fact that they are trying to connect with a real-life person on the other end of the conversation / phone / email / etc. Something very strange goes on and instead of thinking of the other party as a person, they think of them as some sort of category or thing: a partner, a firm, an entrepreneur, the head of HR, etc. The mentality underlying the exchange then devolves into something like “how should I address a partner”, “this is the head of HR I better make sure to not offend”, or “let me address some sort of other trait that I have associated with a position of this nature”

To be sure, it is important to know the rules of the game and depending on the position of the person you are addressing, the etiquette of the exchange may vary across contexts. However, this is really a secondary consideration to the fact that you are speaking with / emailing with / whatever with a person. This is a person who gets bored. This is a person who finds certain things interesting. This is a person who may be an arrogant SOB. This is a person who may be the nicest individual on the planet. This is a person who may take family life seriously, or not.

Why is it important to stress that the person you are engaging with is well, a person? Because it crystallizes the interconvertible fact that their preferences will largely be dependent on them, as an individual, not their place in the organization.

IMHO the best approach is to think long and hard about what you would like to see from a person emailing / phoning about a position if the roles were reversed. Would you like them to establish a rapport before having someone ask you for an opportunity? Would you like a prospective candidate to be blunt about what they are looking for and put it out there? I guarantee if you think hard enough about this, when you land a gig it will be with people you are likely to jive with. Trying to tailor your approach based on what you think someone else would want is not only a fools errand (due to the individualistic nature of our preferences) but if you land a gig, it may be with a crew that you really don’t get along with.   

All that said, I would generally endorse canuckfanatic’s approach for cold emailing (targeting individuals with similar backgrounds, interests, etc.) but not for any objective reason. I say that simply because my preference is to have a shared connection to discuss / bond over; and I like talking to interesting people (…and I am going to think people who have similar interests are, well, interesting. Remember the fact that I am human!)   

Best of luck!

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