Networking emails can be a powerful tool for law students and new lawyers embroiled in the job search. Here’s how to write an email that people will actually want to respond to, including a template and example you can use.
I recently spoke to a young attorney who was having a hard time finding a job. To her credit, she wasn't just sending out résumés and waiting for people to call her back; she was going to networking events and sending out emails requesting informational interviews. But no one was responding to her emails, and she was feeling stuck.
Then I asked her to show me one of her networking emails, and I quickly saw the problem: the email was three paragraphs long and sounded more like a generic cover letter than a sincere request to connect, plus her résumé was attached. Her email essentially rehashed her résumé anyway, starting with who she was, where she went to school, and where she had worked. And it ended with the fact that she was looking for a job and would like to set up an informational interview. All in all, it was a big ask, essentially coming out of the blue.
This kind of email and overall approach to networking doesn’t work because it’s entirely focused on the job seeker and not on the person she was reaching out to. (This is true whether you work in the legal field or not!)
If you want people to respond to your networking emails follow these guidelines.
You are asking for advice, not a job
The guiding principle behind networking in and after law school is that you are asking for advice, not a job.
While it is clear that you want a job, the general wisdom is that people are more likely to say yes to a conversation if all you ask them for is advice. And try to remember that many (if not most) people will be happy to help you if they can.
On the other hand, if you ask someone for a job and they don't have one to give you immediately, then they have no reason to talk to you and you lose out on creating a relationship with someone who could potentially help you in the future.
For example, if you are networking with lawyers who do what you want to do, one of the best ways to engage them is by asking about their career story with questions like…
- How did you get started in this area of law?
- What do you like about your job?
- What do you find challenging?
- What job search advice do you have for a new attorney or law student?
These questions will allow you to have a meaningful conversation where you get to know them and they see you as a thoughtful and sincere professional they would feel comfortable referring to a job opportunity.
Keep it short and make it easy for them to say yes
In the sales industry, there is saying: "If you confuse people, you lose people." The same is true when asking for help in the job search. You need to keep things simple.
When you send a long, generic, and—let’s be honest—boring email to someone you don't know, you are more likely to turn them off than entice them to want to help you.
Instead, you want to send a short (four to five sentences) email. It should be personalized to your contact, highlighting exactly why you want to talk to them specifically and requesting an opportunity to speak with them.
What to include in your email: template and example
Here is a template for what you should include in your email, followed by an example you can customize for your own use:
Briefly introduce yourself
Share how you found the contact and why they’re on your radar
Ask for short meeting
Thank them for their time
Dear Attorney Smith:
I will be graduating from New England Law | Boston in May 2020 and I have a background in finance.
I came across your LinkedIn profile while researching attorneys in the Boston area who practice corporate law. I see you have practiced for several years and would love to ask you a few questions about your career path and how you got to where you are today.
Would you have time for a quick 20-minute informational interview via phone in the next few weeks?
Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to hearing from you.
This example email summarizes who I am and why I wanted to connect with this specific lawyer. It does not mention anything about my looking for a job but focuses on what I want to learn about this lawyer. Finally, it has a clear, straightforward ask: a 20-minute phone call, which most people should be able to fit into their schedule.
If you use this strategy, we'd love to hear how it works for you—just get in touch with us on social media. Good luck on your job search and happy networking!
Mo Chanmugham is the former Senior Associate Director of Career Services at New England Law | Boston.
Learn more about how the New England Law Career Services Offices supports law students and alumni through the job search.