Informational Interviews & Building Professional Relationships

What are informational Interviews?

Informational interviews are an essential part of career planning and your job search strategy. In addition to helping you learn about different types of legal practice, they are a great way to build your professional network. As a new law student, your primary focus should be on educating yourself about the legal field.

Guide to Informational Interviews

Why Conduct Informational Interviews?

  • Find out about different practice areas and settings from people in-the-know.

  • Determine whether your personality and style is suited to a particular kind of practice.

  • Increase your knowledge of a practice area to convey more effectively your interest and professionalism when you apply for jobs – use the information you gather to improve your cover letters and be more articulate in interviews.

  • Get information specific to your needs and interests.

  • Learn about different geographic markets.

  • Practice your interviewing skills.

Informational Interviews: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Who to Contact

  • Identify practice areas that sound appealing to you. Resources for practice area exploration are available here.
  • Identify attorneys in those areas using the resources listed in the handout “Resources for Identifying Professional Contacts” and by reviewing employer websites.
  • Follow up with attorneys who participated at law school events, or other lawyers you may know through friends, family, former employers, etc.
  • Locate GWU Law Alumni on Linked In. You can also join the GWU Law Student-Alumni group now and ask your career advisor to connect you with other attorneys who are alumni of the law school.
  • Contact your college career services office for alumni who are practicing attorneys.
  • Read news and law journal articles about your areas of interest to learn who is writing and speaking about issues in the field.
  • Talk to professors who teach in those areas to learn whose work they respect.
  • Identify other students with similar interests and who may have had jobs or internships in your areas or interest. Use the GW Law summer employment evaluations database to see where past GW Law students have worked. Student groups are also a great way to meet like-minded students.

Step 2: Set-up the Interview

  • Contact the person you want to meet. An email is the most common way to make this request.
  • Mention the mutual acquaintance that referred you, if applicable.
  • If you wish, you may attach your resume by way of background.
  • Explain your purpose: To learn more about her work, her field, her career path, the legal market in a specific location, and advice on a job search; remember you are not requesting a job interview.
  • Request a brief (10-15 minutes) phone conversation or meeting. You may feel more comfortable asking to connect by phone, rather than in person.
  • If you don’t get a response to your initial request, try again. Many attorneys are very busy and despite their best intentions, may overlook or forget about your first email. It is fine to politely reach out again.

Step 3: Conduct the Interview

  • Before the interview, research the person you will be meeting, as well as the firm or organization.
  • Prepare useful questions in advance to make the most of the opportunity. Suggested questions are in the Guide to Informational Interviews.
  • Bring a pen and paper with you to write down contact names and other information you may obtain in the interview. It is not recommended that you take notes on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
  • Feel free to ask for advice on how to improve your resume, but only leave a copy if you are asked for it.
  • At the end of the interview, ask for suggestions for others with whom you should contact for additional information.
  • Dress professionally and be on time. Don’t overstay – unless specifically invited.

Step 4: Follow-Up

  • Send a thank you note!
  • Make sure to follow-up on any suggestions and/or contacts while the information is still fresh in your mind.
  • Keep in touch with your contact letting him or her know of your progress.
    • Did you read the article(s) suggested?
    • Did you meet with the person/people he or she recommended?
    • Forward interesting articles or information related to your conversation. This will keep you on the radar screen and underscore your interest in a particular legal topic.
    • Definitely let your contact know when you accept a job – one day you may be able to return the favor!

What to expect as a result of informational interviews

  • Career advice
  • Information about career fields, the market, and hiring trends
  • Feedback about a resume, cover letter, and interviewing skills
  • Assistance in formulating an action plan for a specific field or organization
  • Referrals to others who might assist you
  • Professional mentoring (mentoring refers to a developmental relationship between more experienced mentor and a less experienced partner referred to as a mentee or protégé) .
  • Ideas about professional organizations and bar association groups you might join, to meet more people in the practice area or field you are interested in

    It is NOT reasonable to expect your contacts to find a job for you. You are sure to turn people off when the only question you pose is: “Do you know of any openings?” Not only will you likely receive a negative response, but it is also possible that you will lose an opportunity to establish a lasting relationship or gain other valuable information.