advice

Are You Ready for the Legal Interview?

When it comes to interviews, there are certain imperative steps you must always take to ensure you have done your best. It seems to go without saying but you obviously must dress professionally and be on-time. However, making a first impression takes quite a bit of preparation and practice. It is a large part of the interview process as a whole. Whether you are going to be experiencing your first legal interview during OCI this fall, or if you’ve been through several interviews in the past, be sure you always keep these key points in mind:

1. Really Research the Employer – You’ve definitely heard this one before. But only because it is one of the most important points! Doing research beforehand on the company in which you are interviewing is a must. The employer needs to know that you’ve not only heard of them (or took initiative to learn about them), but that they were your first choice for a job. There are a ton of resources online for doing reconnaissance (Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell, Vault.com, Bloomberg.com and articles written for legal industry periodicals, as well as bio pages for the partners or staff you’re meeting on the company web site.) Also, include summer evaluations in Symplicity.

2. Understand the Role in the Organization or Law Firm – If you’re interviewing for an associate position (or even an internship), make an effort to really understand what the employer’s expectations are of you. This means either dissecting the job description, or if there isn’t one, doing enough research to find out what the role really requires.

3. Know Your Career Narrative Inside Out – Your legal resume (or perhaps even a contact) could have landed you the interview, but the real challenge begins now. About 10%-20% of the interview will be focused on confirming your resume and that you know what you’re talking about from a “technical” standpoint. The remaining 80%-90% will be about finding out if you’re the right fit for the position or culture.

In addition to the typical legal interview questions you would expect to receive (see below), you’re also going to have to craft some interview stories. These are stories that have longer answers which you would give to behavioral questions. For example: “Tell me about a time you had multiple, time-sensitive projects due — how did you prioritize and what was the result?” The interviewer is likely to be looking for your prowess in several specific competencies or skills such as time management, negotiation skills, or whether you work well under pressure. Stick to a cohesive and compelling story that highlights your skills and abilities and you will have a great, engaging answer for the employer.

4. Preparing for the Employer’s Interview Questions – Before your interview, research commonly asked questions and really understand and practice how you’ll answer them. Obviously, every interview will be different, but if you can articulately and thoughtfully answer the questions below (and also have several “interview stories” in your back pocket), you’ll likely land the position:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you decide to go to law school?
  • Why did you choose your law school?
  • Is your GPA an accurate reflection of your abilities? Why or why not?
  • What do you know about our firm?
  • What area of law most interests you?
  • Tell me about a major accomplishment.
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What interests you most about the legal system?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • How has your education and experience prepared you for the practice of law?
  • Describe a professional failure and how you handled it.
  • Why should we hire you over other candidates?
  • What questions do you have?

5. Always Ask Questions – At the end of the interview, it’s important that you ask questions. It shows not only that you were prepared and listened thoroughly to your interviewer, but also that you are seriously interested in the organization or firm. For more information on this topic, check out biginterview.com’s Top 12 Best Questions to Ask at the End of the Job Interview article.

6. Don’t Forget Your Thank-you Note – Good old P’s & Q’s. Everyone loves them! The thank you note is an important little piece of the interview process, and an art form unto itself. After every job interview, it’s critical to follow up with a thank you note to the person that interviewed you. Thank you notes are not just common courtesy; they are essential elements of the interviewing process. For info on how to structure a great thank you check out: Job Interview Thank You Notes 101.

In the end, your resume contains credentials that are only a small piece of the whole interview process. Making the strongest possible impression when you’re face-to-face with potential employers is essential. Keeping in mind all these tips will surely prepare and help you with all your future interviews. Good luck!

The Legal Resume: Back to Basics

Can you believe it? Fall is right around the corner! Say goodbye to warm temperatures, flip-flops, and trips to the beach and say hello to new textbooks, cooler weather, and a bit of polish for your resume. Resume work already? Of course! Rising 2Ls and 3Ls: the summer and long-term job search begins as soon as you return to campus (if not before). In addition to starting to send out resumes on your own, you will begin bidding for Fall On-Campus Interviews and Resume Collects (if you have not already) and you will want your resume to earn you some call backs and second interviews. Incoming 1L students: you’ll realize quickly that the legal resume differs from the typical business resume. A legal resume has a unique structure and format, along with its own set of rules and guidelines. This subject and more will be explained in detail as you progress through the Professional Development class, so no need worry about drafting your legal resume just yet.

As you begin the new job search, as well as throughout your career, keep in mind these important general tips for your application materials:

Focus on the employer’s needs
The legal resume is a unique marketing and sales tool that summarizes who you are and what you have to offer. It communicates strengths and distinguishes you from other applicants and also provides a sample work product characterized by quality and clarity. You can prove that you think like a lawyer by creating a resume in which you are an advocate for yourself.

Sometimes students draft cover letters that focus on their own goals (i.e. “I hope to gain meaningful experience from this internship”). Instead, do just the opposite. Close your eyes and picture the overworked hiring partners or recruiting personnel reading your resume. Their company has approved a new hire and they are sifting through stacks of resumes. What do they want? Someone intelligent, who has job-specific legal experience, gets along well with everyone else in the office, and can dive right in to their work, right? Make your resume reflect those needs by highlighting your work quality and experience. Such things that can demonstrate this are: Team projects, academic projects, writing samples, clinics, and volunteer work.

Make it pleasant to read
The legal community is conservative and expects a traditional resume. An employer is likely to spend less than 30 seconds on his or her initial review of your resume; therefore, a readable form is crucial. It can help the reader smoothly and quickly capture important information at the first glance. Make sure that you use underlining, italics, capital letters, etc. consistently from one position to another and one section of the resume to another. Your ability to do so shows your attention to detail.

Text that is jammed together, tiny margins, and distracting boxes and lines all make for an untidy, not aesthetically pleasing resume. The aforementioned tired hiring partners want to pick resumes out of the pile that are easy to read. Do this by limiting your resume to one page and pick a traditional font such as Times Roman, Arial or Garamond. With font size, choose 10 or 11 point; below that, you are risking someone not bothering to review your resume due to poor readability.

It’s not just a summary of experience
The purpose of your resume is to get you called in for an interview, so focus on marketing to the employer. Using excellent action verbs when you begin your phrases in your work descriptions can help you market yourself to the employer. Avoid passive voice, as well as the phrase “responsible for.” Briefly explain awards or scholarships, instead of just listing the name of the scholarship or award. Quantify where possible; for example, “Organized school wide fundraising auction. Chaired committee of 13 students; raised $7,500 for public interest scholarship.” Employers like hard data and facts. And keep in mind that the experience section of your resume can include clinical work, internships/externships, research assistantships, volunteer work, etc., as well as paid positions.

The biggest (avoidable!) mistake
Typos and grammatical errors are NEVER ok. Never. We’ll stop telling you this when we stop seeing them. Employers are likely to immediately eliminate you from consideration. They consider your resume your first work product, so make sure you spend time re-reading it – again and again. And when you think you’ve finished proofreading it, read it over again. Afterward, get a friend or faculty member to proofread it. Finally, email it or bring it in to your career advisor for a final look over. You can never have too many eyes looking at your resume when it comes to hunting for typos and grammatical errors.

What to learn more great resume tips? Check out our complete list of legal resume “Do’s and Don’ts”, advice, lists of action words, resume samples, and more in our Career Planning Guide. You can find it on Symplicity in the Document Library and on the Students section of our web site, in the Resource Center. Make use of this publication as your ultimate career guide and refer to it often during your time here at law school. It is a great resource to add to your law school toolbox!

What If I Get Stuck in the Wrong Kind of Practice?

Students sometimes assume that, by accepting a summer clerkship/internship in a specific practice or for a certain type of employer, they are committing themselves to developing a career in that area. This can be a big cause for concern because early in the process (and sometimes even later on in the process), many students and new lawyers are uncertain about their interests and do not yet know what types of practice they would like to develop. This assumption of being stuck in a certain area of law can be an even bigger stressor if you accept a job or internship, and then realize that you may have made a poor choice.

Imagine, for example, that you enjoyed your Criminal Law or Criminal Procedure class so much that you have accepted a summer position in the felony division of the prosecuting attorney’s office. It would seem that you’ve landed the ideal job. Your supervising attorney is attentive; your assignments are challenging; and the attorneys take you to meetings and court as much as possible. On the other hand, you’ve learned that there is a big difference between analyzing fact patterns in a case book and working with real victims and serious crimes. Real-world practice is very different from academic study, and it may be that criminal law is not right for you. But all is not lost!

If you find yourself in an area of law that is unappealing, just remember that your employment setting is temporary and that you can still gain important experience at that job or internship. Professionalism, social skills, and various law-related skills such as writing briefs and working with clients will all prove beneficial later on, once mastered. Dedicate the time at that position and use it as a learning tool and eventual springboard from which to jump from and land into a better position later down the road.  In addition, keep in mind the valuable connections you’re making with coworkers and your supervising attorney. They may be able to introduce you to someone practicing in a field that’s a better fit for you.

Plenty of lawyers change jobs after learning more about themselves and their responses to difference practice areas and environments. You will consistently evolve as a law student and practicing lawyer, so your practice area preferences may also change. You certainly do not have to change the world after law school if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to practice a certain kind of law. Simply take an opportunity to observe what works for you and what doesn’t and you will soon find what appeals to you. Following your passions and strengths as a lawyer will ultimately have you on the road to a satisfying career.

If you have any questions or concerns about your desired career path or need help finding where to start, be sure to book an appointment with your career advisor. They are there to help guide you along your path and answer any questions that should arise on your journey through law school and beyond.

10 Keys to Summer Success

With final exams ending and the graduation season winding down, interns, summer associates and new hires have begun to enter the world of work. National surveys consistently report that these junior workers possess loads of technical skills. Too often what they lack are a series of practical skills that can help them quickly distinguish themselves in the workplace, including: the ability to work as a team member; the ability to organize, plan and prioritize work; and the ability to communicate with a wide variety of internal and external clients in a manner that leaves those clients feeling confident and assured.

The 2014 national survey of employers conducted by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) confirms what many have long known: employers increasingly seek summer associates, interns and new hires who demonstrate a strong ability to work with others—including peers and senior employees as well as clients and customers—and who can plan, organize and complete their daily work without external supervision. With schools graduating so many talented students, today’s employers rarely view strong technical skills as a differentiator. Rather, possessing technical skills simply “meets expectations.”

If you are an intern, summer associate or new hire, here are ten “Things You Need To Know” to distinguish yourself in the hearts and minds of your employer.

1. Make sure your supervisor always looks good.

This means: no surprises. Keep your supervisor informed of the status of projects, especially delays and significant problems that you encounter. Turn in projects that are client-ready, i.e., free of typos and stains or stray markings. If you become aware of some inner-office or client communication that could affect your supervisor, make your supervisor aware of it.

2. Dress with respect.

The attire you wear to the office creates an impression that extends to your supervisor. Always dress in a manner that reflects well upon both of you. Your attire should also demonstrate respect for any clients with whom you’ll interact. If you have opted to work for a more conservative organization—say, a white-shoe law firm or a state legislature—you should dress in a more conservative manner, which likely means suits for both men and women. If you have taken a job in a fashion-forward organization, you should dress in a manner that communicates your understanding and appreciation of fashion.

At a very minimum, avoid: dirty, stained, torn or frayed clothing; any clothing bearing words or images that others might find offensive; any clothing that reveals cleavage, excessive chest hair, whale tails and plumbers cracks.

3. Act professionally.

Everything you do in conjunction with work should communicate your respect for internal and external clients. Before you walk into an office building, remove your ear buds. Acknowledge other people you know in the building lobby. Whenever you board an elevator, recognize any coworkers you encounter. As you walk to or from your workstation or office, greet others you meet along the way. First thing in the morning, check in with your supervisor. Do another check-in at the end of your workday.

Be punctual to all meetings. This demonstrates your respect for others’ time. Know your supervisor’s expectations regarding smartphone use during meetings. If he or she expects your complete attention, before any meeting begins, turn your smartphone off.

4. Complete projects on time.

Tackle every assignment you receive in a timely manner. Should you experience unexpected delays or interruptions, do not withhold this information from your supervisor until the very last moment. Remember, no surprises. Inform your supervisor as quickly as possible. This allows him or her to adequately manage the expectations of important internal and external clients.

Inevitably, you will require a coworker’s input to complete a project. Should your coworker fail to perform in a timely manner, in most cases you’ll remain responsible. Telling a supervisor, “I emailed Jim in marketing for his input, but he hasn’t gotten back to me,” won’t cut it. Find ways to work with others and to complete projects on time.

Read Points #5-10. Article Written by Mary Crane, Author of “Starting Work for Interns, New Hire, and Summer Associates: 100 Things You Need to Know.”

You can also view a short video with Mary Crane on advice about starting your internship.

 

The Growing Field of Compliance: A Recap on our Lunch & Learn with Ben Wright

In our recent Lunch & Learn, WF Law alum Ben Wright (’05) discussed legal compliance and the different tracks to a career in this popular and growing field. For students interested in a career at the intersection of business and law, a position in compliance offers an excellent opportunity. At the same time, the compliance field also holds opportunities for those students who enjoy detailed work researching legislation and policy.

Most corporations, banks, and other entities did not have internal compliance groups until around the early 2000s, following the collapse of Enron and the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. After SOX, employers began to establish divisions solely focused on internal audits and ensuring compliance with various federal, state, local, and trade regulations. This work requires keeping up with a vast amount of regulations, some of which can vary county by county. Corporate compliance divisions deal not just with federal and state law, but also independent regulatory boards.  For example, Mr. Wright’s work in the field of prescription drug regulation involves ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local laws (some of which can vary county by county), as well as regulations from state Boards of Pharmacy and state Departments of Insurance.

With this vast (and growing) number of regulations, it is almost impossible for any corporation to ensure compliance with every single one. These regulations also change quite frequently. Having an in-house compliance team is vital in order to keep up with the ever changing regulations. Compliance work generally appeals to two types of personalities – those with a business mindset, who enjoy balancing legal and business considerations, and those who enjoy detailed research.

If you are interested in the intersection of law and business and are comfortable “putting out fires” (i.e. working in a fast-paced environment, balancing multiple interests, multi-tasking, etc.), then a management position in compliance could be a good fit.  Compliance positions often require employees to have one leg in business and one leg in law: It is important to know the law so that you can advise the company appropriately; however, it is also essential to understand how certain events can impact a business and how certain initiatives can be successfully implemented. For the compliance jobs that focus on keeping up with regulations, one would have to enjoy a lot of detailed work, such as spending a lot of time reviewing policy material and directives.

The two biggest areas of growth for compliance careers are currently banking and healthcare – both highly regulated industries. If you’re interested in a job in compliance, Mr. Wright made several recommendations:

(1) Get subject-matter expertise first. Many of the compliance officers Mr. Wright works with were experienced healthcare attorneys. You probably will not get hired straight out of law school into a management role in compliance, so it is important to gain experience for 2-3 years first.

(2) If you want to go into compliance work straight out of law school, look to the business side. Companies might hire you on the business side, at an “analyst” or “specialist” level, allowing you to work your way up.

(3) Robert Half Legal (a staffing agency) has begun to contract with some companies for compliance work and is starting to develop a niche market.


Here are some additional ideas for exploring a career in compliance
:

(1) If you want to beef up your resume, the Healthcare Compliance Association offers a certification program [also has an online jobs board]. More information is available here: https://www.hcca-info.org/

(2) If you’re interested in the financial industry, look for job titles such as “compliance analyst,”  “loss mitigation specialist” or “regulatory assessment” – many large banks and financial institutions will list opportunities in compliance on their websites (e.g. Goldman Sachs)

What Does Spring Break Mean for Law Students?

If you’re a newly minted law student or even a seasoned veteran 3L, you have no doubt been looking eagerly ahead to Spring Break as a time to catch a much-needed breather. You deserve it! However, while you won’t be burdened with the necessity of visiting a classroom on a daily basis, law school will still follow you around — even during Spring Break.

The sought-after week of being away from the classroom is a great time to catch up on any classwork in that may have accidentally fallen behind or needs a little more attention. Perhaps there are a few papers calling out to be outlined in some of your classes, or a project could use a little more attention than what you gave it earlier this year. Maybe you have some previously skimmed over reading that you want to make sure you fully understand this time. There may even be some supplemental readings in some of your classes that would really give you an edge come test time. Spring Break can be the ideal time to catch up on any odd jobs on that scholastic to do list. It may not be the spring break of your college years, but you’ll undoubtedly be less stressed come finals time.

For those still in the hunt for a summer or post-graduate position, Spring Break provides the perfect time to search for job opportunities. You can arrange a meeting over coffee with an alumni or personal mentor and get their advice or even call around to setup a couple of informational interviews or job shadowing opportunities. You would be surprised at how much networking you can accomplish in just 7 short days, so keep an eye out for events to attend. You never know who you might run into at that family beach gathering, in the airport, or even over lunch.

With all of that said, you absolutely have to make sure that you find time to take your mind away from school. There are only so many mental breaks one gets during the academic year, and it is imperative that you use them to your greatest advantage. Spring Break provides such an opportunity – get out and enjoy the sun (if it’s out!), see the latest blockbuster movie, call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Are you going to cease studying altogether? Probably not. Can you take a break to hit the driving range? Yes. Will you wholly ignore your outlines? Doubtful. Can you work on them at an outdoor cafe while enjoying a sandwich and your espresso drink of choice? Of course you can. If you do, you’ll find that you return refreshed and prepared for the rest of the semester!

I’m a 3L and It’s February. What Now?

The 3L spring semester job search is a planned process that should be completed with research and focus. We all know this, right? The ideal state of being for a 3L student during their Spring semester should be to remain organized, structured, and systematic. But what if you become frantic and stressed? This may be causing you an injustice which will dampen your job search efforts. In case you need a few friendly reminders to coach you along during this busy time, here are some important points you should be keeping in mind this month:

Yes… More Networking! By now, 3Ls are pros at networking. So be sure you utilize this asset. This includes targeted networking, volunteering, social media networking, and exploring leads. For those students taking the bar in the summer, be sure you are making your connections now. Many employers will hire now or even make plans to hire after graduation for non-law-related jobs. Join a networking group or bar association, attend local events, or get in touch with the Alumni office for school related functions where you can meet those oh-so-important contacts. Remember, not all employers and firms post jobs online. Many of them may be on the hunt for new employees through word of mouth or through chance meetings. You never know what lies ahead of you when you are out and about networking and meeting new people. See our recent blog article for tips on contacting Wake Forest Alumni if you are unsure of how to reach out, or our read our article on what to do when you do meet up with a connection or contact.

Think Broadly. But Don’t Apply to Everything: The “I want a job, any job” mentality can inspire fruitless activity. Frantic application for every possible job posting also looks poorly to potential employers. Rather than the time-consuming job search, churning out 30-40 job applications online each day, go for the thoughtful approach. This involves careful research into options such as targeting specific jobs and geographic locations in which you are interested. Where do you want to live? What is your targeted practice area? Do you have any contacts at a certain firm, employer, or location? Create a list to narrow down your search so you are thoughtful in your job search. These types of activities are known to produce great results.

Unsure of What You Want to Do or Where to Go? If you have spent much of your time exploring practice areas, specific jobs, and possible geographic locations and are still confused, seek help now. Start a concise, ongoing career plan with achievable, measurable goals. This includes items such as your desired geographic locations and practice areas, as well as a list of your known contacts and prospective connections you would like to soon contact. Include a reasonable time set for each goal so that you can stay on track in a timely manner. Having this plan in place will help guide you along when you are feeling overwhelmed in the job search process. If you are unsure of how to get your career plan started, or if you would simply like some advice and guidance, help is available and only an email or phone call away. Your career advisor is here to help guide you if you are finding yourself running around in circles. It is never too late to make a plan! Your career advisor not only helps you with the resume writing, but can also sit down with you to devise strategies on your job search efforts to ultimately get you to your goal. If you haven’t been in touch with your career advisor this semester, now is the perfect time to reach out. We want to know how your job searching plans are going, how you’re doing, who you’re meeting, and if you need assistance with what direction to go.

Image of Martindale attorney search field with State/Province & Law School: Wake Forest highlighted

Martindale – A Great Alumni Search Tool

As many law students already know, contacting alumni is a great means to further your career, especially when it comes to networking; however, it is still a piece to the larger job search puzzle as a whole. A student should still feel obligated to make a genuine connection before leveraging an alumni connection for any possible job opportunities or informational interviews. Don’t assume that simply knowing or contacting Wake Forest Law School alumni at a business or firm will give you a definite advantage. It is important to keep in mind that a job search is still a delicate process and alumni contacts are not built overnight.

There is no harm in reaching out to somebody to say hello or even ask to grab a cup of coffee together if you are in town. But if you want to approach an alumnus, you’re better off seeking advice as opposed to assuming the ‘we’re from the same school; hire me’ will work in gaining you a position within their firm/organization. Instead, try a simple introduction where you disclose that you are considering a specific summer experience and just ask if he or she has any advice about the industry or location in general. You could also request an informational interview or even a job shadowing opportunity if they have the free time. A great way to put this plan into action (instead of the often harsh, basic cold call) would be to meet an alum through a mutual contact, career advisor, alumni office, or via a regular alumni association networking event and start up a relationship from there.

Ok so now you have a strategy of how to communicate. So where are all the Wake Forest Law alums? One helpful tool that includes a majority of Wake Forest Law alumni is the Martindale database. You can access this database easily online through their website www.martindale.com. Once you are at the web site, click on the Advanced Search link under the People tab at the very top of the web page in the red section. From the ‘Advanced Search for Lawyers, Law Firms & Organizations’ page, you can fill out any necessary search criteria to narrow your alumni search.

Want to practice law or obtain a summer position in the Baltimore, Maryland metro area? Simply select Maryland from the State/Province drop-down menu and type “Wake Forest” in the Law School text box. Now click the Search button. (pictured above) Viola! You now have 59 Wake Forest Law alumni to choose from. Narrow your search even more by selecting your desired practice area or city on the left hand side of the screen under ‘Narrow results by’. Also, if you would like to identify Wake Forest Alums that are working in government agencies, conduct a search as outlined above and if there is a Government Agency category on the left on the results page, you will be able to narrow those results by selecting a particular Government Agency in which you are interested.

Many of the contact details in the search results will also feature phone numbers as well as a link to the contact’s company web site. Click the ‘View Website’ link to research their organization or firm in greater detail as well as give you a feel for the type of work they do. And nine times out of ten, the person in which you are trying to contact will also have a biography on the company web page, filling you in on their work history and achievements all the way back to Wake Forest.

If sending emails is your preferred means of driving your networking efforts, you can most often find email addresses for each alumni contact on their firm or company’s web site under a company directory or attorney drop down menu list. A downloadable vCard may also be available so that you can keep all their contact information, including their email address, on hand for future reference. Here is a sample email to use as a guideline when emailing alumni:

Dear Mr./Ms. ____________,
I found your name and contact information on Martindale’s online directory when searching for Wake Forest Alumni in the Baltimore, MD area. I am a first year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law, and I am interested in immigration law. I would greatly appreciate any advice or information you could offer me about the field. Would it be possible to set up a time to speak with you sometime next week via telephone?

Ready, set, go? If you want to iron out a plan about contacting Wake Forest Law alumni, be sure to make an appointment with your career advisor and give them an idea of your targeted geographic location and practice area. This will give your advisor the information they need to help you obtain important tips and advice on connecting and communicating prior to making your initial contact with Wake Forest Law alumni. With the right approach, you will gain experience in networking which will give you important, lifelong connections that will aid your career well into the future.

Five Tips for Public Service Informational Interviews

Informational interviewing enables students to connect with professionals and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to practice in various settings and substantive areas. Since networking is an important part of obtaining a public service job, one must conduct a successful search in order to seek out informational interviews that will open up one of the best avenues for such networking. Here are five tips that will aide in your informational interviews and job search:

1. Timing is everything. You don’t start an assignment without researching. The same goes for reaching out to an attorney for an informational interview. By doing your homework ahead of time, you will able to find a more convenient time to talk to your potential interviewer which will also help develop a more meaningful conversation during the interview. Although there is no way to know an individual attorney’s schedule, there is a way to gauge when a particular office will be busier. For example, asking a legislative attorney to meet right before a legislative session is not considerate of the demands on that attorney’s time. Ask you career counselor for advice on timing if you’re not certain.

2. Develop a professional network. Think job fairs, alumni connections, and bar associations. Due the fact that many public interest organizations and agencies have a small or limited amount of staff members, they are until to travel directly to specific schools. However, many organizations and agencies participate in a variety of career fairs to meet students. This is the organization’s chance to get the word out to students about their work and values as well as what qualities they are looking for in students and attorneys. You can further connect with these folks by attending local and regional job fairs, bar association meetings, and other legal events so that their network is complete with a firm foundation of diverse contacts. And don’t overlook alumni connections. Logging onto WIN and conducting a search can put you in touch with Wake Forest Law Alumni who know the ropes and many connections. You’re your base network is established, you will be able to reach out within that network and locate contacts for informational interviews.

3. Preparation is vital. You’ve heard it before – you only have one chance to make a good impression. And this goes without saying for informational interviews and networking in general. Fewer things are more likely to set the wrong tone than not preparing for a meeting. In order to be in the best shape possible for a meeting, be sure you are cruising over an attorney’s or organization’s website in its entirety. Check articles written by employers or attorneys by searching online databases so you know as much as you can about the company or ask your regular contacts such as career counselors, mentors, professors, and prior employers. Once you are in the meeting you will need something to talk about, right? Take the time to prepare a list of relevant questions before the meeting and always bring several copies of your résumé. Please note, the résumé should only be given to the attorney upon request.

4. Be professional. This doesn’t mean be stuffy, but a critical element of a successful informational interview are the simple points – how to dress, timeliness, and courtesy. If you are not sure what to wear to any type of event, including informational interviews, it’s always best to err on the side of being formal. So make sure your suits are pressed! And don’t forget – to be early is to be on time. Arrive for an informational interview 10 to 15 minutes early. Check routes, traffic, and parking availability ahead of time. Once there, greet your contact with a firm handshake and make sure you are maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation. Last but not least, keep an eye on the time and length of the meeting so that you are sensitive to the fact that your contact has busy schedule. Don’t overstay your welcome!

5. Cultivate and grow. Informational interviews are a great way to learn about someone else’s interests and work. Period. It is not a way to secure an immediate job. These interviews are one of the best ways to also expand your professional network, gain valuable insights, and more importantly, be the beginning of a relationship that you should cultivate. Cultivation of the relationship should begin immediately after the informational interview. Thank your contact when you leave the interview and again within two days by sending a hand-written thank you note directly to them. Having good manners and an appreciation of a busy attorney’s time will go a long way toward leaving a positive impression and promoting a continuing relationship. Then, at some point in the future when an article or publication crosses your path that you think might be of interest to the person with whom you interviewed, email it with a short note letting them know you were thinking of them. This will offer the other person access to information that he or she might not have otherwise come across and you will definitely stay in their mind in the future, especially as job openings surface.

A job search takes confidence, preparation, and keeping the right frame of mind. A significant asset is to maintain an open and professional relationship with mentors you have found through informational interviews. Be sure you are keeping these important tips in mind as you venture out to meetings, functions, and parties throughout the year. This knowledge will ensure a successful start to new, professional relationships whenever you meet a new connection!

5 Things to Do Before You Click Send

You’ve written a cover letter that highlights all your most impressive strengths, you’ve reviewed your resume again and again for typos and errors, and you’re finally ready to contact that employer to apply for a job. But wait! Here are five last-minute checks before you hit ‘send.’

1.  Are your documents in pdf format? Never send an employer a Word copy of your resume or cover letter. They may have a different version of Word that completely destroys your careful formatting. If your career advisor made comments on your resume electronically, or you failed to accept all changes made, the employer may be able to see all of your edits. Sending your documents in pdf format is simple and saves you from potential embarrassment.

2.  Have you spelled the firm’s name and the recipient’s name correctly? This is not something spell check will catch! Go back and double check, and watch for different spellings of common names (e.g. Bryan vs. Brian; Tiffani vs. Tiffany).

3.  Is your contact information correct? Your career advisor may have reviewed your resume multiple times, but she won’t know if you accidentally switched two numbers in your phone number. If your contact information is wrong, the employer won’t be able to reach you and will probably just move on to the next applicant.

4.  Have you named your document appropriately? Remember, the employer will see the name of the documents you’ve attached. Save your resume as Yourname.Resume. Save your cover letter as Yourname.Coverletter. Be sure you are not sending Smith Jones law firm a document saved as “Generic cover letter” or worse, “Cover letter for Peterson Miller.”

5.  Proofread one last time! We know you’ve already reviewed it a million times. Just look it over once more – it’s always worth it.