“Go ask an attorney out to coffee, they’ll totally say yes!” – Every career services office at every law school ever.
Needless to say, I’ve done it twice. The first time, the attorney was really nice but really realistic and essentially told me that I’d never be hired in biglaw because of my grades, so I should look elsewhere and not think any less of myself if I work as in-house counsel or in the government.
He was right, I didn’t get hired and I don’t want to do biglaw. I want to have a life even if that means not earning $100,000+ my first day out of law school. I’m okay with that.
I’m having coffee with an attorney at the firm I work with now who is an alum of the fellowship I’m currently in. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting everything out of this meeting.
1. Do some basic research on the person you’re meeting. Know where they work, what school they went to, and if they’re worked other places.
2. Bring a notebook with any questions you have and a pen to write down their answers. For instance, if you’re interested in a particular field and that attorney works in that field, ask them how they got there. What jobs did they have before hand? What classes did they take? Did they do any clinics? Internships? Externships?
3. Depending on the attorney (one you work with vs. one you don’t know), bring a resume. Some will give you tips on how to revise it, and will be able to tailor their advice to your experiences.
4. Besides asking questions, ask for advice. How do they balance work/family life? How late should you stay at work? How can you impress the partner? What is something they know now, but didn’t know when they started that they wished they did?
5. Offer to pay for their coffee. Chances are they’ll say no, but it’s still a nice thing to do.
6. Keep the meeting between 30-60 minutes.
7. Ask for their business card.
8. Send a follow up email the second you’re able to. Thank them for taking the time out of their busy day to meet with you and how valuable you’ve found their advice. They might not answer right away, if at all, but they will read it and feel good.
Remember, that attorney, at one time or another, was exactly where you are right now. Don’t be intimidated. Be friendly.