The idea of sending an unsolicited email to someone you don’t know might sound daunting. But in the Toronto law firm recruit, cold emails are fair game. Most lawyers receive several cold emails in the lead up to in-firm interviews, and responses to cold emails are more common than you’d expect.

Below, I’ll walk you through the merits of sending cold emails to Bay Street lawyers. I’ll also lay out the basics of how you can send cold emails.

Should You Send Cold Emails to Lawyers?

Whether you should send cold emails really depends on your circumstances.

Cold emails can be a good way of connecting with someone that you don’t know and filling in gaps in your professional and social network. You may not, for example, know many corporate lawyers. A cold email could connect you to a corporate lawyer.

Cold emails are fair game on Bay Street. They’re also effective. I reply to them, as do most of my colleagues. I’ve even gotten a job from a law firm by sending them a cold email.

When I reply to a cold email, I usually send a one-liner asking to schedule a phone call, a coffee chat, or a video call. I expect the person reaching out to me to be flexible in scheduling the meet-up.

You may be debating whether to make a cold phone call as opposed to a cold email. I discuss the merits of a cold phone call here. In short, cold emails are preferable to cold calls.

How to Send a Cold Email to a Lawyer

If you send a cold email to a lawyer, there are six rules that you need to follow:

  1. Know the purpose of your email;
  2. Address the right recipient;
  3. Make your email personal and tailored to the recipient;
  4. Keep your email short;
  5. Have a clear call to action; and
  6. Give the recipient time to reply.

1. Know the Purpose of Your Email

Ask yourself: Why are you sending a cold email? What do you want to get out of your cold email? If you don’t have a good answer to this question, then your email is probably a waste of the recipient’s time.

The purpose of your email should be clearly conveyed in your email. You don’t want your recipient to be confused as to why you’re emailing them.

Be wary of sending a cold email that asks, point blank, whether a law firm is hiring law students or lawyers. This is an easy “yes/no” answer. It’s also a question that most lawyers don’t want to answer. Instead, ask a lawyer whether they have time for a chat. You could preface the chat as a discussion about their practice area or your interest in their firm’s culture. These types of conversations are easy for lawyers, and if the conversation goes well, you can shift the topic to job opportunities.

If you’re emailing a lawyer to set up a coffee chat or a call, you don’t need to provide a copy of your resume or cover letter.

2. Address the Right Recipient

Figure out who you want to email. Articling students, associates and partners are all fair game. Pick people to email that practice in an area that interests you so that you can have a more engaging conversation.

You can find email addresses for lawyers on the firm’s website. When cold emailing, do not email the firm’s general reception email address unless told to do so.

If you don’t want to talk to a lawyer or student, then you can cold email the firm’s recruiter or human resources representative. If you have trouble finding the firm’s recruiter or human resources representative’s email address, you could call the firm’s receptionist and ask.

Recruiters and human resource representatives are helpful if you want to discuss the details of the recruitment and hiring process. Some recruiter appreciate if you attach your cover letter and resume directly to your email, but this isn’t expected.

Finally, do not cold “email” on LinkedIn. Many lawyers do not regularly use LinkedIn, so your message might go unread for a long time.Use the lawyer’s work email address, unless they’ve given you other instructions.

3. Tailor Your Email Message

Cold emails need to be tailored. An impersonal, generic email isn’t going to encourage the recipient to take the time to reply to you. These types of emails are easy to ignore.

You need to establish, as best as possible, a personal connection with the recipient of the cold email so that they feel a desire to help you. You are, after all, ask a stranger to do you a favour. Do your research before sending your email.

Consider, for a moment, whether you would reply to your own email if you received it. Is it enticing enough to warrant a response from a stranger?

I recently received a cold email that used a mixture of my first and last name in the salutation (i.e. “Hello Natwhurds” instead of “Hello Nathan”). I didn’t reply to that cold email. If the sender can’t take the time to figure out my name, then I’m not going to take the time to reply to them.

4. Keep it Short

People are pressed for time. Lawyers and recruiters don’t want to read a lengthy email or type a lengthy response to your email.

Your cold email should be brief. State who you are and why you’re reaching out to the recipient. At most, this should be three or four sentences.

If you’re emailing a recruiter asking for a job, the cover letter you attach to your email will do the heavy lifting. The email itself doesn’t need to give too many details.

A good rule of thumb is that your email should fit on a mobile phone screen without scrolling. If you need to scroll to read the email on a mobile phone screen, then the email is too long.

5. Have a Clear Call to Action

Your email needs to include a call to action. Your call to action is what you are requesting the recipient to do. For example, you could be asking for a telephone call or a coffee chat.

Whatever your call to action is, it should be clear. If the recipient has to struggle to figure out what your request is, then you are less likely to get a response.

6. Give the Recipient Time to Reply

Lawyers are busy. It might take them a few days to reply to your email, if they reply at all.

If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Most importantly, don’t get angry at the recipient. You don’t know what they’re dealing with at the time you sent your email.

I would advise against sending follow-up emails. If a lawyer unintentionally missed your email, they will find it when they clean up their inbox and hopefully reply at that time. If a lawyer intentionally ignored you, then a follow-up email won’t help your case.

Conclusion

Cold emails can work. I’ve gotten jobs from cold emails. That said, cold emails aren’t foolproof. Many go unread, and many others never receive a reply. Sometimes, you just have to click “send” and hold your breath, hoping you

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