During the law firm recruit, you may find yourself in a position where you want to speak to practicing lawyers. This can be a great idea—speaking to lawyers can give you a better understanding of different practice areas and law firm cultures.
If you don’t have personal connections to any lawyers (or lawyers that practice an area of the law that interests you), you may have trouble setting up conversations. Don’t let this hold you back. Lawyers are more than happy to speak with law students they don’t know as part of the law firm recruit and the OCI process.
The best way to set up a conversation with a lawyer that you don’t know is to send them a cold email. Cold emails are like cold calls, but less intrusive. Cold emails give the recipient the option to reply on their own time, whereas cold calls are an unwelcomed surprise in a lawyer’s busy day.
I do not recommend that you cold call a lawyer. In my experience, I find it annoying to be cold called because I usually don’t have the time to engage in a conversation at the time I receive the call. Re-booking a phone call tends to be frustrating, and often the parties are left playing phone tag. I would much rather receive a cold email and then schedule a call via email.
Some lawyers, however, disagree with me and think that a phone call is a more personal touch than a cold email. Smaller law firms and older lawyers are more inclined to appreciate cold calls. If you choose to cold call lawyers, then there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
How to Cold Call Lawyers
1. Call the Right Person
If you decide to cold call lawyers, do not call their direct numbers. Call the their firm’s general reception number instead. This way, a receptionist can handle your call and the lawyer you want to speak with is not unexpectedly interrupted.
When the receptionist answers your call, kindly inform them who you are and briefly state your request.
If you cold call a large law firm, the receptionist will likely transfer your call to the talent management / human resources department. You may then have the opportunity to speak with the firm’s student coordinator or recruiter. If you want to speak to a practicing lawyer, then you may have to ask the talent management / human resources representative to introduce you to someone in a practice area that interests you.
If you cold call a smaller law firm, a receptionist is likely to record your contact details and then end the call. It is unlikely that your cold call will be immediately transferred to a lawyer. The receptionist will then pass along your contact details and you may receive a return call at a lawyer time.
If a firm doesn’t return your cold call, don’t take it personally. Lawyers have a lot on their plate at any given time. You could follow-up, but generally this won’t change the outcome. Don’t follow-up more than once.
2. Call at the Right Time
Make your cold calls mid-day or mid-afternoon, when the receptionist you call might have more free time. Do not call first thing in the morning when the firm is getting ready for the day, or at the end of the day when the law firm is preparing to close.
3. Know What to Say
You should have a short script ready for when a law firm’s receptionist answers your call.
You should start the call by briefly introducing yourself. Next, ask the receptionist to put you in touch with a lawyer at their firm who could provide you advice on the recruit, their area of practice, and the firm’s culture.
If you have a specific lawyer in mind, you can request to speak with this person. Be willing, however, to speak with someone else if your first choice isn’t available.
It is highly unlikely that a firm’s receptionist will immediately connect you to an available lawyer. Rather, you will likely have to schedule a subsequent call a few days or weeks after your cold call.
When speaking with the receptionist, do not bluntly ask whether the law firm is hiring. This is a simple yes/no question. You should instead focus on networking and connecting with other people. This will help you develop a rapport with the law firm and could lead to a job down the road.
As I mentioned above, I don’t recommend making cold calls. But I recognize that are some limited use cases for cold calls. Use you judgment when deciding whether to cold call lawyers as part of the law firm recruit. If you follow through with cold calls, make sure you call the right person, call at the right time, and know what to say.