PSJD - Your Pathway to Public Service Legal Careers. A NALP Initiative.

Printer Friendly Version

Informational Interviews


This resource was shared with PSJD courtesy of Gonzaga University School of Law

The informational interview is very different than the traditional job interview. In an informational interview, you contact an attorney, frequently a Zag, to learn about being a lawyer. Generally, students set up informational interviews with attorneys in a particular practice or geographic area. >You can ask the attorney about his or her experiences in the field, how his/her career developed, the details of practice in a particular market or practice area along with any advice they may have about your career plans. As part of the interview, you can ask the attorney for the contact information of other attorneys and, in doing so, develop your professional network.

Asking for an informational interview is an accepted practice in the law—so do not be afraid to contact attorneys. If you would like Professional Development to help you with this, just let us know. We can help you find attorneys to interview as well as help you make your initial contact with them. It’s our experience that lawyers are more than happy to talk with their future colleagues and give them a hand. At the bottom of this sheet are sample questions for your informational interview.

So why would you want to do an informational interview? Along with learning more about the practice which will help you shape your career plans and education, informational interviews are valuable tools in developing your professional network. This network is important as you find and get future jobs. That said, >it is not at all appropriate to ask for a job during the informational interview. Attorneys tend to get angry with students who meet with them under “false pretenses.” However, an attorney may agree to pass along your résumé to likely firms or give you that ever-important referral.

It’s important to keep track of your contacts whether they are old friends or new acquaintances. A spreadsheet can help you get all of the details about your contact including name, firm, address, telephone, email as well as personal information about the attorney’s friends and family along with how you met the attorney. It’s important to keep up with your contacts—but not to the point of stalking them.

To request an interview, you can send an email or a cover letter to your contact. Make sure to include information about why you are interested in this particular attorney.> Showing that you have done your homework and are not contacting attorneys randomly will certainly make an attorney more likely to help you out. You may want to include a copy of your résumé as well so that the attorney gets a sense of who you are as well.

To prepare for the interview, make sure that you thoroughly research the attorney. You do not want to ask your interviewee a question that can be easily answered by a quick trip through the firm’s website. This shows that you are a bit lackadaisical and unprepared. It will certainly affect the way the attorney judges your competence and abilities and will also affect whether the attorney will send employers your way in the future.

When you are in the interview, don’t grill your interviewee. We have provided quite a few sample questions but you don’t have to ask every one! >Do your best to make the meeting conversational and pleasant. Your professional reputation, which started on the first day of law school, is taking shape during these interviews. Also remember that the onus of asking questions is on you. So here are a few to get you started:

  • How did you get started in this career?
  • Was your pathway similar to other people who do the same kind of work?
  • Did you take any courses or do any internships that helped you get started in this area?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • What is the most interesting case or transaction you have worked on lately?
  • What percentage of your day is spent dealing with people? What percentage of your day is spent dealing with paper?
  • What do you most enjoy about this work?
  • Is there anything about this work that you would change?
  • Why did you choose to work for this firm/agency/nonprofit?
  • What do you know now that you wish you'd known before you entered this field?
  • What skills are necessary for a successful career in this field?
  • What professional publications do you read and why?
  • Can you suggest other people who may be helpful to me in gathering information about this field/location?
  • Can I use your name when contacting others?
  • Can I call on you again in the future?
  • How do I put myself in a position to take advantage of opportunities in this field?
  • Do you know of any resources (e.g., websites, books, journals, etc.) which might lead me to learn of job or internship opportunities in this field?
  • Which employers (e.g., government agencies, private firms, public interest employers, etc.) should I work for to prepare me to work at a place like this? Is there anyone at such organizations that you know who I could contact?
  • Can you suggest other people who may be helpful to me in searching for job opportunities in this area?
  • Do you know of anyone who might be looking for an employee with my background and interests?
  • Can I leave my résumé with you in case you learn of opportunities you think I might be interested in?
  • Are there any written materials you suggest I read? Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this practice area?
  • What things did you do before you entered the law?
  • Which have been most helpful?
  • How does your firm differ from its competitors?
  • What does the firm/agency/non-profit do to contribute to its employees’ professional development?
  • How does the firm/agency/nonprofit make use of technology for internal communication and outside marketing? (Use of social media, paperless office, etc.)
  • What sorts of changes are occurring in your practice area?
  • What can you tell me about the firm/agency/nonprofit’s culture?
  • How is the economy affecting the firm/agency/nonprofit?
  • What is the employment outlook like in your practice area?
  • What type of community involvement is expected of members of your firm/agency/nonprofit?
  • Are there professional or community organizations that would be helpful for me to join? Are there other things you are expected to do outside of work hours?
  • What interest you least about the job or creates the most stress?
  • If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
  • Do you have any advice for a law student?
  • What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  • Did I leave out any important question that would be helpful in learning about this work?
  • May I have your business card?
  • Who else should I get in touch with?

Category: Explore Your Career Options

Tags: Interview, Job Search Fundamentals