“The informational interview is an interview with someone who has a career that you’d like to know more about. These interviews do not necessarily lead to employment or an internship, but are a great way to figure out if a certain field might be right for you, and to find out more about the types of internship opportunities that would be available at that company or in that field.” (internshipfinder.com)
Prior to law school I had never heard of an “informational interview.” After being told by attorneys and professors that I must attend informational interviews to fuel my career, I made a goal to attend two to three a month during my final year of law school. Despite also being told that informational interviews are not meant to get me a job, I still thought they were my ticket.
I received my first job out of law school with a judge, not due to an informational interview, but a recommendation by a professor. While a law clerk, I again attempted to attend three informational interviews a month. I received my next position from a new-to-this-state attorney who had never heard of me (or anyone in this state), but who relied heavily on the recommendations of my judge and a partner at a firm that I clerked for in law school. So I am two for two on “great recommendations get you jobs” and zero for 100+ on “informational interviews get you jobs;” which is exactly the point.
What my informational interviews did give me that networking at a CLE or bar event did not, was candid advice on the legal market, perspectives on law firm/company life and practice, and resources for my future practice. I would not trade those 100+ interviews for one great “real employment interview” and here is why:
1. I met lawyers that inspired me to stay in this practice.
2. I met lawyers that I hope never to imitate.
3. I actually made a few friends, some even good friends.
4. In a few rare occurrences, I was able to offer something to the interviewee.
5. Free lunch or coffee (you always offer to buy, but when I made less than $43K a year as a law clerk, free lunch was great…I’m just saying).
6. I met attorneys in fields that I do not practice and I now refer business.
7. Several of the attorneys I met have been great resources for areas of law I am just jumping into, others have sent me forms and research or recommended an expert or service, and a few have invited me into ‘unofficial’ practice groups or invited me to join a committee. Having colleagues outside my company has made my transition from clerking to practice much smoother.
I may not have found a job doing informational interviews, but it turns out the exercise is more valuable now than while I was job hunting. Helpful websites: