The following article was prepared for the Justice Education Society’s – Mapping Her Path mentorship newsletter.
If you will be meeting with a more experienced lawyer for an informational interview or mentoring arrangement, how can you make the most of it? Here are some practical tips on how to prepare for a productive conversation:
Do your research
- Learn what you can from the lawyer’s website bio and LinkedIn profile, and from a general internet search. By doing this, you can get a great snapshot of the lawyer’s education and career path, representative work, and personal interests. Take note of anything that sparks your interest and that you might be curious to hear more about. By making an effort to know the lawyer’s background, this will help you to ask more focused questions, and also allow you to demonstrate your genuine interest and your respect for that lawyer’s time.
Be ready to introduce yourself
- Your role in the conversation will mostly be that of a listener, and the lawyer will probably be wondering what you would be most interested to hear about. In anticipation of this, be prepared to introduce yourself and keep it brief and succinct. In that overview, it is helpful to explain the general purpose of the meeting to frame your interests (i.e., why you reached out to this lawyer in particular, applied for mentorship, or whatever the case may be)
Prepare good questions
- While the conversation will hopefully flow naturally, having prepared questions can help to ease any anxiety and lessen the likelihood of uncomfortable silences. It will be useful to generate a list ahead of time based on what you would most like to learn. To assist with this, here are some conversation starters that you can consider:
“Get to know you” questions:
- I noticed that you have [insert career or education fact]. Would you share about your journey in getting to where you are today in your career?
- I see from your bio that you do [insert practice area or job description]. Would you tell me more about what that involves?
- How did you determine what [insert role / practice area / workplace] was right for you?
- What does your typical work day or work week look like?
- What aspects of your work do you find the most interesting / satisfying / challenging?
Insight or advice seeking questions:
- What is something you wish you would have known earlier in your career, or perhaps done differently?
- What do you think are the most important factors for succeeding at what you do?
- I am looking to [insert your objective (i.e., gain more experience in a certain area, manage time/energy better, build a practice)]. Do you have any tips or suggestions that you can share?
- What advice do you have for someone in my position?
These questions are simply suggested starting points. Remember to listen actively and your conversation can potentially take a fascinating, unanticipated course.