I am a workplace rights attorney turned career strategist and workplace consultant. For years I helped legal clients navigate workplace issues. From bakers and graphic designers to college professors, inventors, and doctors, I helped hundreds of people from a variety of industries and career backgrounds resolve their most challenging workplace problems.
Writing to inquire about a job can be tough—especially when you’re not sure you qualify for the position, and especially when you’re not even sure there’s a position available. When you’re on the job hunt, writing the right inquiry email can be a challenge, but sometimes rising to that challenge can pay off in a big way. I would know—when I was a new law graduate, I sent a cold email to a law firm that landed me my dream job. Had I not done so, my career would have gotten off to a very different start.
When I graduated from law school in 2013, I didn’t have a job lined up. That was not at all uncommon at the time. In the early 2010s, jobs were in short supply as new legal graduates continued to oversaturate the market.
Most people who graduated with jobs in my class were those who secured summer internships with a post-employment track. I had received glowing praises and recommendations from all the internships I held during law school. However, they were all temporary in nature.
I worked for a federal judge, interned as a law clerk to a trial attorney at the EEOC, did an employment law internship with a local hospital, and held other positions that interested me. But, none of them promised post-graduation employment.
I spent the summer after graduation studying for the bar exam.
I interviewed for several positions that proved not to be a match. Then, six months after graduation, I found myself at a crossroads in my job search. I had landed an interview the traditional way with a local firm that focused its practice on Social Security Disability Law.
The experience I gained during my judicial internship in law school made me a strong candidate; so strong, in fact, that I was the firm’s number one choice for the position. They called to offer me the job just days after the interview.
As fate would have it, I ended up declining that offer in favor of a position with another firm whose focus was labor and employment (specifically employment discrimination).
I had learned of the firm during law school after seeing the firm’s founding attorney, Lindy Korn, visit the law school. I remember being so intrigued by Lindy’s energy and the work her firm did. For that reason, Lindy came to mind in the midst of my job search. I regularly visited the firm’s website, but did not know whether the firm needed new attorneys. I had no reason to believe the firm was hiring.
Still, I felt a pull to reach out. So, one day, I did.
Dear Ms. Korn,
I am a recent graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and I am writing to introduce myself and inquire about potential openings for associate attorneys or law clerks in your practice. I sat for and passed the July 2013 NY Bar Exam, and my character and fitness application is currently pending before the Fourth Department. I expect to be admitted as an attorney in NY in January.
I am reaching out to you because I am familiar with your work, and I have an interest and experience in employment discrimination law. During law school, I held several labor and employment internships, including a six-month law internship with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I also assisted with drafting judicial decisions in employment discrimination cases for a federal judge in the Western District of New York.
I became familiar with you from your ongoing work with the law school, including your participation in the ABA Advocacy in Mediation competition. My team placed in the top 5 in last year’s competition, and I really enjoyed learning more about the mediation process.
I have attached my resume to this e-mail and would be extremely grateful for any additional discussion concerning current or future openings in your law practice. I thank you for your time, and I hope to speak with you soon.
She responded letting me know that she was not currently hiring, but that she wanted to have lunch with me. She gave me the name of her assistant, and asked me to call to schedule a meeting. Two weeks later, we had lunch. And one week after that, I had a job offer from Lindy in hand.
Over five years later, I still work for Lindy, and I am so grateful for the impact she’s had on my life and my career. While it can be scary to take risks and put yourself out there, I encourage everyone to take those leaps of faith and see where they land.
Do your homework. Know the employer you are contacting: the work culture, significant business successes they’ve had, areas of focus, and who the key players are. Write about the aspects that draw you to the company and speak honestly. Your enthusiasm and knowledge should be genuine. After all, that’s why you’re contacting them.
Know how you fit into the scenario. What would make you a good fit for the firm? What background experiences, noted successes, and personal characteristics make you a strong candidate for consideration? Be specific.
Use formalities. Use official titles and greetings. Don’t take an overly casual attitude. Err on the side of respect.
Find the right contact. You should know who you are addressing in your letter, what their role is in the company, and, if possible, what their communication style is. Now, the last part isn’t always possible, but if you’re writing someone from within the local community, you should make every effort to learn about this person—personality quirks and all.
Double check for errors. Enough said.
Attach a targeted resume. When you send your letter, you should send your resume. However, you must ensure the resume you send is targeted for the specific type of work you are pursuing. If you are sending a cold inquiry email, you likely will not have a job description to work from. However, if you’re interested enough in an employer to send an unsolicited application, you should know exactly the type of work you are applying for.
Sending an inquiry letter means you are taking ownership over your career. You’re enterprising, passionate, taking big chances, and making big moves.
For more helpful tips making those moves, be sure to subscribe to my Friday newsletter. You’ll get lawyer mom hacks and career resources in your inbox every Friday. You should also visit my free resources vault for even more tips and guides.
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