You might be asking whether the informational interview is the same thing as a regular interview. It's not. The informational interview is what it sounds like - a brief talk meant to get more information on the firm. But what you should understand is that your chances of getting a real interview are much improved once you have face-to-face contact with a member of your desired firm. Not only can you learn exactly what opportunities in which departments exist, but you get the chance to make a direct impression with someone from the firm. It's proven fact that we feel a stronger urge to help someone we've met or whom we know, rather than a stranger or a stray resume from the ether.
How do you go about setting up informational interviews? You have the best resources right at your fingertips - Martindale-Hubbell and your alumni directory. Don't be afraid to tap into your alumni network, whether it's from your undergraduate or law school. You might suspect that you're somehow bothering these busy lawyers, but don't be. You'll find that most of your fellow alums will be happy to take 20 to 30 minutes out of their schedules to give you some solid career advice.
The best way to proceed: Compose a letter or e-mail (depending on which address you've located) explaining who you are, what school you've both attended, and what your immediate career goals are. Make sure you emphasize that you are not asking for a job, but only for information. Leave your phone number and email address. Remember that everyone was in the same boat as you were not too long ago - and many law firms, despite the slackening of the labor market, still pay their lawyers premiums for bringing in qualified candidates. Even if you've got on-campus interviews lined up, it's worth investigating the informational interview route. Good luck!
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