Nearly 60% of the 1L class has chosen to participate in the 2017/2018 Notre Dame Alumni Mentorship Program and you have been assigned mentors in over 20 cities. Congratulations on taking the first step toward cultivating a network in the city in which you want to build your legal career!
Now, that you have been paired with a mentor, what should you do? How should you reach out to them?
I suggest writing a short, clear email with a question mark in the subject line and a question in the email that clearly proposes two possible times to meet or talk on the phone.
Some subject lines I like are:
-Phone call with your ND mentee next week?
-Meet with ND mentee to talk about your work at [name of organization your mentor works for] in December?
-Meet with ND mentee?
Emails with subject lines that contain question marks have a higher response rate and make it immediately clear to your mentor why you are emailing.
The central goal of your first email to your mentor is to get a meeting or phone call with your mentor scheduled.
Ideally, you will meet your mentor in person but if you will not be in the same city as your mentor over the next two months, schedule a phone call for now and make plans to meet them in person when you will be in the same city as they are.
If you have a phone call first or have already had a phone call, be sure to follow-up by email to thank them for taking time to talk to you and try to set up an in-person meeting as soon as you can.
With that goal in mind, the text of your email should be fairly short and simple.
- Start by briefly introducing yourself, saying that you are their mentee, stating that you are interested in building your career in their city, and would benefit from learning from them.
- Then ask if they are free to meet and propose two dates. An example of this is: “Are you free to meet on Monday, December 18 or Tuesday, December 19? I will be in New York then for winter break and can meet you at your office, a coffee shop, or another location that is easy for you.”
- Thank them again for serving as your mentor and say you look forward to meeting them.
It is best to avoid going into deep detail about the practice areas you are interested in and your background because you will get into that during your meeting and because long emails have much slower response rates.
For your initial email, it is best to keep it simple.
If you want to have your outreach email reviewed, the CDO is happy to do so. Just email any one of us.
Of course, if your mentor has already reached out to you separately, you do not need to craft an entirely new email. Instead, you can absolutely just respond to their email and suggest a time to talk.
If your mentor does not respond to your email within a week, email them again. I talk about how to approach this situation in detail in this blog post: What do you do if someone hasn’t emailed you back?
When you have your first call or meeting with your mentor, remember that the main goal of that first meeting is to build a relationship.
Don’t worry so much about selling yourself or putting together a complicated pitch. Instead, do your research on your mentor and ask them about their career path. Ask them what they do on a day to day basis, how they got where they are, and ask about their time at Notre Dame. Ask them about cases they have worked on and their advice for you. Ask them about their legal market and their advice for breaking into it. People like talking about themselves and sharing their stories so ask your mentor tons of questions and be extremely curious. There is a saying in sales that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason and when it comes to your first meeting with your mentor, that is a good saying to follow.
If you have no idea what practice areas you are interested in, that is totally fine. You can tell your mentor that one of the reasons you are talking to them is to learn more about different practice areas and to get a lay of the land. You don’t have to feign a deep interest in their practice area. Sincere, honest interactions lead to much better relationships than fake ones.
At the end of the meeting, ask if they know any other attorneys that you could speak with. If they do, when you follow-up to thank them over email, you can ask for those attorneys’ emails.
If you had a good rapport with your mentor and they tell you not to hesitate to reach out, listen to them.
Don’t just meet with your mentor once and then not touch base ever again.
Ask them for advice over the course of the semester. You don’t have to fake a second interaction that feels forced. Inevitably, something will happen over the course of the school year that you will want advice about. You will wonder what class to take, what club to join, what topic you should write a paper on, or where you should work this summer. Ask your mentor. They will feel impressed and honored that you thought to reach out to them and the interaction will feel genuine for you. If you’re looking for a way to ensure that follow-up doesn’t feel forced and awkward, asking for advice is it.
Don’t be afraid that you are burdening or annoying your mentor.
The CDO has run this program for three years and not once in that three years has a single mentor reached out to us to tell us that a student annoyed them. Instead, we constantly get emails from mentors asking to be more involved or expressing that they wished their mentees had been in touch with them more frequently.
Every single mentor in this program has signed up for it voluntarily and wants to be connected with students. So go forth and confidently contact your mentor, knowing that they want to hear from you and they want to help.
If you want any outreach emails reviewed or want advice on your meeting with your mentor, don’t hesitate to reach out to the CDO!