Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Effective Email Strategies for Law Students and Lawyers

by Susanne Aronowitz, Member , NALP’s E-Professionalism and Social Networking work group. Susanne is the Associate Dean for Law Career Services and Alumni Relations at Golden Gate University School of Law.


While most of you have been using email for as long as you can remember, communicating as a lawyer (or future lawyer) carries some unique obligations and responsibilities. Employers, clients, deans, faculty, and licensing agencies all have an interest in how you present yourself publicly. As a savvy legal  professional, using email effectively can help you cultivate a reputation for integrity and strong communication skills. Conversely, thoughtless blunders can damage not only your own reputation, but that of colleagues, co-workers, employers, and clients. By taking the same level of care with your  personal correspondence that you would with your motions and briefs, you can solidify your professional persona.


As a new legal professional, it is worthwhile to take a moment to reconsider some of the email strategies you used in your pre-law school days.

_ First Impressions Count! Make sure that your email address supports a professional identity and  clearly identifies you. might be an accurate description, but it does not help a prospective employer identify which smart lawyer you are. Similarly, addresses like do not support the professional brand that you have worked so hard to create. Try using a simple formulation that incorporates your first and last name.

_ Getting in the Last Word. If you utilize a signature block at the end of your message, keep it simple. At a minimum, include your name and phone number. If you choose to list your degree, do so accurately.   Verify whether your school awards a “Juris Doctor” or “Doctor of Jurisprudence.” Very few of you will be earning a “Juris Doctorate.” Listing your credentials inaccurately does not inspire confidence.

Think twice before adding a quote to the end of your signature block. This is not your high school  yearbook; consider whether you really want every employer, professor, and mentor to know “what a long, strange trip it’s been.” Similarly, if you choose to insert links to your blog, website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed, be fully prepared to have your correspondents follow them.

Directing new readers to your online content could be an excellent opportunity to build your “brand” or personal identity by showcasing your professional expertise, or an opportunity to harm your reputation if these communications are less than professional in tone and content.

_ Effective Email Management. Sometimes knowing when NOT to use email is the best email strategy. When dealing with sensitive subject matter or seeking significant amounts of information, it is time to abandon email in favor of face-to-face conversations or other strategies.

_ Start with the Conclusion. If you are asking your reader to do something, start the message with the request for action and then use the remainder of the message to explain why. If you put the request at the end, your recipient is likely to miss it. If your message is lengthy, summarize the contents of the message with a few bullet points at the beginning. 


There are a few basic rules of the road for effective email etiquette; these become particularly important to observe when communicating through email discussion lists and groups.

Demonstrating online etiquette will help you earn the good will of others while ignoring it could damage your reputation in a very public way.

_ To “cc” or Not to “cc”? Consider who needs to receive your message, and include them (and only them). Do not use “reply all” when a direct response to the sender is more appropriate. Similarly, if you are communicating via an email group or discussion list, do not clog up everyone’s inbox with a message that simply says “me too.”

_ Unintended Audiences. Be judicious about forwarding messages from others, but assume that your email messages will ALWAYS be forwarded. Once you hit “send” you lose control over the distribution of your message. If you do not want your message forwarded to your law school dean or law firm partner, do not send it. Many unwary law students have been surprised to see their email messages reprinted on a legal industry blog or on the front page of a legal newspaper.

_ What Are We Talking About? If you are carrying on a lengthy email conversation, be sure to change the subject line to match the content of the messages.


You Are Not “Dear Abby.” As a member of the legal profession, you must take extra care with any information you offer—if it rises to the level of legal advice, you may have inadvertently created an attorney-client relationship with your correspondent.

Avoid providing legal advice via email, especially on email discussion lists and groups.

There Are No Secrets on Email. Email is inherently an insecure medium. Refrain from using email to communicate information that must remain confidential.

Do Not Use Work Email for Personal Use. Do not use your work email account for personal business. Your employer owns the email account and the information contained therein. Your use of a work email account will inadvertently create the impression that your employer has endorsed the message you are communicating. Many employers would consider using work email for personal business to be a misappropriation of company resources, especially if used for financial gain or political activity.

You Are Your Word. Bar associations and many employers conduct background checks to assess your character and fitness.

Any “bad behavior” in email is likely to find its way to the investigators and could derail your opportunities.


Tone Counts! When the only information a prospective employer knows about you is contained in the 50 words of your email message, those words take on extra importance. Having a professional-sounding email is as effective in creating a positive impression as wearing a business suit to a job interview.

Respond promptly to an employer’s requests for information. Make sure your tone is polite, your text is grammatically correct, and your thoughts are well-composed. Do not use emoticons, exclamation marks, ALL CAPS, and informal constructions.

Who? What? If you are submitting an application for a job via email, be sure that your email address clearly identifies who you are and that the subject line identifies the position you are seeking (e.g., “Application for Real Estate Associate”). If you are requesting an informational interview, use the subject line to identify your connection to the person (e.g., “Colleague of John Smith”).

Supporting Documents. When attaching your resume and other application materials, convert them to PDFs to preserve your careful formatting and to ensure that the recipient can open them. Provide the documents with logical names (e.g., “Mary Jones Resume”).

By using email in a thoughtful and strategic manner, you can use it as an effective tool to creating and maintaining your professional persona.

This is one of a series of E-Guides on E-Professionalism available from NALP at

Monday, May 23, 2011

Did You Know . . . .? Another Job Resource for BYU Alumni

You know that the BYU Law School Career Services Office posts job listings.  Did you know that the BYU Alumni Association also has job listings in areas you might be interested in?  Don't forget to include this job board as another resource in your job search.

How to be a good summer associate

So you earned top grades, survived the interviews, and landed that coveted summer associate position. Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the expensive lunches, attend the after-work social events, and accompany the partners on that out of town trip, right?
Not so fast, cautions Aretha Blake, director of the Center for Professional Development at Charlotte School of Law. Many aspects of legal employment have changed in the face of economic hard times, and summer associate programs are also not exempt from cutbacks.

“I think this year programs are coming back, but they’re smaller than people have been used to,” Blake said. “Unlike in years past, students should not have an expectation that every summer associate will receive an offer for the next summer or a permanent job offer.”

Blake said firms projected for future needs when they determined the size of their summer classes, but they are more aware than ever of the need to bring in associates who will provide value to the clients with the basic skills necessary to become successful attorneys. Blake recommends associates think as if they are in a summer-long job interview, by showing they can be an asset to the firm long-term.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Short Term Housing: Finding a Place to Live for the Summer

by Jonathan Bell

You are leaving town for the summer. As excited as you are to live in a different city for the next several months, you need to find a place to live. Worse, you need to look for a place while still in school and possibly without actually seeing it first. Thankfully, summer housing is common, and you should have plenty of options available to help you find a place.

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Following Up When Networking

by Randall Ryder

Whether you are networking as an attorney or networking as a law student, that skill is critical to your success as an attorney.

There are plenty of ways to enhance your networking skills, but here is an easy one: follow up.

Why it matters

Big Ideas for Small Talk

By Mary Ellen Sullivan

Some people are born schmoozers and like nothing more than to meet and mingle at professional events. For others, this is about as painful as watching a “Kardashians” marathon at gunpoint.

Top 10 Icebreakers

If you fall into the latter category—and most of us do to some extent—it pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, offers her top 10 icebreakers. She suggests using them at those ubiquitous business/social occasions like fundraisers, association cocktail parties, conferences and dinners where you need to start a conversation with a colleague or potential client you don’t know well or would like to meet.

Click here for tips.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Job Interviews: A Tale of Two Questions

By Wendy Werner

Really, there are only two kinds of questions in any job interview. Yes, you might be asked to respond to a hypothetical situation, to draw on a distant law school memory, or even be tested on how you handle stress by enduring a brutal attack on your credentials. But all questions will fall into either the “can” category, or the “will” category. Knowing this can help you better prepare for the interview, stay calm under pressure and, ultimately, respond to the employer’s concerns with ease.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cool New Legal Resource: Scribd

By Nicole Johnson
What happens when you connect the world's most popular free legal website with the web's most popular social reading site?
You get front row access to tons of select legal documents on Scribd.
Not familiar with Scribd? You should be. It's like "YouTube for documents" on steroids.
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Conversation Tips for Networking Events

By Mary Ellen Sullivan

Do you view networking as a necessary evil? Do you get tongue-tied at cocktail parties? Does making small talk at conferences rate somewhere between vacuuming the car and sitting in the front row of a heavy metal concert? Do we have some tips for you!

Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, has a number of surefire recommendations for lawyers on how to start a conversation, keep it going, exit gracefully, and even atone for a faux pas or two.

Click here to continue to article.