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Fall recruiting season is just around the corner, and everyone is freaking out. If you’re a 2-L, you’re probably fretting about the right suit to wear, rehearsing your spiel about your fascination with compliance or some other dull area of practice and wondering how many interview spots you’ll score through the on-campus lottery.

You have a list of 36 potential “dream” firms, but you didn’t land an interview slot with all of them? Quelle tragédie. That means you might miss out on the perfect law firm. It also means you’ll have to contact those firms yourself and beg for an interview.

No big deal. But do you know how to do it correctly? According to hiring directors, many of you are clueless about the basic etiquette of making an interview request. Worse, you’re driving the hiring staff at law firms batty—and making a very poor first impression.

One hiring director at an Am Law 100 firm urged me to address this issue. She tells me that she and her colleagues are already dreading the annual onslaught of emails from law students. She cites a typical example:

Dear Ms./Mr. Head of Recruiting at Firm-X:

I am a rising 2L next year at [top national law school]. I am very interested in applying to [your awesome firm]. Could you please tell me what I need to submit to apply for a summer associate position?


Eager Law Student

“I would hope that by this time in their law school careers, students would know what to submit,” says this hiring director. “But they don’t.” What’s more, she adds, law schools don’t seem to be telling them either.

So here are some common sense tips for law students applying for jobs in Big Law:

1. The initial inquiry: Four things you must submit. The basic package includes cover letter (indicating office location preference, if relevant), resume, law school transcripts, short writing sample (10 pages or less).

2. The followup: Include everything—again. Law firms like redundancy so you should include a cover letter, resume, transcript and writing sample when checking on the status of an application or interview, or sending a thank-you note. “Don’t make a prospective employer search for your information,” says this hiring director. “You can never send it enough times.”

3. Proof, proof, proof! If you make a mistake on your cover letter or resume, you will not likely get a second look. Also make sure you are sending it to the right person at the right firm. “I get a lot of resumes addressed to my counterparts at other firms,” says this hiring director.

4. Your voice mail: Be business-like. Make sure your voice mail message mentions your name and that it sounds mature and understandable. This hiring director says she’s reluctant to leave sensitive messages about interviews or offers unless she you knows that the firm has reached the right person.

If all this sounds too basic to you, pat yourself on the back. You’re obviously way ahead of the game. But for many law students, all this is worth repeating. It’s highly competitive to get a Big Law summer associate positions, says this hiring director, so “be diligent and smart” when you make your first contact.

E-mail: vchen@alm.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist