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Sample Searches for Networking & Informational Interviews

Updated Sept. 25, 2013
Prepared by Mary Whisner

All the career experts say that it's important to network and to seek out people with whom to have informational interviews. You might think that's a fine idea -- but still wonder how you find those people who are doing what you want to do. How can you write them a friendly note if you don't know who they are?

Standard advice includes talking to anyone you know and branching out from there. And that's good advice. Of course you should talk to the lawyers you meet when you're externing, the lawyers who judge you in moot court, and so on. And it could be that someone at your church knows the person you want to meet. Or maybe your college roommate's mother's best friend is just the sort of lawyer you want to talk to.  But this sort of networking isn't the only tool you have.

Research isn't just for "research assignments" -- you can use your research skills to find contacts for your job search or to learn more about the contacts you already have.

This guide gives you sample searches that you can adapt to your own questions. These searches aren't the only possible searches that will help you find contacts: they're just meant to give you some ideas.

While the guide emphasizes informational interviewing, the search techniques can also help you learn more about places where you are applying to work or people with whom you have job interviews.

Often the guide gives sample searches for both LexisNexis and Westlaw. Why? The coverage of Martindale-Hubbell (on LexisNexis) and West Legal Directory (on Westlaw) is not the same. Very often each lists some attorneys or firms the other does not.

If you do not have access to these commercial systems, use the directories' free websites: Martindale.com and West Legal Directory on Findlaw.  Anyone can use LinkedIn and Avvo.

Note: when you search for "university of washington," you'll often pick up records for "American University - Washington, D.C."  or for "George Washington University - Washington, D.C." The easiest way to deal with this is to skim past the false drops. You can create searches to exclude the schools you don't want, but you might exclude too much (what if someone got a B.A. at American University and a J.D. at the University of Washington?).


Tips for Informational Interviewing and Networking

Susan R. Sneider, A Lawyer's Guide to Networking (2006), Gallagher Law Library Classified Stacks(KF316.5 .S64 2006)

Publisher's description:

This hands-on workbook is an invaluable tool for lawyers at all stages of their professional life, from law students to high-level professionals transitioning careers. Filled with practical advice, folk wisdom, academic theory, and tips from some leading members of the bar, this book covers networking from the basics of an "elevator pitch" to the role it plays in business development, internal relations, job searches and leadership in the profession and in the community.
A Lawyer's Guide to Networking cover

Cornell University Law School, Informational Interview. Lots of suggestions for developing your network, including this:

Here's one: read. By reading newspapers, bar association publications, magazines, and relevant web sites, you can reap two different types of contacts. First, when an attorney's work is highlighted in an article, you can contact that person and talk to them about the work that was featured. Also, you can reach out to the author of the piece. Especially in bar publications, the writers are volunteers who actually practice law for a living. You can contact the author, letting him/her know that you liked the article and wanted to learn more.

The Cornell guide also has ideas for writing or calling a contact and what questions to ask. Includes a sample thank-you letter (addressed to a fictional legal aid group in Seattle, of all places).

Karen Summerville (Legal Career Management, Seattle), Networking: What Is It? Do I Really Have to Do It?. See also Summerville's article with advice for dealing with a discouraging informational interview.

Heather Dierson, Informational Interviews: Yep, They Still Count, Minnesota Lawyer, Aug. 23, 2010.

Washington and Lee University School of Law, How to Conduct an Informational Interview. Specific guidance on developing your list of contacts, contacting the attorney (what to say in a letter, when to call), and what questions to ask. Recommends keeping a progress log.

Seattle University School of Law, Informational Interviewing. Includes "A Networking Top Ten."

George Washington University Law School, Networking and Informational Interviewing. Good list of questions to ask in an informational interview.

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WSBA Directory

For Washington lawyers, a good first stop is usually the WSBA's directory, at pro.wsba.org. Since every lawyer who practices in this state has to be a member of WSBA, this directory is current and comprehensive. It's so comprehensive, it even includes deceased lawyers—not that you'll meet them, but sometimes it's good to confirm that the person you're looking for isn't around. It also includes those on inactive status (lower dues but no right to practice).

The directory is programmed to find names that are close to what you type. So if you type "Mary" you'll also get "Maryann," and if you type "Reynolds," you'll also get "Reynoldson" and "McReynolds." The site also offers the ability to search by practice area (based on what lawyers submit), language, or access to TDD. And you can also find members of WSBA committees.

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LinkedIn and Avvo

LinkedIn is a social networking site that enables people to post information about themselves -- jobs, degrees, areas of interest. You can search it and send a message to someone you find listed. If people say that they are "Interested in * job inquiries * expertise requests * reference requests," that suggests that they would be excellent contacts for informational interviews.

Choose Advanced Search to be able to search by location, industry, school, etc.

Avvo logo
Avvo is a directory of attorneys that includes information from outside sources (bar associations, publications that give awards), information from the attorneys themselves (people can add to their profiles), and ratings by clients and other lawyers. Some entries have nothing more than name, address, and date admitted. But some have much more: photos, practice areas, publications, comments, and ratings. It's not a comprehensive search tool, but it's definitely a something to add to your toolkit.

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Martindale-Hubbell and West's Legal Directory

 

Martindale.com (owned by LexisNexis) is the free, online version of the venerable Martindale-Hubbell print directories (the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory began in 1931; we also have Hubbell's Legal Directory, 1873-1930, Martindale's United States Law Directory, 1875-76, and Martindale's American Law Directory, 1897-1930).

Martindale listings generally have a lot more information than just name, address, and phone number. They'll list schools attended, areas of practice, languages, publications, and more. And you can search by all (or most of) those variables too.

Be aware that no directory is comprehensive, so you might not find the lawyer you're looking for. Martindale-Hubbell has never been as strong for lawyers in government and non-profit organizations as it was for lawyers in private practice. And now a number of lawyers and firms are choosing not to pay the fee to be listed, so it is not as comprehensive as it used to be.

Martindale is changing with the times. For instance, it announced a change in its rating system. Ratings Are Transforming, Martindale.com Blog, Sept. 10, 2009. And Martindale is hosting a social media site for lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell Connected.

Martindale-Hubbell directories are also on LexisNexis, often with more search options than on the free site. This guide's examples use the LexisNexis version, since law students have access, but it's worth mentioning the free site for those who do not.

 

Since Martindale-Hubbell was on LexisNexis (and is now owned by LexisNexis), you won't be surprised that Westlaw came up with a competitor, West's Legal Directory (WLD on Westlaw). The free version of WLD is the Findlaw Lawyer Directory -- in fact, the URL http://www.wld.com/ (for West's Legal Directory) works just like lawyers.findlaw.com. (Findlaw is owned by Thomson Reuters, Westlaw's parent company.)

Like Martindale, Findlaw allows you to search by lawyers' practice areas, locations, and other variables. You can also search by name, if you're looking for an individual. Once you get to a lawyer's listing, you can find very basic information:




or a detailed profile:

The sample searches below use the Westlaw version of the directory, since law students have access, but it's worth mentioning the free site for those who do not. Even law students might choose to use the free site so they can see the pictures of attorneys who post them.

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Searching for Law Firms and Attorneys in Private Practice

The sample searches here will work best for law firms and for attorneys in private practice, because they use directories that often don't list attorneys in government agencies or public interest groups. Still, some of the searches will locate a few of these other lawyers, so don't rule them out.

How can I find medium-sized firms in Denver with estate planning practices?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > CO Listings - Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory

Search: FIRM-SIZE >(10) and FIRM-SIZE <(50) and CITY(denver) and PRACTICE(estate planning)

Note: some segments -- e.g., FIRM-SIZE and PRACTICE are only used for firm profiles. Other segments—e.g., LAW-SCHOOL and PRACTICE-AREAS—are only used for individual lawyers.

Westlaw

WLD-CO

Using the template, choose Profile Type = o; City = denver; Areas of Practice = "estate planning"; and Firm Size = 1-25 26-50.

The same search using terms and connectors is: PT(O) & CSZ(DENVER) & PRA("ESTATE PLANNING") & RA(11-25 26-50)


Are there any UW grads in Colorado who do estate planning?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > CO Listings - Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory

Search: PRACTICE-AREAS(estate planning) and LAW-SCHOOL(university of washington)

Note: some segments -- e.g., FIRM-SIZE and PRACTICE are only used for firm profiles. Other segments -- e.g., LAW-SCHOOL and PRACTICE-AREAS -- are only used for individual lawyers.

Westlaw

WLD-CO

Using the template, choose Type of Profile = i; Law School = "university of washington"; and Areas of Practice = "estate planning"

The same searching using terms and connectors is: PT(I) & PRA("ESTATE PLANNING") & LS("UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON")

LinkedIn

Keywords: estate planning

Located in or near 80202 (a ZIP code in downtown Denver) within 100 mi.

Industry: Law Practice or Legal Services

(This particular search didn't pull up any matches, but you can see the potential.)

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Are there any lawyers in California, Colorado, Idaho, or Utah who went to college at BYU and law school at the UW and were admitted to the bar after 2000?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings

Check the boxes for CA, CO, ID, and UT, then click Combine Sources.

Search: COLLEGE(brigham young university)and LAW-SCHOOL(university of washington) and ADMITTED AFT(2000)

Westlaw

WLD

Using the template, choose Type of Profile = i; State = ca co id ut; Law School Information = "university of washington"; and Undergraduate School Information = "brigham young university."

The same search using terms and connectors is PT(I) & ST(CA WA OR CO UT ID) & LS("UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON") & UND("BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY").

Note: West Legal Directory doesn't have a field for admission date. You can search for one year at a time in the Bars Admitted field.


I'm thinking of practicing in Vancouver, Washington, and taking both the Washington and Oregon bars so I could handle cases in both states.

How could I find some lawyers who do that?

Westlaw

WLD-WA

Using the template, choose Profile Type = i; County = clark; and Bars Admitted = oregon & washington

The same search using terms and connectors is: PT(I) & CT(CLARK) & ADM(OREGON & WASHINGTON).

Note: This search is much harder in Martindale-Hubbell on LexisNexis.

...Did any of those lawyers go to the UW?

Locate: LS("university of washington")

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I'd like to find UW law grads who have been involved with the Loren Miller Bar Association.

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > WA Listings - Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory

Search: loren miller and LAW-SCHOOL(university of washington)

Westlaw

WLD

Template search: Law School Information = "university of washington"; Affiliations = "loren miller"

Terms and connectors search: ls("university of washington") & aff("loren miller")

Organization websites

Try the Loren Miller Bar Association's website (under construction as of Feb. 2009). Search the Washington State Bar Association's website for "loren miller" -- e.g., you'll find an announcement of someone who was elected to the Board of Governors who had been an officer of the Loren Miller Bar Association.

LinkedIn

Keywords: loren miller

School: "university of washington"

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How can I find local lawyers who speak Japanese?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > WA Listings - Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory

search: COUNTY(king) and LANGUAGES(japanese)

Westlaw

WLD-WA

search: CT(KING) & LNG(JAPANESE)


I'm an older law student, and I'd like to talk to some recent grads who were also over 32 when they started practicing.

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory - United States Listings

search: BORN-DATE BEF(1970) and ADMITTED AFT(2002) and LAW-SCHOOL(university of washington)

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I'd like to find any firms or lawyers who work in alternative energy.

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory - United States Listings

search: alternative /3 energy

... What about news stories?

Westlaw

legalnp [Legal Newspapers database]

search: alternative /3 energy /30 lawyer attorney "law firm" & da(last 3 years)

search: ti(wind ethanol renewable alternative & energy) & "law firm"

... What about blogs?

(1) Searching law.com for "renewable energy" led to news stories and some blog posts, including one from Sustainability Law Blog, by the firm of Tonkon Torp LLP in Portland, OR, and Washington, DC.

(2) You could also check the ABA Blawg Directory, which lists 24 blogs under Energy Law. Blawgsearch is another good directory, and it enables you to search posts.

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Is there a way I can compare two or three firms -- practice areas, number of attorneys, and so on?

Martindale.com has a feature that does this. (You need to register on Martindale.com, but registration is free.) After you do a search and find 2-4 firms (or attorneys) you want to compare, use the checkboxes to mark them:

Then click on the gold "compare" button at the top of the screen to see a side-by-side comparison:

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Searching for Government Attorneys

How can I find lawyers within the Washington AG's office who have worked on civil commitments?

LexisNexis

Source: Washington > Find Cases > WA State Cases, Combined Source Description

Search: "civil commitment" & counsel(attorney general)

Westlaw

WA-CS database

search: "civil commitment" & at("attorney general")

Note: These searches only turn up appellate cases -- but you can bet that if you talk to the attorneys who handled the appeals they can tell you who handled the trial work.

News stories

LexisNexis

Source: Legal > States Legal - U.S. > Washington > Search News > General News > Washington News Publications

Search: civil commitment /p trial or hearing and assistant attorney general

Note: Some news stories won't use the phrase "assistant attorney general," so you might try a broader search (e.g., state or government /s attorney or lawyer or counsel) -- but that's more likely to pick up stories that don't give the attorney's name.

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How can I learn about EPA lawyers?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > United States Listings > Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory - U.S. Government Attorney Profiles Source Description

Search: agency(environmental protection)

Note that Martindale-Hubbell's "U.S. Government Attorney Profiles" only includes federal government attorneys who work in Washington, D.C. So you won't find information about attorneys in regional offices.

Note also that the government listings don't give as much biographical information as private firm listings -- usually just year of birth, year of bar admission, college, and law school.

Westlaw

WLD-GOV includes government attorneys from around the U.S. As in Martindale-Hubbell, there is less biographical detail for government attorneys than there is for attorneys in private practice.

LinkedIn

You can get a lot more biographical information -- but for fewer attorneys -- by using LinkedIn. Search for Company = environmental protection and Title = attorney.

EPA Website

Don't forget to check agency websites. For instance, the EPA's Office of General Counsel has information about the office, an organizational chart, and a page about the office's honors fellowship program.

Is anyone from the Seattle office ever listed as counsel in a case?

Westlaw

ALLFEDS database

Search: at("environmental protection agency" +2 seattle)

(The answer? Not very often, but there are a few cases.)

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Searching for Nonprofits and Attorneys Who Work in or with Nonprofits

How can I find organizations in California that work on housing issues?

PSLawNet is a great resource. As a University of Washington student you can set up your own account.

Search Organizations > Practice Area: Homelessness/Housing/Landlord-Tenant. State=California

That gives you a list of organizations, like this:

That leads you to profiles of the organizations, e.g.:

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Once I know about an organization, how can I learn about its attorneys?

In an organization's own website, look for a Staff page or a Contacts page.

Now you can learn more about the attorneys by searching for news stories, cases, or publications. You can also try LinkedIn:

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How can I find attorneys who volunteer with nonprofits?

As you plan your public interest career, remember pro bono work. Your full-time job might not be a "public interest job," but you can be very active with a cause you care about. And when you're trying to learn about organizations in a community, remember that the attorneys who do pro bono for a group are excellent candidates for informational interviews: they know a lot about the organizations and their work and they might be able to put you in touch with attorneys inside the organizations.

You can search for organizations' names in LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell, and West Legal Directory. You can add other networking factors (like the college you went to or the city you're interested in) to narrow your search.


Searching for Corporate Counsel

Note: lawyers who work in house are less commonly listed in directories than lawyers who work in law firms. Think about it: the law firms want to have their lawyers have high visibility so they can get more clients.  But an in-house legal department has its clients: the company's executives and managers know how to find their legal department.

How can I find attorneys who work in the Starbucks legal department?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > Area of Law Listings > Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory - Corporate Legal Law Listings

Search: firm(starbucks)

Westlaw

West Legal Directory - Corporate Counsel (WLD-CORPCO)

Search: org(starbucks)

How can I find corporate counsel for construction companies in Washington?

LexisNexis

Legal > Reference > Martindale-Hubbell(R) > Area of Law Listings > Martindale-Hubbell(R) Law Directory - Corporate Legal Law Listings

Search: building or construction and state(washington)

Westlaw

West Legal Directory - Corporate Counsel (WLD-CORPCO)

Search: construction building & st(wa)

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