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Our own Matt Lab wrote this column for the San Diego County Bar Association’s New Lawyer Division section of their December 2013 newsletter!    

THE ART OF THE FOLLOW-UP

By Matthew A. Lab
Assistant Director, Career and Professional Development Office
California Western School of Law

Of the many things generally not taught in law school, the most important may be the art of the follow-up.  Perhaps you had a recent interview with a prospective employer or attended a networking event where business cards were exchanged; or simply met with a supervising attorney related to a pending matter.  The next step is perhaps the most crucial to ensuring that you are successful in your endeavor related to the original meeting — yet is too often neglected. You must follow-up. While law students or new attorneys may be disinclined to do so out of fear that they might be bothersome to the attorney, it is the attorneys who have been surprised and disappointed at the lack follow-up. Here are some tips that might be helpful:

Reminders

First off, unless you have one heck of a memory, you will need to remind yourself to follow-up. Thankfully, there are plenty of calendaring tools available to help us in this action ranging from Microsoft Outlook or the web based Google C alendar to the multitude of apps on your PDA or smart phone. Set “status” reminders in advance of project deadlines, i.e. one week, three days, 24-hours prior to the project deadline, etc. Set “follow up” reminders seven days or so after meetings.

After applying for a job

Calling or emailing a prospective employer seven days or so after applying for a position to find out more about the employer’s hiring needs or decision making timeline is a great way to have your application materials pulled from the file for a fresh look. While it doesn’t guarantee results, this additional contact may increase your overall chances of being called for an interview. Many employers are busy, hence their need for additional employees and are awash with applications. Thus, a simple follow-up will confirm your interest in the position and put you back on the prospective employer’s radar. When you call or email, ask questions that will advance your application. State who you are and when you applied; confirm your continued interest in the position and inquire whether there is anything else that you might provide them to assist in their decision making process.

Following a networking function

This is your chance to establish yourself on the contact’s radar. First off, make sure that you exchange business cards at the event, and at the conclusion of the event, jot notes about the conversations that you may have had on the back of the respective cards. A day or so later, review the business cards, and send each contact a follow-up note wherein you make reference to your conversation, perhaps something that they may have mentioned, and thank them for their time or advice. If you promised to do something for them, i.e., send an article that you may have discussed, make sure to do so. By following up, you begin to forge a relationship with them, because they will feel that they were of value to you.

After meeting with a supervisor

Providing periodic updates to your supervisor as to your status on a project is crucial to ensure that your work product will be completed in a timely and efficient manner. It also shows that you are organized and proactive – which are good things. Through this type of communication, the supervisor will be able to provide you with feedback as to your progress and redirect you if needed.

 

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