During law school, you will be making the transition from using email to correspond with friends, family, and professors to using email as professional correspondence to employers and networking contacts. Here are a few tips you assist in the transition.
- Subject line: The subject line should give the reader an explanation of the purpose of the correspondence. If you are sending your application materials for a position, “John Smith’s application materials” will be sufficient. If you are following up with a networking contact, putting the name of the event in the subject line is helpful. For example, “Follow up from MAPA Conference” is a good way for the reader to quickly remember where they met you. Keep the subject line brief and appropriate to the topic of the email.
- Greeting: Be sure to use the correct formality when greeting employers, “Dear Ms. Johnson:” or “Dear Mr. Johnson:” should be used. (Note: We always use Ms. in a business context since it does not matter if the person is married or not.) Always verify the correct spelling of the recipient’s name. If you have met an attorney at a networking event, you may want to keep the formality by using their last name, but you could begin the greeting with “Good morning Mr. Jones,” or “Good afternoon Mr. Jones,” if you like. However, if the contact has already asked you to use their first name and you have built rapport, “Good morning Brad,” or “Hello Brad,” is appropriate.
- Introduction: In business correspondence it is important to create the connect for the reader. “I am a third-year law student at Mizzou Law and am applying for the Law Clerk position with your firm.” Or “It was so nice to meet you at the Boone County Bar Association luncheon yesterday.” Give the reader context. Keep it short and sweet, but set up the reason for the email in the first few sentences.
- Be Concise: In a business email you need to assume that the person you are writing to is receiving many emails each day. Value their time by keeping the message short and to the point. Use sufficient white space so that it is not a burden to read. Don’t make the reader dig through several paragraphs to figure out what you are asking. Try to keep your email to two or three short paragraphs. Leave space between paragraphs.
- Closing: Ending your email with a “Thank you” or “Thank you for your time” is important. Always include a signature block that includes your name, graduation date, phone number and email. Including your LinkedIn account is also important. This allows the contact to learn more about you.
Every business e-mail you send is a reflection of you as a professional. If your correspondence is disorganized and contains mistakes, that reflects negatively on you. Take the time to proof read your correspondence and make sure it is clear, to the point, and error-free before clicking on “Send”.