The Art of the Perfect Phone Call

Last summer, I did a lot of phone conversations, and a lot of coffee dates with summer students from law firms in Toronto. My body is still recovering from the caffeine overdose I put it through. This is the post I wish I had last year before embarking on a journey that left my mouth dry and my cheeks cramped. Here are the ins and outs of how to handle the phone calls and coffee dates that are unfortunately inevitably in your future.

You’re not alone, phone calls scare me too. Actually, it’s the potential for long awkward pauses that scares me. Anyway, you don’t need to worry about that, because that’s not going to happen after reading this post. That’s right, this post is long awkward pause proof. The key to avoiding awkwardness, and more importantly, standing out as a prospective student is to be prepared for the phone call. While you may think your memory is infallible, I’m here to tell you it’s not and that a pen and paper are your friend. These phone conversations are for your personal benefit, so you want to ensure you get the chance to ask every question you intended. If you rely solely on memory, you risk missing out on valuable information and honestly, most likely (not speaking from experience or anything…) you’ll end up asking the same question 5 different ways. I consider this to be a skill – others, not so much.

To help you out, we have compiled a list of meaningful questions to ask summer students so you can save your creativity for another day. And no, if we’re on the phone and I notice you’re just reusing these questions I won’t judge you. If anything, I’d be flattered.

  • What does a regular day look like for you as a summer student?
  • What type of work have you had the opportunity to try?
  • How do students get their work – list-serve or going out and getting it?
  • What types of student events are held throughout the summer?
  • Do you find that your mentors (if the firm has a mentorship program) have helped you throughout the summer?
  • What is the environment like between the students – collegial, competitive?
  • Why did you apply/choose the firm you’re at?
  • Have you had the chance to go outside of the office “in the field” with lawyers at all?
  • What were you nervous about when you first started work? How do you feel about that now?

While these are obviously just a warm-up, hopefully it helps to get the juices flowing. If I have one piece of advice it would be to ask questions about what matters to you. No topic is too taboo, or too controversial for our ears. If you approach the questions professionally and thoughtfully, we’ll appreciate your candidness.

Also, don’t feel self-conscious about your questions. I remember thinking to myself that the student must’ve heard these questions a million times. Even if we have, if the person is enthusiastic, engaging, and easy to talk to, that’ll often overshadow the rest.

I didn’t ask their permission, but feel free to reach out to any of us students at Cassels this summer. We’re all unhealthily slightly obsessed with the firm and would love to chat about it.

Yours in social anxiety,

Cassels, Brock & Blogwell

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