It's like you're not even a lawyer...
Meh, someone pointed out earlier in this thread that MoonDreamer said somewhere else: "Bottom of my tier 3 class and I made it. Connections. Networking." Shit, if i was at the bottom of a TTT school, I might do something BIG RISK too, because I'd expect to be unemployed. Also, there was also at least one other thread where he appeared not to understand why things are the way they are... might've been in the clerkship forum.
. . . In other words, trying to debate/explain things here might be a lost cause.
The thing is, if you're writing to someone you don't know, it's safest to err on the side of formality/politeness, because there are certainly people out there who want law students to be formal and deferential. Just because you don't doesn't make the e-mail creepy. Also, you keep saying be tactful, but formality and deference aren't tactless.
I agree with this. I do think there is the possibility
that if you were contacting a newer associate, that you might be quite a bit more casual. When you were a 1L, you probably didn't/wouldn't have e-mailed 3Ls at your school and acted formal and deferential, after all. But e-mailing more senior associates and partners? Definitely err on that side.