While the interview process can take its toll on prospective law firm candidates, it's no walk in the park for the lawyers tasked with conducting the interviews. Partners can see up to 25 students per day, including during their lunch break. They spend their travel time reviewing resumes and coming up with questions tailored to a candidate’s specific experience. Immediately after an interview, partners take notes to help them distinguish one candidate from another. In 20 minutes, the lawyers are responsible for choosing between eight and 10 students who “fit” with their firm.
The students have shared their experiences, so now it’s time to hear from the interviewers.
Let’s start with the resume.
1. Defend your resume. If you’re going to put something on there, you'd better be able to talk about it, lawyers say. Most lawyers’ questions derive from an applicant’s resume, so applicants need to be well versed about what they put on their resumes.
2. Proofread your resume and cover letter. It sounds simple, one lawyer says, but they are often surprised by how many simple mistakes they see on resumes and cover letters. “The problem isn’t the error. We make mistakes every day,” one lawyer says. “But we do look at past performance and behavior to predict future performance and behavior.”
Prepping for the interview.
1. Research the firm. Again, it seems like the basic piece of advice, but lawyers say it can make or break the interview. Don’t ask lawyers basic questions about the law firm; that’s what the website is for, they instruct. Research your interviewer and ask about their specific practice or some of their recent deals. “I’ve had students ask me why I chose the firm,” one lawyer says. “They ask me why I chose to stay for so long, and that’s an even better question.”
2. Work your connections. If you go to a top-tier law school, there are probably alums working at the firms you are interviewing with. One lawyer remembers a candidate who had reached out to meet for coffee with an alum before the on-campus interview. “That showed he had real drive and was really interested in our firm,” she says.
1. Follow all the professional norms. This is, after all, an interview. According to the lawyers, some students treat the 20-minute slot too informally. They don’t wear suits, or they forget to shake the interviewer’s hand, or—even worse—they show up late. At this point in the game, law firms are buying and students need to be selling, lawyers say.
2. Lead the conversation. Again, students need to sell themselves, lawyers say. They need to be able to expand on a basic question and create a conversation. “I enjoy sitting down with people who do two-thirds of the talking,” says one lawyer. “I test how well the day goes by how many cough drops I need to take.”
3. Know the basic answers. Students should come prepared with a few key stories. They should be able to answer why they went to law school and why they are interested in that firm in particular. “It doesn’t need to be the most compelling answer,” one lawyer says. “You should, however, have an answer that’s genuine.”
The on-campus interview may be one of the most important interviews for prospective lawyers, but as long as students are prepared and ready, the lawyers say that they will do just fine.
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