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Tips on Making a Lateral Associate Move (Part 2—Nailing the Interview)

The Careerist

November 26, 2012

Angela Kopolovich, managing director of recruiting firm Alegna International, is the guest blogger. This is the second of a three-part series on making a lateral move.

© Kzenon - Fotolia.comPart 2: Practice, practice, practice

by Angela Kopolovich

Mazel tov! Your preparations have finally paid off, and you just got an interview at a firm. (Last week, we talked about the three essentials for your lateral move: resume, transcript, and writing samples.)  Now, let’s discuss what you can expect over the next several weeks.

Firms will usually send candidates through a three-stage interview process (some firms more, some less):
    •    The screening. This is a short meet-and-greet, usually 30 minutes to an hour.
    •    The callback. This one takes significantly longer, more like two to three hours.
    •    The final round. This step means you’ve made it to the final cut, and you’re on the short list.

My big advice: Be prepared at every stage. Just because you snagged eight summer associate offers five years ago does not mean anything today. On-campus interviews, or whatever your law school called it, did not prepare you for interviewing in the real world.

Be ready, because you will get grilled. You will get asked difficult questions and be put on the spot. Be prepared to recite the legal issues you've confronted, and the analysis you performed. For example, you might be asked to discuss recent legislation in your field and your opinion on a recent ruling of the Supreme Court. The purpose of these questions is sometimes about substance: Are you  familiar with the law or with developments in your practice area? Other times, they are testing how you deliver legal information. What do you sound like when you speak in your lawyer voice?

Pick several matters that you feel comfortable discussing. Take the time to crystallize the issues succinctly. Think about how you are going to present the information to the interviewer. Practice what you’re going to say out loud. Yes, out loud. I know it’s awkward, but it’s necessary. Stand in front of a mirror, or use a webcam. You will be surprised. The impressions you think you make, and the way people actually see you, are often very different.

Also, be prepared for standard interview questions:

    - What are your strengths and weaknesses?

    - Why do you want to work at Tom and Jerry LLP?

Do not kid yourself. If you’re not prepared, you will not get the job. Muddling your way through with boilerplate answers will not work. An interview is not the time to get lazy, or rest on your laurels. (Do you know how many people would give their right arm for an interview these days?)

Don’t squander your good luck and all the hard work that got you here. Being “swamped” at your current job is not an appropriate excuse. If you’re committed to finding another position, and you’re lucky enough to get that interview, put in the effort. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

My sermon is over. Good luck with the interviews. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Next and final installment: Offer and acceptance.

Related Post: Interview Tips for Laterals.


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You publish a lot about the way to find a job being an American lawyer. I recently moved to the States with tons of experience.I am a Mexican lawyer. I was a judge in a local court and also work as a sentence projector in the Supreme Court. Any advice for someone like me? Best regards.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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