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Law Student Interview Tips:

David Bernstein, Orin, and David Lat offer some useful tips to law students inteviewing with firms. I would add one more: do whatever you can to convey the impression that you're enthusiastic about taking a job with the firm (without lying, of course). In my case, I lost out on many offers from major DC firms during my first fall interview season because they suspected, based on my resume, that my real goal was to become an academic and I didn't make much of an effort to convince them that I had a genuine interest in practicing law at a firm.

The next year, I made a special effort to display more enthusiasm and study up on the fine points of the various firms' practices, and did much better. The academic thing still cost me some offers because, well, I really did want to be an academic and the firms weren't stupid enough to completely ignore that! But it was much less of a problem once I showed them that I had a real interest in their work too.

Even if practicing at the firm of Larry, Moe & Curley is not really your idea of a dream job, when interviewing with them try and act like it is. Perhaps it's an obvious point, but I'm one of many students who didn't get it until chastened by painful experience.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Law Student Interview Tips:
  2. My Funniest Law Firm Interview Story:
Bork Fan:
Hey now. Isn't that a bit too "slick"? Wouldn't it be better to guffaw loudly when they discuss their client list or give them an "are you serious?" sneer when they reveal the starting salary?
9.21.2006 6:25pm
Colin (mail):
Even if practicing at the firm of Larry, Moe &Curley is not really your idea of a dream job, when interviewing with them try and act like it is.

Who doesn't dream of being a Dewey, Cheathem &Howe associate?
9.21.2006 6:34pm
Jeek:
my real goal was to become an academic and I didn't make much of an effort to convince them that I had a genuine interest in practicing law at a firm.

Seems to me that having practiced at a firm, for at least some period of time, should be a prerequisite for being a law professor. How can academics who have never actually practiced law in a real-world situation truly prepare students to practice law?
9.21.2006 7:01pm
zooba:
Jeek: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.
9.21.2006 7:05pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
How can academics who have never actually practiced law in a real-world situation truly prepare students to practice law?
Jeek, that's a valid point, except what makes you think that law school is for preparing students to practice law?

As any law school will pompously tell you, they aren't trade schools. As any law firm or law student will tell you, when you get out of law school, then it's time to learn how to practice law.
9.21.2006 7:21pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
My favorite bit of interview advice, from one of my (very socially polished, Vassar-educated, IIRC)classmates to another (brilliant, deliberately eccentric, math-trained)
and his response:
VSPVECM:
". . . and one other thing: if they give you a call-back interview and take you to lunch, don't order anything that has tentacles!"
BDEMTCM (apparently genuinely shocked, surprised and dismayed) : "You mean XXXX didn't make me an offer simply because I had the squid marinara? It was the daily special, for god's sake, and it was pretty good! How was I supposed to know that I wasn't allowed to order what I wanted for lunch?"
9.21.2006 9:55pm
bartman:
Saying "do not lie" to a lawyer is a bit like saying "do not swim" to a fish.
9.22.2006 9:06am
Public_Defender (mail):
Enthusiasm is also important for public service jobs, possibly more than in the private sector. It's one thing to work long hours for $100+K with the hope of $200K down the road. But it takes real dedication to work long hours for $40K with a hope for $60K ten years down the road.

Your writing sample can be critical. In our office, it is frequently the first document that is reviewed. If your writing sample is up to snuff, we look at your resume.

Treat every interaction with the firm as part of the interview. My secretary schedules interviews with attorney applicants, and she reports how the applicants handle themselves on the phone.

Finally, be gracious if you don't get the job. The second choice applicant for one position may get the first call for the next opening.
9.22.2006 9:32am
Gino:
I'd like to second the tip. A few years ago, I interviewed for an in-house position that would have been a great job and given me a good, marketable skill set. The problem was I didn't really need the job, so I didn't appreciate the opportunity for what it was, and I guess it showed. When I didn't get the job, I had a friend call the G.C. to find out where I went wrong. He said that I didn't seem that enthusiastic about working for the company. And he was right. And I lived to regret it. Law students: you want to play it cool, but not too cool. If you can show some enthusiasm without acting like a guffawing idiot, then do it.
9.22.2006 10:29am
rvman (mail):
None of their advice is inappropriate for any professional job. I'll add: Research the company/industry and its self-image before the interview. (Indeed, before writing the cover letter for your resume/CV/whatever.) It is Important if half the partners do tobacco defence law, and will reflect poorly if you start going on about how you want to help poor victims of corporations get their share. Similarly, a few lines (repeat, a few, not a whole speech) devoted to the concept of 'service' is in order if the firm spends half its website talking about the pro bono work they do. Knowing what a company or firm actually does and a few details of who their clients are would be nice.
9.22.2006 11:41am
JohnO (mail):
Let me dissent in part. As a partner on the hiring committee at an AmLaw 100 firm, I agree that it helps to convey a desire to spend a summer at a law firm that you will evenatually join as an associate (as opposed to merely seeking a high-pay, low-work summer gig). On the other hand, I really don't care one bit whether you convey some actual knowledge of what we do at the firm. In fact, I view placing importance on whether the candidate really "knows what we do" as sort of classist, as children of lawyers and people who run in circles of lawyers are far more likely to have a sophisticated knowledge of what lawyers at big firms actually do. I have no problem with a candidate who doesn't have a sophisticated idea of what types of cases big firms deal with but, frankly, it doesn't matter because they're not all that picky about what they do.

In fact, sometimes I think candidates hurt themselves by trying to convey an interest in what we do. For example, sometimes candidates read our website or media materials and know we have a prominent white collar practice. In an effort to show that they "fit" with what we do, they tell me that they know we do white collar defense and they really see that as what they want to do in life. That statements makes me think, "great, we have more associates who want to do white collar than we can employ there, and here's someone who will either look down their nose at doing my commercial litigation cases or will leave the firm if we can't get them a steady diet of white collar." Often though, I suspect the candidate would be happy doing my type of work but are trying to market themselves as fitting their conception of what we do.

Professor Somin is right, though, in saying that you wouldn't want to profess a life-long desire to teach law if you're trying to get a summer associate job, or if applying for an associate job answering the dreaded "where do you see yourself in ten years" by saying "as a law professor."
9.22.2006 12:49pm
Larry the Librarian (mail):
For what it's worth, I interviewed in a fall in which fried calamari was very popular, ate a lot of it, and got a lot of offers. OTOH, it was the fall of 1997 and I really have trouble imagining that ordering anything could have hurt one's chances in that market.
9.22.2006 12:50pm
James Ellis (mail):
I interviewed for a summer position at a large LA law firm in the early 90s. At lunch, I ordered first. The three attorneys then ordered the exact same thing. We were making conversation, and I asked if they spent a lot of time recruiting. Each confirmed that they did indeed spend several months of the year going on multiple recruiting lunches each week. I said "wow, that's a lot of sea bass." After an interminable silence, we stumbled back into awkward smalltalk. I did not get the offer.
9.22.2006 4:05pm
Like I'm going to tell my name for THIS...:
Here's one:

This is for the time that someone asks you "To what do you attribute your success in law school?"

DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, say "I don't know... I guess it's just not that hard."

Even if it's the truth -- you must lie. Make something up. Say you have really effective study habits, that your family is filled with attorneys, that you take good notes, that you have found that a good night's sleep works wonders for the GPA. Say whatever you have to, just DON'T TELL THE TRUTH if it all came easy to you.

Your interviewer might have busted her ass for each and every B+ that eventually landed her at the big firm. She will be pissed. Visibly irate. Her voice will raise. She will argue with you, and her co-interviewer will be embarassed at her behavior.

You will not get the job.
9.22.2006 6:34pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Nonsense. From my experience, they have their minds made up long before they come in for the interview.

Bascially, my advice to anyone is make law review, and coast by with a 2.0 GPA. You'll get a hell of lot more offers than a guy who is Top-15 who thinks law review is a waste of time and thinks doing real litigation is a lot more interesting.
9.23.2006 8:26pm
Spanky the Monkey:

Bascially, my advice to anyone is make law review, and coast by with a 2.0 GPA. You'll get a hell of lot more offers than a guy who is Top-15 who thinks law review is a waste of time and thinks doing real litigation is a lot more interesting.


Amen brotha. Law review is the ticket. If you didn't make it, no good firm will hire you.
9.25.2006 5:59pm