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My Funniest Law Firm Interview Story:

It's Fall 1989, my second year of law school, and I'm interviewing with a very nice woman who works, if I remember correctly, at the D.C. office of a major Chicago law firm. She says, "I see you're interested in constitutional law, we do a lot of interesting constitutional litigation at our D.C. office." Seeing the chance to let her talk about her and her firm, I say, "really? Like what?" She says, "Some of the partners represent a consortium of American newspapers. They are petitioning the FCC to publish rules banning phone companies from instituting systems that could carry classified ads" (this is pre-World Wide Web, and they were apparently worried about something like the French system that existed at this time). I said, "oh what's the constitutional theory?" She said, "Well, the idea is that the newspapers rely on classified ads for a large proportion of their revenue, and if they faced competition from telephone-based classified, they would go out of business. For the FCC to allow this would be to basically force the newspapers out of business, which would violate the First Amendment." Obviously without thinking too hard, I laughed heartily, and responded, "No, really, what's your theory?" Awkward silence.

Needless to say, I didn't get a callback. I was going to call this post "My Most Embarrassing Interview Story," but I can't say that I was, or am, embarrassed, by my natural reaction to an extremely frivolous legal theory. [Note: By which I mean, I really thought she was joking. Only when I actually started working at law firms did I find that (1) lawyers occasionally charge corporate clients hundreds of dollars an hour to pursue outrageous legal theories, and (2) lawyers, once they've propounded a theory, often become completely bound to it. One lawyer I worked for actually gave a client an answer before looking it up, and then asked me to research the question. Turns out, there were fourteen cases on point, thirteen of which directly contradicted what the client had been told, and one of which was ambiguous. Instead of graciously admitting to the client that he was wrong, the lawyer asked someone else to re-research the same question, no doubt charging the client yet again to discover that he was mistaken.]

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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:
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