Interview of a law firm is not easy. We share below some insights on preparing for the law firm interview.
When you finally jump through all of the hoops, you are left with one final challenge: Get hired! And that is certainly easier said than done.
The current job market for law school graduates is comparitively not great. Last year, the National Association for Law Placement reported that only 87.6 percent of 2010 graduates were employed after graduation, and being employed does not necessarily mean they are getting paid; this is a low rate unseen since the mid-1990s.
As it stands, this job market means that new lawyers not only need to interview well, but also set themselves apart from the crowd.
There are certain crucial steps you must take when going to an interview. It seems to go without saying, but you obviously must dress professionally and be on-time.
Enumerated below are some less obvious steps you should take:
1. Really Research the Law Firm
Do research beforehand on the firm you are interviewing with. It is a must that they not only believe you have actually heard of them (or took initiative to learn about them), but that they were your first choice for a job.
There are a lot of resources online for doing reconnaissance (like, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, Matindale-Hubble, and also articles written for legal industry periodicals, as well as obviously bio pages for the partners or staff you are meeting.)
2. Understand the Role in the Law Firm
If you are interviewing for an associate position (or even an internship), make an effort to really understand what the firm’s expectations are of you. This means either analyzing the job description or if there isn’t one, doing enough research to find out what the role really requires. This might seem like a given, but the competition is tough, and you can edge out other candidates by being more diligent on this front.
3. Know Your Career Narrative Inside Out
Your resume (or a contact) may have got you the interview call, but the real challenge begins now. About 10%-20% of the interview will be focused on confirming your resume and that you know what you are talking about from a “technical” standpoint. The remaining 80%-90% will be about finding out if you are the right fit for the position or culture (translation: finding out if you are a pain in the butt to work with every day).
In addition to the typical law firm interview questions you would expect to get (see below), you are going to have to craft some “interview stories”. These stories are in fact those longer answers that you will have to give to behavioral questions like, “Tell me about a time you had multiple, time-sensitive projects due — how did you prioritize and what was the result?”
The interviewer is likely to be looking for your prowess in several specific competencies or skills — they could be “time management”, “negotiation”, “calm under pressure,” etc.
Most people end up whiffing on this question because they start to ramble, go off on tangents, or just simply cannot articulate a cohesive and compelling story – and therefore waste a golden opportunity.
After doing your research on the job description, you should be prepared to have 3 or 4 of these relevant interview stories ready to use.
4. Preparing for the Law Firm’s Interview Questions
It reflects poorly on you if you are unable or unwilling to answer a question an interviewer asks you.
Before your interview, research commonly asked questions and really understand and practice how you will answer them. For sure, every interview will be different, but if you can articulately and thoughtfully answer the questions below (and also have several “interview stories” in your back pocket), you will most likely land the position:
· Tell me about yourself.
· What made you decide to go to law school?
· Why did you choose your law school?
· Is your aggregate an accurate reflection of your abilities? Why or why not?
· What makes you think you are a good lawyer?
· What do you know about our firm?
· What area of law most interests you?
· Tell me about a major accomplishment.
· What are your long-term career goals?
· What interests you most about the legal system?
· What are your weaknesses?
· How has your education and experience so far prepared you for the practice of law?
· Describe a professional failure of yours and how you handled it.
· Why should you be hired over the other candidates?
· What questions do you have?
5. Always Ask Questions
At the end of the interview, it is important that you ask questions. It shows not only that you were prepared and listened thoroughly to your interviewer, but also that you are seriously interested in the firm.
6. Don’t Forget Your Thank-you Note
The thank-you note is an important little piece of the interview process and an art form unto itself. Hence, learn to structure a great thank note for the day.
Getting a good position at a law firm is not easy even if you have stellar credentials — but remember, your credentials on the resume are only a small part of the whole process. You can always make up for any perceived weakness on paper by making the strongest possible impression when you are face-to-face with the partners.