How to Interview at a Law Firm
Interviewing has changed significantly during the past 10 years. The process has become less formal, and interviews are frequently shorter and less structured than they used to be. Your performance during job interviews will be a major factor in how many offers you receive, as most law firms make hiring decisions based in large part on how a candidate presents themselves during an interview. In the old days, law firms would accept resumes, screen them for qualified applicants, and invite those applicants to meet with several of the firm’s partners for interviews. The partners would ask each candidate the same list of questions, and then make a decision. Today, interviewing is much faster paced and not as formal. I have met lawyers for job interviews at Starbucks or a restaurant rather than an office. Interviews are frequently rushed and last less than 10 minutes. Sometimes it is not even clear whether or not a meeting is actually an interview!
This new environment requires attorneys who are looking for a job to develop new skills. Rather than waiting for the person conducting the interview to ask you a question, have a few concise talking points that explain your background, why you want to work for the organization, and how you can help it succeed. A candidate should be able to make a convincing case for why they should be hired in about 5 minutes. Probably the most important thing to remember about the interviewing process is this: people make hiring decisions based on emotional reasons and justify their decisions with logical reasons. Focus on connecting with the person who is conducting the interview. Present yourself as a confident, trustworthy, intelligent, and outgoing individual. If the person conducting the interview is impressed and wants to hire you, then they will look for logical reasons to present to other members of their organization. Be ready with a solid list of reasons why you should be hired. For example, “I graduated from a good law school, wrote articles for a law journal, and interned for a judge.” These reasons all present a strong logical case why you should be hired.
Dressing appropriately for an interview is important. Check on the dress code at the law firm or organization where you are interviewing. If the attorneys wear business casual or business attire, then be sure to wear a suit. I recommend wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and a dark red or blue tie for men. If there is any doubt about what clothing is appropriate, then dress conservatively and wear a dark suit. If the attorneys at the organization where you are interviewing dress casually, then you may not want to wear a suit. If the office is very casual and everyone usually wears jeans and T-shirts, then you may want to wear business casual cloths. Khakis and a nice shirt will suffice. I once interviewed at an internet company and wore a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie. I looked overdressed and awkward as I sat on a bean-bag chair and talked about my qualifications. The person who was interviewing me was wearing blue jeans, and I did not look like someone who would fit in at their company. Remember that although it is usually best to wear a suit to an interview, there are exceptions. After the interview is over, be sure to follow up with the person and thank them for meeting with you. I usually send a quick e-mail the next day. Let the person know that you are still interested in the job, and mention something that you discussed during the interview. For example, “it was interesting to learn how your firm has been expanding its real estate practice.” Interviewing requires patience and practice. If you work on it, you will get better as you go along. Best of luck!