I’ve worked for two law firms and participated in dozens of interviews with associate candidates at both of them. Whether you’re interviewing in person or remotely, there are questions you should always be prepared for.
In addition, there is information that you should provide even if not directly asked for it. Here are five things I think every law student should know before interviewing a law firm.
1. Do your research
Almost every law firm has a website or social media page. It is important that you spend time learning all about the company before the interview.
Check out the firm’s practice groups, news and events pages, and their approaches to the legal practice. Use your knowledge of the company to determine your areas of interest and prepare to discuss them.
Your interviewers will ask which areas of law interest you and whether you would like litigation or transactional practice, and you would like to go into your interviews with answers to these questions. They ask you because they need to determine if they can serve your interests.
You can help them make this decision if you have a general idea of what you want to do. If you’re interviewing a law firm that has an office in a city or state where you don’t have a law degree or an obvious link from your résumé, prepare to explain why you are in that city or state want to work.
Knowing where you want to practice and what areas you want to practice in will show the company if you are genuinely interested in working there.
2. Know your resume
The law firm usually receives a copy of your résumé and the law school certificate before the interview. Often times, the only document interviewers will receive prior to the interview is your resume.
Not only do you make sure that your resume is error-free, you know exactly what it says and be ready to discuss any aspect of it in your interview. Before submitting it for interviews, have someone you trust review your resume and go through each section to make sure you can answer any questions you might get.
Also, write down the points on your résumé that you would like to point out to the interviewers, even if they are not asking about them directly. Be ready to discuss things like your favorite class and what you’ve done your 1L summer without being asked by your interviewers.
When you’ve done interesting research, prepared memoranda or pleadings, or attended testimony, hearings, or trials, come to the interview to talk about those experiences and what you’ve learned from them.
3. Do mock interviews
Some law schools offer mock interviews with faculty members and law school alumni. Sham interviewers can provide you with constructive feedback on your interview style, resume, and the questions that you need to be better prepared for.
Even if your law school doesn’t offer trial interviews, ask your career counseling offices if they can arrange one for you, or ask two or three lawyers you trust to do so. It will be worthwhile to simulate the experience and practice how you respond to the types of questions you can expect in these interviews.
4. Know your interviewer
Take the time to research your interviewer. In most cases, the company will tell you who is interviewing you.
View their company biographies, including their areas of activity, law school, and community engagement. Find points of contact and opportunities to discuss these in your interview and in the follow-up correspondence after the interview.
5. Ask your questions
Remember that you are also interviewing the company. You will want to use the interview to decide whether you want to work in the law firm after graduating from law school. At the end of each interview, the lawyers always ask: “Do you have any questions for us?”
This is your opportunity to ask the questions that are important to you – questions that you should have prepared through your research and trial interviews. It is imperative that you see the interview as an opportunity to learn as much as possible about the company from the people who work there day in, day out.
I have not yet attended an interview where we did not invite a candidate to contact us if he or she had questions after the interview. I am always impressed when candidates accept this offer and ask follow-up questions.
One final suggestion: try to enjoy the process. Interviewing can be stressful, but it’s important to remember that a law firm interview is a compliment to you and your performance.
Use your interviews as an opportunity to learn from and connect with lawyers who are doing the kind of work you hope to get and maybe where you hope to be. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you prepare for your interviews. You are now part of the legal community, and most lawyers will do whatever they can to help you – all you have to do is ask.
This column does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owner.
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Tiffany M. Graves is a pro bono attorney with Bradley in Charlotte, NC, where she leads the pro bono practice and is responsible for the firm’s relationships with legal services organizations and nonprofits.