01 Dec How to Prepare for Your Interview at a Law Firm
Overview: Preparing for an interview at a law firm is overwhelming when you’re going clueless. But don’t worry, we got you covered. Learn tips from the industry specialists to stand out in a room full of potential candidates!
From undergrad to law school and the bar exam, there are many steps on the journey to becoming a lawyer. Sometimes it seems like the journey will never end! Every time an aspiring attorney passes one phase of the process, another one is waiting for them.
But when you finally jump through all those hoops, you’re left with one last one, and that’s getting hired. And it’s certainly easier said than done!
The current job market isn’t history’s greatest or most lucrative for law school graduates. A report from National Association for Law Placement reported that in 2010, only 87.6% graduates were employed after the graduation, and being employed doesn’t mean that they landed on lucrative gigs or are getting paid; this is the lowest rate unseen since the mid 1990s.
What this job market means for new lawyers is that they not only need to do interview well, but also set themselves apart from the crowd.
To stand out in an interview, there are certain imperative steps you must take when going to an interview. With that said, it goes without saying that you should dress professionally and be on time.
Research the Law Firm:
Do thorough research beforehand on the firm you’re interviewing with. It’s a must for them to believe you that not only did you initiate to learn about them, but also that they were your first choice for the job.
There are tons of resources online for doing reconnaissance — Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, or articles written for legal industry periodicals, and the bio pages of the firm’s official website will help you.
Understand the Role Offered in the Law Firm:
Whether it’s an associate position or an internship, make sure that you’re doing your best to understand what the firm’s expectations are of you. This means dissecting the job description or consulting it with professionals for help. Or if there isn’t one, do enough research to find out what the role really requires. This might sound like a given, but the competition is tough and you may edge out another candidate by being more diligent and attentive on this front.
Know Your Career Narratives:
In the words of Seth Godin, “you aren’t your resume. You’re your work.” Your resume may have gotten you the interview, but the real hustle begins now. About 10%-20% of the interview is usually focused on confirming your resume and examine if you know what you’re talking about from the technical standpoint. The remaining will be about finding out if you’re the right fit for the said position.
To deal with the typical law firm interview questions, you’d need to craft some stories. These stories are longer answers to the behavioral questions — for instance, Tell me about a time you had multiple and/or time-sensitive projects due — so how did you prioritize and what was the result? Or how do you work under pressure?
Hard skills or your expertise in the field are surely crucial for the role you’re going to play, but the interviewer is likely to be looking for your prowess in several soft skills — they could be time management, negotiation, or calm under pressure.
Most people slip the path because either they don’t understand the question or can’t articulate a cohesive or compelling story and therefore, lose an opportunity. Make sure you aren’t one of them.
After your research on the job description, prepare yourself for 3-4 relevant interview stories ready to use — and when you tell the stories, make a confident eyes contact with the interviewer.
Consider Your Answers to Common Interview Questions:
While it’s not entirely possible to predict every question you’ll be asked, there are a few common questions you should prepare yourself for. You might also add an elevator pitch to quickly describe who you’re, what your inspirations /aspirations are, and what you’re looking to achieve. Defend your stances by coming up with professional answers in a strong yet polite manner.
Related Reading: Top five interview questions and how to answer them
Come Prepared to Ask Questions:
What kind of a lawyer would you be if you aren’t curious or don’t ask questions for yourself? Let your curious nature shine through during the interview by coming prepared and well thought-out set of questions. BUT, avoid asking questions related to your personal benefit. With that said, don’t ask questions about logistics, vacation time, and money etc.
Focus on the big picture and ask about the successes of the firm — where the firm is headed, what their aspirations are, and how you can contribute to their growth. Promote positivity in the interview and avoid negative sentiments to overshadow the chance to stand out. For instance, if they were in the press for a controversial case, avoid bringing up such uncomfortable topics to sour moments.
Avoid such type of questions that create an awkward situation for the interviewer and put them in a tough spot. Respect their confidentiality and ethics, and be mindful of non-disclosure agreements they sign to protect the firm — those are the same documents you’ll be signing should you get the job at the firm.
Build Credibility & Show Enthusiasm:
Good lawyers know how to build relationships, and it starts with trust. The best way to build credibility and trust is to be personable and get to know your audience. Show enthusiasm for meeting your interviewer. Since they’re taking time out of their busy days and their billable hours to interview you, make sure you’re presentable enough to impress them.
Show respect to your interviewers by fully engaging in the conversation. Show up on time or better, a few minutes earlier. Being late will cause you suffering, but being polite and courteous to the interviewer/s. Be mindful that there’s a thin line between being nice and being overexcited.
Repeat after us — we’ll never boast about our skills in an interview. While there are many reasons why you shouldn’t tell white lies in your interview, the foremost is that you’ll not only unveil the truth in the matter of a few days after getting hired, but the things that you begin with lies don’t stand tall for a longer period of time.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, simply say, nice question, I am afraid I don’t know the answer, so I’ll get back to you. Sounds quite polite, right?
ALSO, if you’re invited to a lunch during the interview, play tactfully. These lunches are strategically placed to test how you interact in casual settings. Be your usual self and represent yourself as professional for the lunch as you’d in an interview setting.
Once you’re done with the entire process of the interview, don’t forget to share in a thank-you note. Express your gratitude to the interviewer/s for taking out time to interview you, and continue expressing deep interest in the said post/firm. However, know that you shouldn’t sound desperate.