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by Vault Law Editors | March 10, 2009


It's interview time. Not only do you have to balance your time between coursework and callbacks, you've got some serious preparing to do. Your years in the libraries should have taught you that research is essential to success. So ensure that you walk into the interview with a decent sense of the firm's history and its recent engagements - knowledge that will help you target your questions. ("How many associates work on these wonderful pro bono projects your firm is known for?")

Keep in mind that the lawyers you're meeting with are not professional interviewers. "They are not experts in the process," explains one of our contacts, "in fact, some of them are kind of uncomfortable." That's why it's good to get your interviewer talking about him or herself. "Be fresh faced and interested in them and what they do." "They're not just emissaries of the firm," our experts say, "they are lawyers first and foremost." "Ask personal questions - lawyers love to talk about themselves."

One source notes that "if [interviewers] talk through most of the interview, they will think it went well. Just make sure you're listening carefully. Ask how they got interested in their firm, or the area they specialize in. And "when you hear something you can extend a bridge to, take advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps your interviewer went to Dartmouth - hey, so did your brother- it might be an excellent way to get the conversation rolling." One lawyer describes this as "kicking the crank - you get them going, then sit back and enjoy the ride."

DOs and DONTs

DO ask what practice area they specialize in, and what attracted them to it. Ask about deals they're working on.

DON'T try to prove too much or outsmart a lawyer. Our contacts also advise interviewees to "avoid legal issues unless they bring them up."

DO ask about training, both formal and informal, as well as mentorships. It shows that you are interested in learning.

DON'T bring up your LSAT score - it's tacky. So what you got a perfect score - what if your interviewer didn't?~DO bring extra copies of your resume, and be prepared to discuss the most arcane parts of your resume. Have a story or some other kind of conversational springboard from every entry. If you wrote in your resume that you did extensive research in WWI literature, be prepared to name your favorite authors.

DON'T talk about your weaknesses. "Give them a strength wrapped in words of weakness," but don't be too obvious. The right way: "I'm kind of anal about checking things over." The wrong way: "I work too hard, sometimes I'll work all night and I still don't feel satisfied." The human body does have its limits.

DO try your hardest to remember everyone's name. "At the end of the interview, you should be able to say 'you know, X, it was great to meet you." This is especially impressive when you're out to lunch with a large group. Lawyers will notice that you remembered all of their names.

Speaking of lunch, if you're taken to a meal during the interview, DON'T order a hamburger, spaghetti or anything else that could get sloppy. And avoid cherry tomatoes - they can be messier than you think.

DON'T seem tired. "Be fresh faced and interested, even if it's your seventh interview of the day. Never admit that you're exhausted. If you can't make it through a day of interviews, they'll wonder how you'll make it through a week at work," advises one lawyer.

DO know the culture of the firm. If you are interviewing at a high-powered firm, you should project a high-powered image. For example, we hear that Sullivan & Cromwell administers a "weekend test." Confides a veteran of the interview process: "They will ask you if you would work all weekend if they handed you a project on Friday. If you are serious about working there, the answer is y


Filed Under: Law

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