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by Shelley Awe | February 04, 2020

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“So, tell us about yourself.”

In addition to “do you have any questions for me?,” this question is another near-guarantee during a legal job interview. Although it may sound more like a conversation starter than an interview question, don’t be tricked! This is most definitely part of the interview, and if you’re not prepared, you may find yourself stammering and wondering things like: “What do they want to know? How much do I say? Who am I?” The good news is that you can avoid this moment of panic by having a personal “elevator pitch” ready to go.

Your elevator pitch is your chance to set the tone by giving a quick overview of your experience, goals, and why you want this job. Your pitch should be a quick, high-level overview rather than a monologue that winds through your entire life story. Further, your pitch shouldn’t sound like a pitch—it should be conversational. The key? Practice! Know your pitch so well that you can speak naturally and confidently about yourself during the interview.

While the elevator pitch doesn’t have to follow a formula per se, you do want to cover the following points in an order that creates a fluent story. Below, I’ve included my own OCI elevator pitch as an example of how to create a cohesive storyline even with an unconventional background.

1. Start with your current role.

This is pretty self-explanatory: State that you’re a law student at X law school. It’s an easy opener and simply makes sense as a starting point.

2. Walk your interviewer through the path you took to get here.

Next, provide a quick overview of your education and work experience. You don’t have to go through every item on your resume (for example, pre-undergraduate jobs need not be discussed), but you want to provide enough data points to give a clear picture of how you got to where you are now. If you’ve had any legal experience, you should share that too. Be sure to provide key details about the skills you’ve gained to show why you’ll be a great addition to your next workplace.

3. Explain how your path led you to law school.

Legal interviewers often want to know what drew you to law school. Maybe you’ve always known you wanted to be a lawyer and can share experiences from your younger years (high school mock trial, debate team, etc.). Or perhaps you’re a more unconventional law student. If that’s the case, your interviewers are probably going to ask you about your decision to go to law school anyway, so you might as well be prepared!

4. If necessary, explain how you ended up here, geographically speaking.

Interviewers often want to know that you truly want to work in the geographic region where they’re located—they’re hoping you stick around. If you made a big move to attend your law school or you’re interviewing for jobs in another region from your law school, try to fit an explanation into your pitch. But be genuine; interviewers can tell if you’re making up a non-existent relative who “lives nearby.”

5. Share the reason(s) why you want this job.

While this question will likely come up in the interview, it doesn’t hurt to make it clear from the onset that your background has led you to want this particular job. For example, perhaps your undergraduate degree set you up for success in a practice area for which the firm is known. Or maybe somebody influential in a past job or at your law school had great things to say about the firm. Why not show your genuine interest right from the start?

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Once you’ve addressed these points, your interviewers should have a good idea of who you are and why they should hire you. It also gives them plenty of material for talking points and follow-up questions.

To demonstrate, here was the gist of my OCI elevator pitch:

“I am a rising 2L at Northwestern Law. Before law school, I received my bachelor’s degree in dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then completed a one-year internship to earn my Registered Dietitian credential. From there, I spent three years working as the Food Service Director for a school district in Wisconsin. In additional to managerial tasks, my role required use of my nutrition expertise to plan menus that were allergy-safe and compliant with federal regulations. I decided to attend law school because not only was working with regulations one of my favorite aspects of the job, but when I attended work conferences, I saw our corporate attorneys in action and thought I would really enjoy a role like theirs. I specifically chose a law school in Chicago because I have always wanted to live in the ‘big city,’ and now I’m here to stay. Now that I’ve completed a year of law school, I know I have a strong interest in litigation. I really enjoyed my legal writing class, especially writing a persuasive trial brief and giving an oral argument. My externship this past summer also allowed me to try a variety of work, and I most enjoyed my litigation-focused assignments. I am hoping for the opportunity to work at a firm with a top-notch litigation practice, which is what drew me to your firm.”

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