Did Jane Eyre nab me offers from BigLaw firms when I was an eager law student interviewing during EIP? I’ll never know. But I (to my surprise) talked about my favorite book repeatedly throughout my law firm interviews, along with what I thought of certain professors at my law school and which restaurants in New York were my favorite. I remember my law firm interviews being largely conversational. Of course, the interviewers asked me the obligatory questions on my decision to go to law school, my practice area interests and my journal note. But while I did get asked what I would do if I won the lottery, I was rarely asked for a writing sample or to perform an analytical reasoning assessment.
Once I was a law firm associate, on the other side of the interview, I understood why law firm interviewers delved into personality. Academic transcripts, work experience and writing accomplishments can establish some basis for exceptional work. But your personality can’t really shine through on a one-page resume. And when you’re working day after day, night after night in stressful situations, it’s important to know that the person will fit in with and work well with the team.
That said, a more balanced approach of probing a candidate’s personality and seeing his or her analytical and communication skills first-hand probably would be more useful for the candidate and the law firm. A resume can only go so far. A recent post on U.S. News’ site discussed the issue, highlighting a new interview model adopted by the law firm Pepper Hamilton:
“After an initial 20-minute session, which is largely still based on the traditional model, students move through interactive interviews discussing their writing samples and arguing a fact pattern with firm attorneys . . . Though arriving at the "right" answer is not crucial, the firm's unique, hands-on scenario gives attorneys a chance to evaluate a student's analytical and communication skills,” according to Pepper Hamilton’s hiring chair Michael Subak.
Especially now, when associate spots are fewer and the competition is greater, learning more about a candidate’s ability to think on his or her feet and to display some of the traits of successful associates would be a valuable addition to the interview process. Through a process like Pepper Hamilton’s, firms will still be able to learn about the candidate’s personality and fit with the firm, but they’ll also gain insight into the candidate’s reasoning and communication abilities. And candidates will have a better sense on how they are being evaluated and how to prepare for interviews.
Law firms and law firm hiring have changed throughout the economic downturn—perhaps the interview process should evolve as well to better ensure new hires are all-around best for the firm.
What were your law firm interviews like? Do you think associate interviews should include writing and analytical components?
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