Getting through law school takes extreme dedication, stamina, and pure grit—long days, late hours, grueling study sessions, and more. I bet there were times you wanted to give up, but it’s the “can’t stop, won’t stop” attitude that kept your fire burning.
Graduating from law school is just the beginning. Getting into the right firm after graduation sets the foundation for your entire law career. Better your chances of getting a job at your dream law firm by getting “interview ready” when the time comes.
As you prepare for job interviews, cross-check that you have covered these key areas. If you are interviewing virtually, all of these tips apply.
1. Do your research.
Lawyers are known for being good researchers. You spent countless hours in law school researching and scrutinizing information. Before every interview, know who you will be speaking with and research their background. Find them on LinkedIn, and conduct a light Google search to find any commonalities between you and your interviewer(s). Note down their accomplishments, awards, and accolades. Bringing it up during your interviews will show them you took the time to get to know who they truly are and give them a sneak peek into your research capabilities.
On top of knowing the interviewers, walk into your interview with a deep understanding of the firm itself. After all, this is where you plan to dedicate your next several years. Having a good understanding of the firm’s founding story and partners will give you a good sense of the culture the firm builds. Knowing its specialties and notable cases will give you a sense of what sectors of law the firm believes is important to stand behind. Get a taste of the kool-aid before you start working there.
Know what role in the firm you would have if you got the job. Knowing this in great detail will help you craft your narrative on where you want to take your career and how the firm closely aligns with your goals.
2. Be presentable and dress your best.
An attorney’s core job is to represent their clients, and coming to your interview polished and presentable bodes well. First impressions are powerful, and making it extremely important to you as you prepare for an interview will heighten your chances of being well received by your interviewers. The good news is law fashion has loosened up over the years.
Women’s wear isn’t a carbon copy of how men dress anymore. According to an article in the ABAJournal, “Lawyers have been among the most conservative dressers around (along with bankers and accountants) with the goal to err on the side of formality. Although there hasn’t exactly been a sea change in the underlying dress principles, there has been a growing trend toward comfort and style, which many are embracing.” A key phrase to live by: “Dress for the job you want to get.”
3. Come prepared to ask questions.
What kind of lawyer would you be if you were not naturally curious and thorough? Let your curious nature shine through during your interview by coming prepared with well-thought-out and intelligent questions. Avoid questions that are related to your personal benefit. For example, don’t talk about money, vacation time, billable-hour logistics, and other related questions.
Think big picture and ask about the successes of the firm, where the firm is headed, and how you can contribute to their growth. Promote positivity in the interview, and avoid any negative sentiment. If they were in the press for a controversial case, avoid bringing up uncomfortable topics that could sour moments in your interview.
Avoid any type of question that could put the interviewer in a tough spot and question your respect for confidentiality and ethics. Be mindful of an interviewer’s confidentiality promises and non-disclosure agreements they sign to protect the firm—the same documents you’d sign if you got a job at the firm.
As you prepare for interview day, use these 20 questions as a starting point.
4. Be personable and show enthusiasm.
Good lawyers know how to build relationships. It starts with trust and one way to build trust is to be personable and get to know your audience. Show interest and enthusiasm for meeting your interviewers. They are taking time out of their busy days and their billable hours to meet with you.
Show respect by fully engaging in the conversation. Show up on time or early even. Being late is the kiss of death in the interview world. Be polite and courteous to support staff, such as secretaries, front desk receptionists, and other non-attorney staff. No need to come across as pretentious in the interview or ever for that matter.
5. Be genuine.
Repeat after me: Never, EVER, lie in an interview. There is no quicker way to bomb an interview than by starting to tell lies—even little white lies. If you don’t know an answer to a question just say, “Good question. I don’t know the answer, and I’m happy to get back to you.”
If you are invited to lunch during your interview day, don’t let your guard down. Those lunches are often strategically placed in the interview process to test how you interact in a casual setting. Be your usual genuine self, stay professional, and represent yourself just as polished over lunch as you would in an interview room. The same goes for virtual interviewing.
Take virtual interviews every bit as serious as an in-person meeting. If an interviewer initiates a debate on a legal issue, don’t get too passionate and heated about defending your position. Remain calm and composed, and focus on remaining professional.
6. Promptly send a thank-you note.
Within 24 hours of your interview ending, shoot over a professional thank-you note. Express gratitude to the interviewers for taking time out of their busy schedules, and continue to express a deep interest in joining the firm.
Most importantly, be yourself. Interviewing is stressful for everyone and it’s natural to be nervous. Do something relaxing before your interview and give yourself ample time to get ready, commute and find the interview location. Aim to be 30 minutes early even if it means sitting in your car until it’s time to head into the lobby. I would recommend entering the lobby 10 minutes before the interview. Too early could inconvenience the support staff.
If you are interviewing virtually, test your technology, find a quiet space, and check your internet connection. A glitchy interview experience is cringe-worthy. Set yourself up for success, and plan for all obstacles that could get in the way of acing your interview. Good luck!