I have worked at two law firms and participated in dozens of interviews at both with associate candidates. Whether you are interviewing in person or remotely, there are questions for which you should always be prepared.
In addition, there is information you should be ready to provide even if you are not asked for it directly. The following are the five things that I believe every law student should know before interviewing with a law firm.
1. Do Your Research
Nearly every law firm has a website or a social media page. It is crucial that you spend time learning everything you can about the firm before the interview.
Review the firm’s practice groups, news and events pages, and their approaches to law practice. Use your knowledge of the firm to determine your areas of interest and be prepared to discuss them.
Your interviewers will ask what areas of the law interest you and whether you want to litigate or have a transactional practice, and you want to go into your interviews with answers to those questions. They are asking you because they need to determine whether they can accommodate your interests.
You can help them make that determination if you have a general idea of what you would like to do. Relatedly, if you are interviewing with a firm with an office in a city or state where you are not attending law school or have no obvious connection from your resume, be prepared to explain why you want to work in that city or state.
Knowing where you want to practice and the areas you want to practice in will show the firm whether you are genuinely interested in working there.
2. Know Your Resume
The firm will usually have a copy of your resume and law school transcript before the interview. Often, the only document the interviewers will receive before the interview is your resume.
In addition to making sure your resume is error-free, know exactly what is on it and be prepared to discuss every aspect of it in your interview. Have someone you trust review your resume before you submit it for interviews and go through each section to be certain you can respond to the questions that you might get.
Also, make a note of the items on your resume that you want to point out to the interviewers even if they do not directly ask about them. Be ready to discuss things like your favorite course and what you did in your 1L summer without any prompting from your interviewers.
If you have conducted interesting research, prepared memoranda, or briefs, or attended depositions, hearings, or trials, come into the interview prepared to talk about those experiences and what you learned from them.
3. Do Mock Interviews
Some law schools offer mock interviews with law school faculty and alumni. Mock interviewers can give you constructive feedback about your interview style, resume, and the questions for which you will need to be more prepared.
Even if your law school does not offer mock interviews, ask your career services offices if they can arrange one for you or ask two or three law firm lawyers you trust to do it. It will be worth your time to simulate the experience and practice how you will respond to the types of questions you can expect in these interviews.
4. Know Your Interviewers
Take the time to research your interviewers. In most instances, the firm will let you know who is interviewing you.
Review their firm biographies, including their practice areas, where they went to law school, and their community involvement. Find connection points and opportunities to discuss them in your interview and in follow-up correspondence after the interview.
5. Ask Your Questions
Remember, you are interviewing the firm, too. You will want to use the interview to help you decide if you want to work at the firm after law school. At the end of every interview, the attorneys will always ask, “Do you have any questions for us?”
This is your opportunity to ask the questions that are important to you—questions that you should have prepared through your research and your mock interviews. It is imperative that you view the interview as the chance to learn as much as you can about the firm from the people who work there day in and day out.
I have yet to participate in an interview where we did not invite a candidate to contact us if he or she had questions after the interview. I am always impressed when candidates take me up on that offer and ask follow-up questions.
One final suggestion: Try to enjoy the process. Interviewing can be stressful, but it is important to remember that getting an interview with a law firm is a compliment to you and your achievements.
Use your interviews as opportunities to learn from and engage with attorneys who are doing the type of work that you hope to do, and, perhaps, where you hope to do it. Do not be afraid to ask for help as you prepare for your interviews. You are part of the legal community now, and most lawyers will do anything they can to help—all you need to do is ask.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owner.
Tiffany M. Graves is pro bono counsel at Bradley in Charlotte, N.C., where she directs the pro bono practice and is responsible for the firm’s relationships with legal services organizations and nonprofits.