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Law School Interviews: Prepare for Doing the Best

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In preparing your resume and identifying opportunities for which it might be used, you began the actual process of inter viewing, a process which is not only important but in many respects terribly frustrating, tiring and time-consuming. That process, together with all the frustrations, continues with interviews at the law school. Although the resume is to some extent a first impression it cannot compare with the first impression created in a face-to-face interview. You may be a properly idealistic sort who believes that quality should (and will) come through in each and every instance. Wish that were true in the interviewing process because it is not necessarily so! The interviewing process may last forever as that one form of human endeavor in which the first impression is not only critical; it is determinative. You must prepare to create the best possible first impression, or you will have done yourself a tremendous disservice. For most of you, the first impression is created in the law school interview.
Law School Interviews: Prepare for Doing the Best

First Things First

Try to avoid the congestion which inevitably occurs in law school placement offices at the height of the recruiting season. Sign up for your interviews as early as possible. If your school is one in which your ability to schedule interviews is restricted, whether by geographical preference or by lot, make sure that you understand the rules the placement office publishes about that procedure; use your placement office as an aid.

As noted, the most effective ally you have in the employment process is your law school placement office. Its principal reason for being is to place its graduates as well as possible, thus magnifying not only the school's reputation but also the prospect of future endowments and gifts. Do not view the placement office or officials as adversaries determined to deny your access to the promise land. Recognize the obvious limitations any placement office has to work as your exclusive advocate and deal with it accordingly.

If for one reason or another you are unable to interview with a particular institution you genuinely want to see, write the institution in care of the chairman of the hiring or employment committee in that particular law firm, or the office of the general counsel if a corporation or government agency, prior to the time their interviewer reaches your campus; tell the addressee you would like an interview, that you are unable to get one through the placement office, and give the reason. Then ask whether or not they might see you while on campus. Many law firms are quite willing to stretch their interview schedules through breakfast, lunch, or after-hour cocktails to accommodate all students who wish to talk to the representative of that particular firm. In addition, you might consider intercepting a given interviewer with a brief explanation of why you have been unable to schedule an interview, handing the interviewer your resume, and suggesting that if time develops you can be reached through the placement office. Do not try and conduct impromptu interviews which disrupt the interviewer's schedule. Due to time constraints, you may simply be unable to write or locate a given interviewer prior to the time he or she reaches campus. To avoid that problem, you may want to call the firm, corporation, or agency and ask for the recruiting coordinator (a position which most major law firms now have staffed on a full-time basis) or the office of the general counsel or one of the federal government contacts listed in Appendix

Explain your problem and express your desire to see the person if possible. It is, however, strongly recommended that this procedure be used only in those instances in which you have a genuine desire to see the institution and are simply unable to do so in the normal course of placement procedures. Abuse of the placement system may cause real problems for you with your particular placement office. If you are successful in reaching a responsive interviewer, you then must find a way to get your resume to the interviewer prior to the time he or she reaches campus. You may want to leave it for the interviewer at his or her hotel; you do not want to wait in the lobby and harass him or her in the fashion of some interviewing groupie.

Almost every law school requires each firm, corporation, or government agency interviewing on campus to provide certain information with respect to itself. Read and understand that information. Of course that would include the information provided in Martindale-Hubbell and the information provided by the NALP. In addition, there is a growing number of sources of information about various law firms, e.g.. the American Lawyer's recently published (and soon to be updated) compilation of information regarding major American law firms. It is embarrassing to the interviewee and somewhat insulting to the interviewer to sit through a half-hour interview answering questions about a law firm that are answered in the firm resume submitted to the placement office weeks ago. You can be certain that you have done yourself a disservice in not understanding more about the institution you are interviewing. The real sin is wasting the only time you may have to convince the interviewer you are special, unique, and different. It is substantially more difficult to get information about and therefore be prepared for an interview with a corporation or governmental agency. Nonetheless, there are ways that information can and should be obtained. A number of such approaches are discussed in this book.

You should always take advantage of the rumor mill at your particular law school. Check with prospects who may have clerked at the firm in which you are interested or at least clerked in the city where the firm in which you are interested is located. They may have information about that law firm which will prove quite helpful to you in conducting your interview and in analyzing the institution. If you have friends who have interviews preceding yours, you might also ask them about the style, technique, and questions asked by the interviewer. It is also helpful to know something about the city or cities where the firm in which you are interested is located. Each area of the United States and indeed many foreign countries offer in themselves a line of inquiry about a particular institution. For example, practicing in many northeastern cities must be different from practicing in the southern and western United States. Practicing law in the Rocky Mountain States may be more like practicing in Texas or Alaska, but it is unlike practicing in Hawaii.

There are a growing number of law schools that are adopting the approach pioneered by Columbia which created a job fair or week of interviewing prior to the start of school. In some instances only local firms are invited to participate, while in others firms from all across the country send interviewers to the campus. If your school has such an opportunity, do not miss it. It will provide the greatest single concentrated expo sure to the job market you are likely to see in your entire inter viewing experience. In addition, there will be more information about various firms available during that period than at any other time. Moreover, most "job fairs" are conducted to reduce or eliminate the need to miss class to meet interview schedules.

It is worth reminding you to know your target. If you are focusing on private practice in a major city in a large law firm, you will have or should have a different set of questions and concerns than you would about practicing in a smaller city or for a governmental agency. Each prospective employer whether the United States Army, IBM Corporation or O'Melveny & Myers, offers a different set of challenges and problems, and an early understanding of those circumstances will help you secure the job you want.

See the following articles for more information:

About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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About Harrison Barnes

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