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Tips for Getting Hired at a Law Firm

published June 15, 2021

By Managing Director

( 34 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)

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I have met and talked to many successful lawyers, and they had one thing in common that helped them achieve what they have. This article will uncover this most important secret to success.
When I interview someone (for any position), I typically start the interviews with simple questions, small talk even, connects with them, and then ask them a single crucial question.


What is going on?
It seems like an out-of-the-blue question, but what it means is why are you applying for this job? A good interviewer can quickly eliminate candidates based on the answer to this simple question at the beginning of the law firm interview. How?
They will not hire you if you do not have a concrete reason for working for the law firm. Most attorneys do not or cannot give a good reason for applying for a job, so most of them do not achieve more in their lives.
Your focus might be on satisfied clients, making partners at the firm you are in, getting into the best law school in the country, or earning more money than you could imagine. It just has to be something that will push you forward and help you achieve your legal career goals. Find out information on how to set and achieve your smart goals below.

Persistence Is Not Enough in Law Firms

Recently, I interviewed someone for a legal position in my companyBCG Attorney Search. This interview came after they had unsuccessfully applied for the position several times. It is not that they were shooting above their skills - they had gone to a top law school and were working in a major law firm. But there was no information in their background to indicate they were interested in legal placement, convincing me to invite them to further interviews.
However, they repeatedly kept applying for the position, so I assumed they were extremely interested in the position. I had some questions and wanted to know more, so I agreed to interview them.
A great way to make theemployer want to hire you is interest in the company. Research the clients and partners, even meet with the attorneys working there. If you really want to work in a firm, you will do the research and ask questions just out of your own curiosity.
This person entered the interview, and they knew no information about what the company or I did. They knew nothing about the job. And they asked questions mainly on how much money they could make. They were looking to be sold on the job and spent more time during the interview bragging about their accomplishments than on anything else. That is not the way to go about interviews.
If you really want the job, you should go out of your way to really be sold on the employer and the job before you get there. Employers want to hire you, but they want to hire attorneys that already believe in what they are doing. If you come in and you have not done your homework, especially at the best jobs, the interviewer will not want to hire you. You will get jobs, but you will not get jobs with the best employers. They have the choice to hire anyone, and they hire those who seem themost passionate about the job.
During the interview, I listened to the attorney gloat about ridiculous things unrelated to the position, such as taking calculus early in school. He even indicated that he would be more interested in a position in a different firm. These mistakes are fatal but not uncommon. If you apply for positions without doing the research and knowing information about the employer and position or are unsure about the position,you are setting yourself up for failure.
But many lawyers and people outside the legal profession achieved great things because they were committed enough to what they wanted. You have probably read reports on business owners who had nothing and started huge international companies from their garages. A great example of this is Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Everyone who achieves anything has this in common – they know what they want and commit to it.

Preselling the Law Firm Position

Most law students and working lawyers do not have any goals. That is a mistake because you need goals. You need a mission statement to succeed in interviewers and life. Almost everyone who has goals and works toward them also achieves them. Unfortunately, many lawyers do not have any goals, even though they might be more important aspects of success than anything else.
When you are enthusiastic and committed to something, people can see it during your law firm interview. It is apparent from the way you look, talk, hold yourself. So, when you are applying for any position, you already need to beconvinced about all the aspects of the job.
You need to do the research and work yourself up to really believe in achieving whatever your goal is. It would be best if you presold yourself. The employer should know about it just from reading the information in your cover letter or resume. It would help if you presold yourself on all your job responsibilities and perks, the boss, your colleagues, what the company stands for, or where it is located.
You can get into firms based on your grades or experience, but you need to be completely presold on it to have a successful career at anything.
Sometimes it takes a while to develop an idea of what you want. Once you know that, you need to hold on to it because ifyou have that drive and enthusiasm, you're going to increase your chances to be one of the best lawyers or be more successful than you ever thought.
But this is not a one-size-fits-all. You do not have to have a goal of becoming a leader in a law firm. Everybody has a different path, and you might want to be a law professor or work in a government office. You must have a vision that you presold yourself on. It is crucial that you do thisgoal-setting and preselling before any job interviews.

Setting Goals

If you do not have goals, you are not going to get anywhere. It is one of the most important things many people are not taught in school, while they should be. It would be best if you had a purpose behind everything you do. If you are wandering around without purpose, nothing is ever going to happen.
Almost every law student wants to work at a big law firm and earn a lot of money. But that is not enough as a goal. It is a good start, but not enough. It would help if you had more - a purpose for what you want to do, and this purpose should be strong enough to motivate you long-term. Anyone from the number of students who graduate fromgood law schools can become successful and wealthy. The difference between those who do and those who do not are having lawyer goals and taking steps to achieve them.

Statement of a Chief Aim

In this next part of the article, I want to tell you a bit about a statement of a chief aim or a definite purpose. It is the most important thing to becoming successful because it will guide everything you do in your legal career. It should be written down, and you can update it from time to time, but you should read it to yourself regularly.
There's a book calledThink and Grow Richby Napoleon Hill. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend it, as many of the most successful professionals and lawyers credit this book as part of their success. I was lucky that I read when I was quite young, 19 or 20 maybe, and I owe much of what I have achieved to this book.
One of the main quotes from it says, 'You can achieve anything the mind of a man can conceive and believe.' This means that you must think about yourself and your career goals to have a vision for what you want to do that guides you. Those who have a precise vision and an action plan to achieve it are always among the most successful.
After this realization, Hill started to believe that many of us do not have a definite purpose, so we go into many different directions doing many different things, and our thoughts and efforts are also scattered. This lack of focus does not lead us to success or power but rather to indecision and weakness. So, if you want to achieve more in life,you need to focus your energy on your main purpose.
To reach any goal, you need three things:
  • A burning desire.
  • A definite purpose.
  • Appropriate action to achieve that goal or purpose.  
 It would be best if you had all three of these to succeed in anything you are doing. The most successful people in any field always share these three main ingredients as the basis for their success.

A Burning Desire

You need to look inward and try to work out what it is you are passionate about. If you want to succeed as a lawyer, your area of law should be something you are so interested in that you think about it all the time. It would be best to believe in what you are doing and be committed to it 100%. Someone always complains about their task in every profession, but you need to block these out and focus on why you love what you are doing. Those who complain are almost always those who are not doing so well in their position. And you do not want them standing in the path to your development.
To achieve your goals and become a great lawyer, you need to focus on why you desire to achievethis goal and why it will be a good fit for your skills and abilities. You should assess where your skills and objectives would fit best and then find an aspect of it you can be passionate about.
If you believe in something, want it, and do everything in your power to achieve it, your chances of getting where you want to be are much higher than if you do not. That is the difference between success and failure.

A Definite Purpose

Once you have the burning desire and passion for doing what you want, you also need a definite purpose. As stated earlier in the article, your purpose guides you, your subconscious mind, and you are thinking. It is something you should read and repeat over and over, so it should be something positive. When you are thinking about positive things, they are going to happen to you.Negative thoughts will bring more negativity into your life. Your purpose is the key that will help you unlock success.
The example discussed in the book involves money, but it is up to you and your experience to choose an aim that fits your situation.
Hill illustrates defining a chief aim with Bruce Lee. He wrote an incredibly detailed aim, in which he set a goal to be the highest-paid Asian celebrity, have 10 million dollars in his possession by the end of 1980 and live as he pleased in contentment.
When you write your own chief aim statement, you can choose anything as your purpose, and it does not have to do with money. It could be making a partner in your dream firm, getting into the best law school, gaining the knowledge to become the most sought-after expert in your practice area in your current law firm, helping a certain number of clients a year. Whatever your career goals are, they must be specific. Write them down on a piece of paper and commit to them. I always write down my goals, and I take a few minutes daily to look at them and reread them.
Taking the example with money, you should answer three questions with your statement:
  • How much money do you want to have? (The explicit aim.)
  • How long do you want it to take you to have this amount of money? (The period in which you want to achieve your goal.)
  • What are the steps or your next action to work toward and achieve this goal? (The plan of what you will do, so make it as specific as possible.)  
If you, for instance, want to be the best class action lawyer in your current firm, or even in the United States, instead of writing I want to be a good class action attorney you will write I want to become the most sought out class action lawyer in the US (explicit aim) within the next six years (the time period to achieve the goal) by utilizing my marketing efforts into branding myself as the top class action lawyer, which will bring me the most prominent clients, and also by increasing my knowledge and experience in the field with research and personal development to ensure the highest quality of my work and client satisfaction (a specific process as the last part of goal setting).

Written Down Goals

Once you have the goals written down, you must read them every day. Reading the goals daily is the key to how this formula works. Many people write down their goals, forget about the paper, and are surprised not to achieve their set goals. But you must read this paper every day to align your thinking, and it then gives you something to focus on and gives your life meaning. Or it gives your career a purpose. You can usethis method for your career goals but also your personal goals. It doesn't have to relate to work.
Do it every single day, and you will find the truth about this method for setting goals - it works.

Smart Goals with a Specific Action Plan

The third and last part of the formula isplanning the stepsyou will take to achieve your (lawyer) goals. You have probably written down a list of ambitious goals, but your chance to achieve them is low without a proper plan with a deadline. You need to ask yourself a question, “What exactly are you going to do to achieve these goals?”Also,“who will benefit from what you are doing and how? What is your plan to achieve your goals?”
When we take the example of the class action attorney, you will be the one benefiting because you will win all your cases. Your clients will benefit, as you will do a top job for them. And you will do so by taking every existing opportunity for a class-action lawsuit, professional and personal development in your field, becoming the go-to lawyer in your firm, and later in the whole business. Whatever your goal is, the chance of accomplishing it grows the more detailed plan you have.


Heads of the biggest international organizations, partners in the most famous law firms, or just the best attorneys in your own firm have one thing in common - specific smart goals. If you want to achieve anything, you really need to know what you want. Your career will not get anywhere until you ask yourself the right questions and find where you want to be. It would be best to have an overriding goal to fuel your life, business, and career.
You can find countless articles on writing resumes andcover letters, law firm interview tips or law firm interview questions, and other practical information. Still, it is you and what comes through during the interview for the law firms that make the biggest difference. When you want something, the interviewer will see it in you. Any firm will want to hire an attorney who knows what they want from their career, and it aligns with the firm. A good law school can help but having clear lawyer goals and demonstrating a passion for your career during the interview process will always make a bigger impression on the interviewers.
But it is not just about the law school or law firm or career you want to achieve. When you ask yourself the right questions and figure out what you really want from life, you can accomplish more.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

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