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The Three Most Important Things Law Firms Look at During Interviews

published July 14, 2021

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The recruitment and interview process in a law firm can take a long time, but the interviewers only really care about three main things. Law firms try to find answers in resumes and interviews of law students or attorneys to these three questions:
 
 
  1. Are you capable of doing the job the way the firm requires?
  2. Do you really want the job?
  3. Will you commit to the job long-term?

There are a few different ways to approach these questions; however, everything comes down to them in the end. If you can convince your potential employer about these three things and answer the firm interview questions with a "yes," your chances of getting the job are quite high. If you cannot provide positive answers to these (sometimes only implied) questions, your job search will likely be unsuccessful. And unfortunately, not many attorneys and law students know or realize how important these things are.

 

Are You Capable Of Doing the Job the Way It Is Required?


This is one of the most important things in succeeding in a large law firm interview. And it is not referring to whether you went to law school and gained the qualifications required for the job. If you didn't have those, you wouldn't be able to get called in for the interview. The question refers to whether you are someone who can belong to the company and the office, can follow the standards and rules set by the employer, have the background and experience the firm is looking for, and whether you are able and willing to do what the firm wants you to do.
 

Fitting in Into the Law Firm


This might seem like an odd point to make initially, but when you think about it, it really isn't. What do most employers base their hiring decisions on? Of course, you have to be qualified and have the skills required for the position, but most candidates who get into the interviewing phase have those. The true reason why an employer chooses one attorney over another is that they just like them. They feel that they will get along with them and the other employees in the firm; they will blend into the firm culture seamlessly and get along with the people they will be working with daily. If they feel like you will not be able to get along with them or others on a day-to-day basis, all of your qualifications and skills are useless because you will not be able to do the job you are supposed to in such an environment.

If you don't have the right attitude and don't connect with people in the firm, you will not get the job. They will not care about the degree from a great law school you have or about where you worked previously. You have to connect with people during the interview and relate to them to get the job.

Being able to fit in in a firm is partially often linked to race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. While it is true and sometimes things like that play a role, especially in firms with very "uniform" employees or with attorneys who like to show off and attract attention to their beliefs, stances, or differences in identity (i.e., an Orthodox Jew with traditional clothes and hairstyle, a flamboyant gay person), it is not the most important thing. When the person is easy to get along with, wants to relate to people in the firm, doesn't try to find problems where there are none, and the people in the firm also want to find a way to get along with the attorney, things like this don't really matter.

People are looking for those that will not only do the work but will also be their friends or at least acquaintances they can go to a bar with from time to time. They want to have people they can trust on their team, who will not go against them the first instance they get.

Of course, some firms care about having employees with one political leaning or prefer a certain look of attorneys over another. Gender can also be important for some firms, but it is not a rule, and it all depends on the values and the culture of the firm.
 

Playing by the Rules of the Law Firm and the Employer


The way a firm functions can be very different from one company to the other. Some focus on billing as many hours as humanly possible. Others demand their attorney to generate business early in their careers. Whatever system the company works on, you have to play by it to work there.

If the firm wants your job to be your only reason for existing, you have to be willing to sacrifice some things in your personal life to work there. If they find out during an interview that you plan on starting a family soon, it will be a reason for them not to hire you. If you have too many hobbies, it will be taking away the time you could be spending on work, so it is a reason for them not to hire you.

What most firms are looking for in an employee is the willingness to do what they are asked without questioning it too much and willingness to follow the employer in whatever they are doing. The employer wants to control the attorney and wants them to work incredibly hard toward the goal they set for them.

Unfortunately, I have seen many young attorneys who come from a great law school with good experience with a sense of entitlement, thinking that they can dictate how much money they will get or how their work schedule will look. But the legal industry doesn't work like that. If you want to find success in law firms, you must learn to play by your employer's rules. Otherwise, you would only be a liability to the company, thus not getting hired. Attorneys who get hired are those who are willing to put their heads down and work hard toward the firm's goals.
 

Are You Qualified for the Job According to the Firm's Terms?


Another important thing employers look at during the law firm interviews: your background and whether you are qualified for the position they are trying to fill. They look at your education, qualifications, and experience in the practice area to tell them whether you will do the work. Employers usually find all of this information from your resume.

However, being qualified can mean something very different for different employers. Having experience from a small law firm can make you qualified for working in similar-sized firms, but it doesn't make you qualified for working in a large law firm as the pace, tasks, and overall culture are completely different.

Some firms require (and need) particular qualifications and training; others look at candidates only from specific law schools or with certain academic results and ranks. Training from specific firms is also something that can decide whether a firm is interested in you or not.

The firms you have been employed in previously are generally the most important in your background, as they decide what kind of training and experiences you had and whether you are prepared for working in the new firm. If you have demonstrated your abilities and skills in a firm of similar size in the same practice area with similar clients as you are applying for, chances are you will be able to fulfill the work tasks you are supposed to.
 

Are You Able and Willing To Do What the Firm Wants You To Do?


Firms have different expectations of their employees, and if you want to work there, you have to be prepared to meet and fulfill these expectations as the employer lays them out in front of you.

This sometimes may include being a little dishonest or bending the truth. On the other hand, some firms are completely against not telling the truth, and you might be fired for being dishonest or omitting information. Many legal companies might require you to work every weekend, travel all the time, or go to the bars with colleagues every week. Some firms might also want you to decline cases from certain clients or only take on one type of client. Apart from doing illegal things, you must be willing to do anything and everything the employer wants from you.

During the recruitment process, the interviewer tries to assess whether you are willing to do the things the company expects of its attorneys. Will they be willing to go to dinner with clients several times a week? Will they be able to travel most of the month? Do they want to go for drinks every week with their peers? All of these things are an important aspect of having a successful career with a firm.

Dealing with partners also falls under this umbrella of doing what the firm wants you to do. Partners are sometimes challenging to get along with. But they also bring in the money, so you really don't have another choice but to learn how to handle relationships with them. Some attorneys don't have the personality for especially eccentric and demanding partners, so they are left to go out and hire someone who they know will be able to deal with them.
 

Do You Really Want the Job?


Sometimes, people apply for jobs they are very qualified for but don't really want to do. The perfect examples of this are attorneys who have been working for years but want to switch to a major firm as first-year associates because of the opportunity to get more money. Every employer knows that someone who has decades of experience behind their belt will not want to hassle and listen to orders as a first-year associate. They know these attorneys do not really want to do the work. They want the money, which doesn't make them outstanding employees.

Law firms want only employees who really want to do the work as it makes the firm's functioning much easier and the mood in the workplace much more pleasant. They are looking for examples of being or not being dedicated to the job in your resume. You can expect the interviewer to ask you about the few months you took off between your previous jobs. You can also expect to be asked about switching jobs frequently or working in a different position in the legal field in the interview. Anything that might suggest that you are not 100% committed to working in a legal firm can be a problem in your employment search.

You have to convince the employer that you really want the job and are dedicated to it completely. You have to really build up a compelling story about your commitment to the practice of law and show that your interests are related to your job. If you are a patent attorney with a degree in engineering or computer science from college, it suggests that you are really interested in the practice areas closest to you. If you write articles on your subject matter, teach your former favorite law school class, have been involved in some summer program, or do anything else related to your practice areas that are beyond your mandatory work tasks, it will show the employer that you really love what you do and want to do it.

When you describe your interest and your love for your work and the legal system and legal industry, the interviewer can usually see that your interest is real by the way you talk about it. Something like this can really make or break your law firm interview. If you prepare for the interview, are enthusiastic, and explain and show your law-related interests, dedication, and biggest accomplishment(s), your chances of getting the job are quite good.
You should really want to work there and be happy if you get an offer. There is nothing worse for an employer to offer someone a position after weeks of recruitment and having to turn down multiple attorneys only for it to be turned down because the candidate they chose didn't really want to work in that firm. Firms want to feel and believe like they are your first choice, and if you don't seem like that while answering the law firm interview questions, they will not risk hiring you over other candidates.
 

Will You Practice Law in the Firm Long-Term?


The recruitment process is arduous and demanding for law firms. It costs time, money, workforce, it is stressful, and no one really likes to do it too often. So, when a company is in a situation when they are hiring, they want to hire someone who will commit to the job long-term.

During the interview, the interviewer is looking for any and all examples that might suggest that you will not want to stay in the firm for the long run. Firms are sometimes wary of students who go to the top law school, such as Yale, as working in a law firm is often not enough for them. They often hope to do bigger things with their lives. If you switched firms often, it is an example that shows the company that you might not want to stay with them long-term. Any indication that you might not want to stay in the company for your whole career is a reason for the company not to hire you, no matter whether you are a good lawyer or not.

If you don't have many ties apart from your job to where you are working, firms might be afraid that you will want to move on and go somewhere where you have people you know. If you have many interests outside of work that you might want to pursue, it can be a red flag. If you have worked in a position where you don't practice law or have taken extended time off, it may persuade them to choose other candidates. If you seem like you want to start a family, it is a risk for the firm to hire you.

If you can convince the interviewer that you want your whole lawyer career in that practice area with that office, your law firm interview will probably be successful. If you went to law school in the area, it is a great thing. If you just bought a house with a mortgage where you live with your family, the company knows that you want to stay around. Anything that shows commitment to the company and area throughout the interviews is a reason for firms to choose you.
 

Conclusions


Every time you find yourself presented with law firm interview questions, you have to think about answering them so that your answers reflect these three important aspects. You have to prepare a great response for all of these law firm interview questions, and your job search will be successful.

See also:
 

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