By Kamya Arora • April 07, 2017
On Wednesday March 29th, pre-law students participated in the fifth and final installment of New York City Bar’s “Launching Your Career” seminar series: Resume-Writing and Mock-Interview Workshop at Jenner & Block LLP. We heard from their legal recruiter, two partners and two associates at the firm, on some key advice around interviewing at a law firm:
How to prepare:
- The role you are applying for may have many facets to it. Don’t take it at face value (as written on the job posting), rather research and get a sense for what the interviewer may be looking for outside of the basics.
- Roles (support staff, associate positions), tend to change over the years. Recently law firms have been looking for folk who are “hybrids” in nature, meaning they have many interests or abilities. Look into these changes before your interview.
- Rehearse your answers to very common questions. That way, you will have them ready to go when asked, and will also be able to focus more on the random questions that you were not expecting.
- Match facets of your resume to the “desired skills” section of any job posting. This will help you align yourself with the firm and what your interviewer wants in an interviewee.
What you should wear:
- All in all, conservative attire. When it comes to law firms, its best to be safe than sorry.
- A portfolio with your resume, a notepad, and a pen is always a good idea.
- Aim to be professional, presentable, but yourself (a dash of personality is acceptable, even preferred), according to Jenner & Block attorneys!
What kinds of questions will you get asked, and why?
- “Tell me about yourself?” is a common introductory question in any interview. The biggest note here is to be open and be comfortable, but be concise in your answer. Often telling someone “about yourself,” sounds like it warrants a long narrative. Don’t make the mistake of giving a chronology of your life. Rather, rehearse a concise summary of: (1) your background, (2) why you want a job at a law firm, (3) two other relevant aspects of your story.
- “How does this position fit into your career path?” is another frequent question you may get later on in an interview. With this one, avoid being generic about the firm or your position. Rather, be honest and find a unique detail about the position or the firm that adds to your professional goals and aspirations.
- “Expand on what you did at XYZ organization…” Often an interviewer will take a look at your resume and pick out two or three items that stand out to them to discuss. For this type of question, it is important to know your resume backwards and forwards. If a position, title, or experience is on your resume, you are expected to remember every detail of it. If it is something from a decade ago and feels no longer relevant, it probably shouldn’t be on your resume.
What characteristics are interviewers looking for when they interview candidates?
- The first and foremost characteristics is basic technical proficiencies. Most firms vet this aspect through your resume and application itself.
- According to Jenner & Block partners, a key characteristic of a new member of their team is someone who is a team player. What this means is they have the personality that is accustomed to and excited by a collaborative environment, and is able to handle the difficult task of having multiple bosses (partners) giving them work all at the same time. With this in mind, clarity of communication is critical.
- Good energy and enthusiasm are core elements, as well. Your interview with a law firm is your first and last chance to be ON. Show them how much passion you have for the job.
Do’s and don’ts!
- Do not be rude to any member of the staff, especially the support staff and secretaries at the firm. They, too, have a say in your hiring process.
- Do not check your phone at any point during an interview.
- Show up no more than 10-15 minutes early prior to an interview. Above 20 minutes early is too early, and can be taken as too eager or not following instructions altogether!
- Follow the style of your interviewer when you are conversing. For instance, one partner at Jenner & Block has a more conversational and casual speaking style. When you recognize this at the start of your interview, follow suit. However, be careful not to fall into a level of comfort that is not warranted – you are still being interviewed for a position.
Following the informative, engaging panel-style discussion, Jenner & Block associates partnered up with pre-law students and practiced their interview skills for about 15 minutes each. After one participant’s interview, she reflected on how her interviewer pushed her in the right direction:
“He pointed out several things I didn’t know I was doing. For instance, apparently I am modest to the point where I downplay my leadership considerably. I’m from a nursing background, and so my interviewer asked which classes I enjoyed during school. I thought that was interesting and unexpected; I explained how Philosophy was my favorite for various reasons. With respect to that answer, he told me to relate Philosophy back to the legal field in some way, bringing out why it is that I’m pursuing this career path.”
All in all, the past 5 weeks have been an incredible journey for all of us participating in the NYC Bar’s seminar series. Thank you to Van Ann Bui and the NYC Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee for all your wonderful work organizing these workshops. Looking forward to next year!
Kamya Arora is a pre-law student in her third year at Barnard College of Columbia University. Aside from reading and sharing advice on preparing for law school, she enjoys Russian literature, Bollywood music, and Wikipedia tremendously. Contact her with any comments or questions.