By Natasha Alladina • October 31, 2020•Writers in Residence, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
It’s pretty safe to say that this year’s OCI process will look very, very different (OFF-campus interviewing, anyone?).
But what won’t change is the need the thoroughly prepare so you can put your best foot (read: Zoom self) forward.
So how do you do that? Check out my top interview and resume tips for law students, and feel free to ping me if you have any follow-up questions!
Top 5 Law Student Resume Tips
- Stick to a page. Consider adding an Interests section so there’s an easy way for your interviewers to get to know and connect with you. And get specific. For instance, you could list “traveling,” but “checking off my travel bucket list (25 countries and counting!)” is much more descriptive and intriguing.
- Play to your strengths. If you did well your 1L year, make sure you include that kickass GPA. You earned it! If you landed a prestigious internship or research assistant position, note that AND describe what you did in that role. Think about what you’re most proud of so far in your law school career and highlight that in your resume.
- Use action verbs and remember to “show” rather than “tell.” What do I mean by this? First, check your resume for passive or lackluster language (e.g., “responsible for” “involved with” “helped with”) and replace with more powerful action-oriented phrasing (e.g., “led” “drafted” “advised”). Then, ensure you provide enough context so your reader will understand exactly what you accomplished (e.g., “drafted motions and briefs for supervising partner” versus “drafted dispositive motions and briefs, including a motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment involving complex contractual disputes”).
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. You’re a high-achieving law student, so I know you proofread, but you’d be amazed at how many interviewers come across a typo and immediately dismiss a candidate for that reason. Thoroughly proofread your resume and have someone else take a look at it too. Then go back and reread it a couple of days later with a fresh pair of eyes to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Oh, and please use at least a size 11 or 12 font and stick to a classic font. I personally loathe Times New Roman, but it’ll work. So will Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, and other easy-to-read classic fonts.
- Remember that your resume is a MARKETING document. It’s not just a list of where you went to school and where you’ve worked. Think about your target audience and tailor your resume to that audience. Leave out any irrelevant experience (my ice cream scooping days didn’t make the cut) and doublecheck that your resume reflects your accomplishments and capabilities in the best light possible. When in doubt, ask yourself – is this clear, concise, and compelling? If not, rework it.
A quick note about cover letters...
Please tailor your cover letter to the specific firm/company/organization you’re applying for. Look, I get it. At this point, your main goal is landing a 2L and eventually, full-time entry-level lawyer role. You might not care whether that’s with firm A or B. But the firms care. They want you to want them, so show them some love in your cover letter by spelling out why you’re interested in them. Peruse their website, talk to alums who work there, and give at least a couple of concrete reasons why you’re interested in working there.
Top 5 Law Student Interview Tips
- Research the firm/company/organization and your interviewers. Research includes reviewing the organization’s website, Googling it for any pertinent news, and of course, reaching out to alums or anyone you know who may work there for an insider’s perspective. Same goes for your interviewers. Check out their bios/LinkedIn profiles and Google them. Home in on any common interests and prepare specific questions for each interviewer (hint: asking practice-related questions is always a good idea).
- Research yourself. Review your resume, cover letter, writing sample, and LinkedIn profile. Google yourself to see what’s out there on the interwebs. (Scrub your Facebook profile of any ahem, questionable content.) Be prepared to confidently discuss any and everything on your resume. Also be sure you can quickly summarize the issue in your writing sample and how you went about your analysis.
- Prepare pointed questions. A few of my favorites include: How has XYZ practice group/legal team evolved in the past three years? (And more relevant to current times, how has XYZ practice group/legal team been impacted by the pandemic?) What initially drew you to this firm/company/organization? What did you work on yesterday? Can you tell me about one of your all-star associates/attorneys? Is there anything you’d change about your current practice? What/why?
- Practice, practice, practice. Yes, you should always prepare answers, but I highly recommend practicing them out loud. Of course, you don’t want to memorize your answers, but you do want to get comfortable talking about yourself. Practice with a friend or family member, practice in front of a mirror, or pretend your dog is the interviewer. It’ll feel awkward at first, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Start strong with a stellar answer to the classic “tell me about yourself” question. Too often, I see folks try to tell their life stories in what should be no more than a 2-minute elevator speech. Your goal is to quickly walk through why you went to law school, what practice areas you think you’d be interested in, and what you consider your strongest selling points. This is not the time to rehash your resume or get into too many personal details. You want to give the interviewers a taste of who you are, why you want to be a lawyer, and what you bring to the table. This is also a good time to show your enthusiasm about working for the specific employer. Enthusiasm always sells!
I haven’t gone into virtual interviewing tips here, but check out the following for more on that front: https://www.themuse.com/advice/video-interview-tips
Finally, if you made it this far, a big thank you for following along. Good luck with OCI!
(Note - this post was first published in Mentor in Law. If you're a law student looking to learn more about different practice areas and/or alternative legal career paths, I highly recommend this resource, which was started by a boss lady lawyer at Microsoft: https://nyssapchopra.com/mentor-in-law/).