[Ed. note: This post is by ALEX, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Alex's avatar (at right).]
We received nearly 200 comments on the OCI Open Thread, and to my surprise, most of them were not directed solely at how badly I suck. Small victory.
Many of the comments offered helpful advice from self-professed recruiting attorneys. Others offered glimmers of hope for the anxious and the under-performing. And some left no doubt that, no matter how badly you think you’re going to do in interviews, others have done and will do worse.
First, though, take a deep breathe. A large number of 2ls from top-fifteen law schools get biglaw jobs. And many top-performing law students from other schools get biglaw jobs, too.
But even if you don’t, it’s no big deal. Seriously. OCI creates the false impression that the only sensible thing that you can do with a law degree is work at an AmLaw 100 firm. Don’t be fooled.
Being a junior associate at a large law firm is not very fulfilling. You’re not even really a lawyer; you’re a low-level corporate employee with legal knowledge. Go try a case or counsel somebody with a problem. You’ll undoubtedly wonder why you ever cared about this week.
With a little perspective, you’ll do much better in your interviews. As commenters have repeatedly pointed out to me over the last two weeks, nobody likes someone who appears to be trying too hard. If you don’t care so much, you’ll be yourself. See Exley’s excellent farewell post.
Okay, helpful advice and uncomfortable stories after the jump.
There’s a general consensus that interviews do matter. Grades are critical, but they won’t guarantee you a callback or completely close the door in your face.
Interviewers are looking for “normal” people who present well, ask engaging non-obvious questions, and appear to be easy to work with during long hours.
I’ve interviewed on-campus for biglaw firm for years. Here’s some advice – guys, don’t act cocky. No matter how good your grades are, you have a lot to learn. Ladies, don’t giggle and act ‘girly’. Be engaged, friendly and mature. Put some real thought into what information is important to you – ask thoughtful questions. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than a kid who’s phoning it in w the run of the mill “are there pro bono opportunities?” questions. If you really do want that sort of information, then think it through to why, frame your question differently, and do your research on the firm beforehand. Don’t ask me something that you could have already found out online. That’s lazy and we know it. When I interview that rare well-spoken, confident, interesting and friendly/normal kid, I’ll go to the mat to get them a callback.
You should be prepared to discuss everything on your resume. It wouldn’t hurt to rehearse your spiel for each item.
Discussing your interests is generally a good thing: it gives the interviewer a break from the monotony, and it presumably gives you an opportunity to be articulate about something. Be careful, though. You don’t want your interests to be too vanilla or too esoteric.
There’s some confusion over my quip about discussing an interviewer’s bio. You should definitely know your interviewers’ bios. For sure. But actually discussing the bio is fraught with peril. I think there are very few times that mentioning something from an interviewer’s bio doesn’t appear clumsy or forced. There are times, of course, when it’s natural: if your interviewer is in a certain practice group that you’re interested in, it’s natural to ask what his experience has been in that practice group. Questions that begin with “I saw on your bio,” though, are probably unnatural unless you can really shore it up (e.g., “I wrote an article about the exact same topic”). Also, as the comments suggest, you don’t want to appear to be a stalker; if you must discuss the interviewer himself, do not go outside of the four corners of the firm bio.
Just don’t sound like a douche-bag, and you’ll do great.
Your interviews will almost certainly go better than these:
White DC Latham interviewer at HLS got my asian name mixed up with another asian name and kept calling me by my wrong name and looked at the wrong resume throughout the interview. I kept correcting him and stating that I thought he had the wrong resume, but he refused to admit it. I didn’t get the callback, so I guess the other asian dude had crappy grades. “I was set on working abroad, so I made sure during OCI that I had interviews set up for every firm that indicated it had a foreign office. London, Paris, Hong Kong. One firm had listed Vienna as one of its offices, but I was so thick that I didn’t realize that it was Vienna, VA (I’m from the west coast – who ever heard of Vienna, VA?) Of course, my answer to the question “Why are you interested in our firm?” referenced my belief that I could end up working in Austria. That was sure embarassing. My interviewer walked out of his hotel room bathroom without his suit pants, but with his boxer shorts and socks still on. Yes, just like a Seinfeld episode. I had to try and decide if he just FORGOT, or was testing me to see if I’d comment. I am male, and married, so it wasn’t SH, just odd.
And you never know, you might totally screw up your interview and still get a job:
The best OCI interview didn’t take place. Slept through the initial interview and 5 days later got the letter . . .”Thank you for interviewing . . . blah, blah, blah. We would like to invite you for additional interviews in the firm’s New York offices”