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Career Center: Event Etiquette for Dummies (or Sloppy 2Ls)

This fall you will be invited to attend pre-interview receptions, post-OCI dinners, and various meals and receptions during and after callback interviews. How you handle yourself during these events can have an impact on whether you receive an offer and your reputation in the firm.

Follow these sensible rules, courtesy of Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, former hiring partner and expert recruiter, and you’ll never get yourself in trouble….

First and foremost, it is an interview. No matter how relaxed and informal the occasion, the lawyers who attend the event are still assessing you. No, they are not looking for whether you can identify a fish fork or differentiate grades of sushi. They are trying to assess your people skills and your public persona.

A student who is way over the top in terms of party-boy demeanor can get into just as much trouble as the person who is so anxious he can’t function in a group. With the economy still in the doldrums, firms can afford to be picky about the talent they recruit. Having a great GPA at a top law school may not be enough anymore — some firms may actually want its associates to have personalities, too.

Respond to an invitation and stick with your response. An alarming number of students have sloppy RSVP habits. These are professional adult events — not drop in parties or drive-by shootings. If you are invited, respond. If you say yes, show up. This is not an Evite situation where you say “yes” and decide last minute not to come.

Follow the same approach to attire recommended for interviews. Dress appropriately, tastefully, and conservatively. Now is not the time to experiment with that lime green suit or those armadillo Alexander McQueen heels. You should do all the talking, not your clothes.

Easy on the booze, and easy on the food. Nursing a drink or a glass of wine or two won’t bother anyone, but drinking a bit too much can make you memorable in a hurry. The same goes with the food. You are not at grandma’s house where you risk offending her if you don’t try everything she prepared (with double portions). Take advantage of the free and fancy food and drink, but don’t treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you are at a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres, be sure to eat things that aren’t messy and allow you a free hand to shake hands with fellow patrons.

Crossed off “keg stand” and “chicken wing eating contest” from your list of things to do to impress the law firm yet? Click here for more common sense advice and tips on professional etiquette. Even if you don’t get a job offer, your mom will appreciate it. For additional career and OCI articles, as well as profiles of individual law firms, be sure to head over to the Career Center.