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Career Center: Acing Your Law Firm Interview

Lateral interview season is about to kick off. You’ll likely see several law firm vacancies pop up early in the new year as firms struggle to find replacements for attorneys who jump ship after receiving their year end bonus.

In preparation for the upcoming interview season, the recruiters at Lateral Link have compiled a list of the top five tips to help you ace your next law firm interview.

1. Be prepared: Preparation is key. Do not try and “swing it” and go to an interview unprepared. Understand what is at stake when you go into an interview — getting hired. Back in the good ole days, your résumé alone was sufficient to get you a job. The interview process was merely a formality and a way for firms to screen out people who were completely socially inept. Today, the résumé is only one component of your candidacy….

Your credentials may have gotten you through the door, but a well-prepared interview is what is going to seal the deal. Good preparation demonstrates interest and seriousness of purpose on the part of a candidate.

  • Know your résumé inside and out, and be prepared to speak in detail about the work you have done, the cases or transactions you have been part of, etc. You do not want to get caught off guard when asked about something on your résumé. The interview is your opportunity to expound upon key bullet points in your résumé and how they relate to the position you are seeking.
  • Practice talking about yourself — it is not everyday that you have to spend hours discussing your accomplishments. You need to develop a simple sales pitch highlighting your strengths, accomplishments, experiences, etc. You must get used to self-promotion without sounding overtly cocky. There is a balance, but you need to practice to make that pitch work.

2. Be informed: Before you set foot in the interviewer’s office, make sure you have conducted extensive research of the firm, the practice area, and the position you are interviewing for. There are numerous sources you can look to and specific items that you should review prior to your interview. Carefully review the firm’s website,, and Lateral Link’s Career Center. Check the local business news media in addition to the traditional national news sources. The goal is to be able to demonstrate both your genuine interest in and deep knowledge of the firm. Make sure to read up on the following:

  • the biographies of the partners and associates with whom you are interviewing;
  • the overview and structure of the department or practice group to which you are applying;
  • the list of clients the firm or department regularly counsels;
  • the list of awards or accolades the firm or department has received; and
  • the list of publications or articles published by members of the department in which you are interested.

3. Be an active, inquisitive interviewee: Make sure you have a list of questions for your interviewers. Every interviewer will ask you if you have any questions, and it is important to have thoughtful and relevant questions prepared as it shows interest. Interviewers want to know what kind of questions are circling in your head about their firm. While you will have several questions that will be inappropriate to ask during an interview, evaluate general issues you have questions about. Ask about aspects of the firm that are relevant to you: mentoring programs, diversity or affinity groups, and recent press releases.

  • Adjust your questions to the interviewer. Be mindful of differences in age, partner/associate status, and whether the interviewer is on the firm’s hiring or management committee. You will be wasting your time asking a senior partner what she got out of the mentoring program as a mentee, or asking an associate what it takes to make partner.
  • You should assume that 60-70% of the interview should be under your control, but not without limits. Being passive about your questions is the first step to a bad decision. A lawyer who is bored, lackadaisical, disorganized, or lethargic has no chance of surviving the interviewing process. On the other hand, being overbearing, extreme, or psychotic will not help your chances either.
  • Be flexible, persistent, and interactive. Listen to the answers and use the answers to guide your next question. Any one minute answer by a lawyer should lead to five minutes of follow up questions and answers. Use segues when appropriate, especially if the conversation begins to dwindle, but never completely hijack the interview.

Please remember that being a prepared and informed candidate will make you stand out as a truly motivated and diligent candidate. The candidate attending an interview without sufficient preparation demonstrates to the hiring partner that you lack interest, which will ultimately result in your candidacy being overlooked. For additional career resources, check out the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.