Interview Stories

'So, do you have any questions for ME?'

Not too long ago, when law firms used to supersize their summer associate classes and make offers to anyone who had a pulse, callback interviews were a mere formality.  Today’s post-recessionary firms are understandably more careful about hiring, and as a result,the callback interview has become a sine qua non for getting into Biglaw.  We talked with an attorney recruiter, as well as attorneys currently conducting callback interviews, to bring you the top ten tips for getting an edge over the competition.

The complete article is available on the Career Center, but we’ve highlighted the first three tips after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center: Navigating the Callback – 10 Tips for a Successful Interview”

The weather is seasonal in New York City today, but for most of this week we’ve experienced a little heat wave. Near record high temperatures were recorded throughout the tri-state area.

Apparently, Cardozo Law School was completely unprepared for this spate of summer weather, and it nearly ruined the school’s “OCI Preview” event for 1Ls desperate to snag jobs next recruiting season. Multiple tipsters reported variations on the same theme. I’ll use a version that doesn’t involve cursing: “I pay over $40,000 in tuition yet my law school can’t even turn the A/C on when I’m trying to network for a job.”

It was so bad that Cardozo had to send around an apology to the students for making them network in a sauna. And according to the email, Cardozo truly couldn’t figure out how to simply turn the A/C “on”…

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Department of Justice seal DOJ seal Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWho says the wheels of government turn slowly? Earlier this month, we reminded you that Justice Department Honors Program applications were almost due. Now, three short weeks later, candidates are hearing back about interviews. Sources report:

“DOJ Honors interview notifications have gone out. I was fortunate enough to snare one in the Civil Division. You might want to put up an open thread for discussion.”

“Interview invites came out Wednesday, information about which component came out Thursday. Open thread?”

We aim to please. Here you go.

If interview notifications went out on Wednesday, was that ahead of schedule? According to the list of key dates on the Honors Program website, today is supposed to be the day that the DOJ “notifies candidates selected for interviews by e-mail.”

Feel free to discuss the Honors Program interview process — which components you’re interviewing with, what you’d like to know about the process, or what you already know about the process (for those of you who have been through it) — in the comments.

The Attorney General’s Honors Program [U.S. Department of Justice]
AG’s Honors Program Key Dates [U.S. Department of Justice]

Earlier: Reminder: DOJ Honors Program Applications Are Almost Due
Open Thread: The DOJ Is Hiring Again …
Fall Recruiting Open Thread: DOJ Honors Program

Notes from the Breadline Roxana St Thomas.jpgEd. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email (at, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.
One time, early in my stint in the breadline, I interviewed for a position at a New York non-profit organization. The interview, with members of the organization’s steering committee, was held at the plush offices of a Wall Street law firm – a setting so genteel, so prim, that I immediately felt underdressed despite my perfectly respectable interview suit and conservative heels. All the women who passed through the reception area were wearing knee-length skirt suits and pantyhose; the men looked as though they had come from a photo shoot for Brooks Brothers. The walls were hung with portraits of stately, gray-haired firm elders, hunting scenes, and graceful horses who, I suspected, had pedigrees much more distinguished than my own. I was reading a tattered copy of the previous week’s New Yorker while I waited, and I remember feeling sheepishly self-conscious — both because I hadn’t gotten through a lengthy article about Iceland’s post-financial crash identity, and because I wasn’t reading something … weightier, like The Economist, or the Harvard Business Review.
How, you ask, did I have time to read, reflect, and observe a cross-section of the firm’s personnel? Well, friends: when you spend 45 minutes perched on an uncomfortable settee, waiting for your name to be called, there is little else to do. Eventually, of course, I did make it into the conference room where the interview was being held; once there, I was greeted by five lawyers, all of whom were talking at once. To each other. In fact, I found myself wondering, at various junctures, whether they were aware that I had joined them. One lawyer asked me a complicated question and then (without skipping a beat) answered his ringing cell phone and had a lengthy conversation. I tried to shift focus seamlessly by turning to address the others, but two of them were BlackBerrying while another listened to voicemail messages. When I finally stood up to say my goodbyes, they told me that they were impressed with my qualifications and hoped that I could come back to meet with the members of the steering committee who had been unable to make it to the interview that day. “That would be great!” I said enthusiastically. Perhaps, I mused, given the general level of attentiveness I had observed, they were hoping to organize a flag football scrimmage, and simply needed a few more people to work with (as well as a captive audience, or a referee).
As a new arrival to the breadline, this experience left me with a few thoughts. Among them were, “Are interviews always this suck-ass, or was this a freakish anomaly?” and “Is there a sliver lining in all of this?” Like a convoluted legal argument, the answer to the latter of these questions resolves the first inquiry as well. As I have discovered in the intervening months, there is not a single “silver lining” in all of this, but many, including: freedom from the oppressive sartorial conventions of the workplace, the luxury of dropping by Lat’s office for a mid-day drink from the coffee fountain, and the (admittedly mixed) blessing of life in a lower tax bracket. These perks, however, pale in comparison to one, particularly luminous reward, which I consider the most spangly of all silver linings.
And what might that be?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Notes from the Breadline: Always Seem to Get Things Wrong (Part II)”

Notes from the Breadline Roxana St Thomas.jpgEd. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email (at, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.
The news that filters down to the breadline these days can be confusing. “The recession is over!” some sources promise blithely. The recession may not be over, warn others, but “even stagnation would be better than recent history.” (Anecdotal evidence of stagnation — blessed, welcome stagnation — follow, substituting for tales of hope.)
In the legal press, though, the forecast is decidedly more circumspect. Bloodletting may have slowed at the nation’s law firms, but, between rumors of the billable hour’s demise and free-floating anxiety about the future of associate pay, the recession is far from receding into the distance in our collective rearview mirror.
I have been seeing a new recruiter, one in a string of casual liaisons which — like online dates — offer much promise initially, but usually stall after the second or third encounter. (Like the others, she was relentlessly positive and showered me with complements, and … well, I ended up showing her my résumé on the first date.) I decide to ask her whether she thinks the end of the recession has come to our corner of the professional world.
“Well,” says the recruiter (whose name, fortuitously, is Faith), “a lot of my clients are back to running ads and soliciting resumes. But they’re not necessarily hiring.” A long pause follows, and she adds, “Yet.”
“Are they interviewing?” I ask. She answers carefully, telling me brightly that, yes, “some people have gone on interviews, here and there!” In other words, I translate silently: no.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Notes from the Breadline: Always Seem to Get Things Wrong (Part I)”

Not Hiring sign.jpgIt’s a little bit early to be looking ahead to on-campus interviewing — unless, of course, you are a rising 2L who is about to get reamed. Law firms are already making plans for how they will approach the class of 2011.
The early indications are not pretty. Mayer Brown sent out a message that is sure to disappoint future IP lawyers. The firm is pulling out of the the Loyola (Chicago) Patent Law Interview Program. The program’s directors let students know the bad news, on Friday:

Dear students,

You are receiving this email because you had bid on Mayer Brown at this year’s Patent Law Interview Program. Unfortunately, the firm has had a change in plans and will not be attending the interview program on the 30th and 31st. The resumes of all students who bid on Mayer Brown have been forwarded to the firm, and if the firm identifies any students who meet their hiring needs, they will get in touch with you directly.

The Loyola Patent Law Interview Program Staff

One tipster explains the significance of this decision:

[T]his is the country’s main IP recruitment fair. Every major firm with an IP practice recruits here.

Do you think this problem is just going to affect lower-ranked law schools? Check out one student’s Columbia Early Interview Program stats, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Open Thread: Is Anybody Coming to OCI This Year?”

Notes from the Breadline Roxana St Thomas.jpgEd. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email, at, or find her on Facebook.

After a few weeks of unemployment, I begin to wonder whether some sort of sporadic dysfunction is affecting my ability to receive email. Specifically, while I am able to peruse every available resource for potential job openings, the résumés I submit seem to drop into an online supernova black hole. Occasionally, I get a confirmation message indicating that my résumé has been received, but, as a general matter, I hear nothing but the sound of silence.

Where do they go? I wonder. Are they floating lazily in space, along with billions of unwanted headshots submitted by New York’s considerable legion of actor/singer/dancer/waiters? Are they in a virtual file cabinet somewhere, turning virtually yellow and brittle at the edges? Or do they go straight into a giant “deleted items” folder? Perhaps the beleaguered legal employers, in an effort to capitalize on economies of scale, have set up a single, huge data landfill, where cover letters indicating a willingness to be “flexible as to class year,” accompanied by finely honed (and embellished) résumés, can be gathered and stored. If the shrinking corps of presently-employed lawyers is wiped out by bird flu, raptured, or disabled by an epidemic of carpal tunnel syndrome, they will definitely get back to us … right?

So I am pleasantly surprised when I get an email from a potential employer, asking me whether I am available for a telephone interview. The job, which I heard about through a friend, is in the legal department of a publishing company, and although they are looking for an experienced litigator, the position does not involve actual practice. A year ago, I would not have considered it; but, given my present circumstances, I am delighted. I respond to the HR person’s email, wondering how to temper my desperation enough to avoid sounding, well, desperate. I settle on an answer that reflects both desperation and lawyerly faux courtesy, telling her that I am available later that day, the next morning, any time the following day, “or whatever works for you.” She schedules the phone interview, which will be conducted by Scott, the lawyer who heads the department, for the following morning.

Find out how Roxana’s chat with Scott went, after the jump.

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harris beach logo.JPGMany people have interviewing horror stories. But few people actually bother to send a letter to the offending firm.

One Georgetown University Law Center student did just that. After her interview with Harris Beach, the student sent a letter to James Spitz, CEO of Harris Beach:

I was looking forward to the interview until Mr. Frederick Fern and Ms. Judi Abbott Curry entered the conference room. This was the worst and most unprofessional interview that I have ever been on. Not only did Mr. Fern insult me by repeatedly stating that “the only reason” I had received the interview was because my “mom or somebody” had “called in a favor,” he then suggested that I was lazy because I did not have a job yet. “What have you been doing since July?” he kept exclaiming.

I didn’t even know how to respond. When I finally responded, he proceeded to read a document or tap on the table with his pen while I spoke. It was awful.

Harris Beach’s firm motto is “Lawyers you’ll swear by, not at.” It is worth noting that our own personal experiences with Harris Beach attorneys have been positive and professional. But perhaps these particular attorneys could have used a little more tact when dealing with a student trying to navigate these uncertain employment waters.

The full memo after the jump.

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impatient interviewee.jpgWe’ve done a few posts on screw-ups and rudeness on the part of lawyers conducting on-campus interviews (see here and here). But what about the interviewees? They’re not perfect either — even if some of them think they are.
What are some ways that law students have torpedoed their chances of getting callbacks or summer associate offers? In this grim job market, there’s little room for error (especially if you are a 3L).
Let’s collect some examples of what NOT to do in an interview situation, so ATL readers can learn from the mistakes of others. Here’s a tale from a top ten school:

A 2L knocks on the door of an interview room when it’s his turn. Instead of waiting, he walks right in.

The interviewer and the student being interviewed both look up, shocked. The student says to them, “MY turn,” and just stands there.

The interviewer, after getting past the initial shock, asks to have a couple of minutes to finish up the first interview. The student looks at his watch, pauses, and says, “Well… I suppose….”

That’s pretty bad. Can you top it? Feel free to share (true) stories of fall recruiting bloopers and screw-ups, in the comments.
Update: Check out some of our favorite tales, and vote for the one you like best, over here.

fashion.jpgWe’ve noticed that the comment thread on the cold offers post has morphed into a fashion advice column. Here are some of the on-campus interview attire questions that have been posed:

– Is a light gray suit a bad choice for interviews? Dark brown shoes, black, or either?
— What suit colors are acceptable?
— For females, do you have to wear a button down under your skirt suit, or can you wear something else?
— Skirt-suits v. pants suits?

We pajama-wearing ATL bloggers are no longer well-versed in the world of suit fashion, but Corporette has an advice post on interview fashion, in response to a query from a 3L. Their advice for the ladies:

  • Choose a dark suit. A black or navy suit is always more conservative than a brightly- or lightly-colored suit, and if you have to buy something inexpensive then it will hide the imperfections in the fabric and the seams.
  • Buy a skirt suit…. Be sure you pull a chair over to a full-length mirror and practice sitting in the skirt suit; you want to see what the interviewer will see and make sure you look appropriate and tasteful.
  • Is this to prevent a Basic Instinct moment?
    Additional fashion tips, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fall Recruiting Open Thread: Suitable Suits?”

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