Interview Stories

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Sarah Morris is a Director at Lateral Link based in Northern California and oversees attorney placements and client services in California. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Sarah practiced law for five years at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where she was involved with the hiring and women’s committees. Sarah also worked as an in-house attorney for Bare Escentuals. Sarah obtained her J.D. from Berkeley Law School (Boalt) and her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Many candidates find that most lateral interviews end up being easier than anticipated, but there are always those tough questions that you want to be prepared for. In addition to doing your research on the firm or company you are interviewing with, be prepared to spend a few hours familiarizing yourself with the types of questions you may be asked. Nothing turns off an interviewer more than “ummm” and “uhhh.” You don’t have to memorize your responses verbatim (and you shouldn’t), but being prepared will help you avoid awkward answers. While it is impossible to cover every tough question an interviewer may ask, below are some of the more commonly asked questions. In addition to some recommended responses, I have also added comments explaining the purpose of the question, and I point out some “traps” the interviewer may be setting by asking you that particular question…

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Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who offers an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

I have received hundreds of emails over the past few months from job seekers, and today I would like to answer some of these questions.

The Recruitment Team

1. Do you take a sadistic pleasure in rejecting candidates?

I have received emails calling me “smug,” “arrogant,” “fat,” and “in all likelihood unattractive.” I am fat and, on most days, unattractive, so well done on that front. However, I am not smug or arrogant. BigLaw is a particular work environment, and it is an environment that I have observed firsthand for 20 years. I am trying to provide readers with some inside information. Please recall that it is just a singular viewpoint on a huge industry.

Neither I nor my colleagues enjoy denying smart people who have worked hard a chance to work in the setting of their choice. There is nothing gratifying about rejecting a candidate.

2. Does the scan of the applicant’s transcript come before or after you review the résumé?

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Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who offers an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

I have received numerous emails from law students requesting advice about the Biglaw interview day. I once again solicited the input of other recruitment professionals in order to compile a list of the items that candidates should keep in mind on their interview day.

Please recall that, as members of the recruitment staff, we are not the individuals who conduct the interviews; rather, we hear secondhand about the reasons why a candidate is or is not advanced in the process. The following list contains our collective thoughts, but, ultimately, a candidate needs to be true to him or herself during the interview process:

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam. You can read his inaugural column (and poem) over here.

On-campus interviews: the topic of this week’s Qui Tam observational “poem.” I can’t imagine a more dehumanizing job-related experience, unless of course you were one of those students who didn’t get any….

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The Biglaw on-campus recruiting season is a subject of decreasing relevance for most aspiring lawyers, as illustrated by this grim infographic. We are all familiar with the parade of horribles that is the law firm recruitment market, at least from the student point of view. Since the halcyon days of 2007, summer associate class sizes are down at the overwhelming majority of large law firms, often by fifty percent or more. And of course nobody is seriously arguing that class sizes will ever rebound to their pre-recession levels. But 50 percent is not 100 percent; there are still 2Ls who have just made their way through the OCI cattle call.

About a month back, we asked our readers to share their experiences of the OCI process. We wanted to learn where student priorities fall during this era of “New Normal.” For those of you fortunate enough to be in a position to choose among employers, what are the factors driving your decisions? What, if anything, is likely to make you reject an offer? And what, in this unbalanced buyers’ market for legal talent, is the actual interview experience like?

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‘Congratulations on your offer! Take your time deciding.’

The weather here in New York is turning nice and crisp; Sunday is the first day of fall. But because on-campus interviewing gets underway earlier and earlier, “fall recruiting” is almost over for many law students. Those who are lucky enough to be fielding multiple offers for 2014 summer associate positions are now deciding where to go.

But some students are still making up their minds. And one leading law firm wants them to decide faster — or else….

UPDATE (5:40 p.m.): We’ve added comment from the firm below.

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Three of your Above the Law editors — David Lat, Elie Mystal, and Joe Patrice — recently sat down in the ATL offices to discuss the law firm recruiting process. After on-campus interviews and callbacks are done and a student is weighing multiple offers, how should he or she pick the right firm?

The gang weighs in with this short podcast after the jump. Good luck to all those who are still interviewing or choosing between offers….

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The law firm on-campus interview process is a peculiar institution. No other industry entrusts its entire entry-level hiring process to a series of superficial 20-minute “cattle call” interviews two years ahead of when the candidate will actually become a full-time employee. There is something contrived about the whole thing. (This old-ish video clip gives a good sense of the inherent absurdity.)

OCI is still underway at law schools across the country. Firms are currently hustling to interview students nationwide, make callbacks, and extend offers within an arbitrary 28-day window (per the NALP guidelines).

As we recently noted, opportunities to participate in OCI — which continues to be the primary entry point for law students into the largest and best-paying firms — are increasingly harder to come by in the current job market. The reality is, most students are on the outside looking in. Most will never be afforded the opportunity to land one of the few gigs that will actually give them a plausible chance of being able to pay off their student loans.

If you are one of the fortunate ones who just went through or is continuing to take part in OCI, we want to hear about your experiences….

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The sky is not falling. Or if it is, it’s falling very, very slowly.

Yes, the legal industry is going through some major changes. The profession is becoming more business-focused than ever before, meaning that it’s harder out here for a partner. It’s also a tough time to graduate from a low-ranked law school if you’re not at the top of the class, as Elie Mystal has discussed at great length.

But for many law students and young lawyers, especially those with strong credentials from strong law schools, times are still good. For proof of this, consider on-campus interviewing (OCI), currently taking place at law schools around the country….

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First off, a bit of housekeeping:

1)    I never claimed to be a Deadhead, though I love their music. I will leave that to Mr. Wallerstein. I am a committed Phishhead, and could easily have used Trey Anastasio’s bust and subsequent rehab as an example for last week’s column. However, the Furthur incident had just occurred near here and I thought it was more topical.

2)    I did not intend to depress anyone with a column on alcohol, so I guess I should have been sober when writing, but that goes against my practice.

3)    I am rarely shocked any more by the comments on this site, but I have to say that in my opinion, they have devolved so far into a cesspool of misogyny and lack of humor or wit, that I have decided to continue to write columns without the ability to comment. I have been doing this long enough, and been called enough names and insulted sufficiently that I have become inured to being “hurt.” If you have a genuine criticism, suggestion or correction, write me at the Gmail address.

(Segue to column)

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