Interview Stories

Think good deeds are only for good people? Every once in a while, an uncommon opportunity comes along in which even grinchy, ol’ meanies can contribute positively to society. On occasion, jerks are mistaken for people who actually care about others and, if they’re lawyers, they may be asked if they would be willing to do a mock interview for a law student or junior attorney.

If you’re a jerk, I have good news for you. Your natural grouchy demeanor could make you an ideal candidate to give mock law interviews. This is your chance to fully exhibit your abominable self and earn the sincere appreciation of others at the same time. It’s a true win-win situation!

Because when it comes to practice interviews, many interviewers try to pretend that they’re the ones who are actually interviewing someone for a real job at their law firm or company. Silly counselors….

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So Harvard Law School is now conducting admission interviews — via Skype. Yaaay.

I’m all about Skype. It’s a wonderful and useful technological tool. Still, I would want to trust my hypothetical law school admission process to it as much as I would entrust my (also hypothetical) new Ferrari to a 17-year-old on a Friday night.

Let me spell it out…

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Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at [email protected], and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

Hello my loyal readers — oh, and you commenters, too. A lot has happened since we last met. I had a job interview last week. How did it go, you ask? The words embarrassing and atrocious come to mind. Think about getting mugged on the way to your car, getting a flat tire in the rain, and then having your credit card declined at McDonald’s. Yeah, that would have been a much better day than I had.

Looking back at the day as a whole, I really should have known that it was going to be a bad time. First, my power went out in the middle of the night, but luckily for me, I was so excited and nervous that I woke up every couple of hours and noticed early on that I needed to turn on my cell phone alarm to make sure that I woke up. But then, of course, I couldn’t go back to sleep because my anxiety level was at an all-time high.

While I lay in bed and waited for my alarm to go off, I practiced going over interview questions in my head. My alarm finally went off, and I felt like I did before most of my law school exams: “Oh sh*t, I am not nearly prepared for this. Why the hell did I do this again?”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Gradenfreude: My Interview Horror Story (Or, How I Underwhelmed A Hiring Partner With My Law Degree)”

To all of our law student readers who are in the middle of hunting for federal judicial clerkships, good luck. Right now we are at the height of clerkship application season, at least for those judges who follow the official (but non-mandatory) law clerk hiring plan. For those judges who follow the Plan to the letter, this past Friday at noon was the first date and time when judges could contact third-year applicants to schedule interviews, and this coming Thursday at 10 a.m. is the first day and time when judges can interview and make offers to 3Ls.

That’s for judges who follow the Plan with maximum strictness. But how many judges actually do that?

Let’s discuss how the clerkship process is unfolding this year — and hear from those of you who are going through it….

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I have Irish Alzheimer’s; I forget everything but my grudges. As I read about the latest round of bar study and exams, I think back on my job interviews over the years. I cannot shake the remembrances of some of my more outstanding successes and failures.

There was the major domo partner at an unnamed firm (located in the Battery which had a really salacious sex harassment fiasco some time ago) who looked at the title of my journal piece and stated, “You know, there’s no such word as ‘normalization.’” Now, I could have informed this pompous ass that maybe in the Kissinger era there was no such word, but, I wanted a gig. So, I put the tail between my legs and meekly said that I would have to look into that.

There was an associate from a since disappointingly merged firm from Midtown who “took a call” during our OCI, hung up, and informed me that he’d just closed a multi-million dollar deal. I was totally unprepared for dealing with such a tool, but again, I wanted a gig. So, I said something to the effect of “congratulations.”

Finally, there was the bow-tie wearing fop with shoulder length hair from the firm with four names, who cradled his fingers under his dimpled chin, shook his mane and said, “Why would XXXX want to hire you?” Unprepared to deal with such an insipid question, I came up with an equally insipid answer.

And just so I don’t let the in-house interviewers off the hook, there were some real winners in my last search. Since I am heavily involved in the ACC and other ventures, however, it’s best not to describe anecdotes. Let’s just say that, contrary to the viral videos, it does not “always get better”…

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Carter Phillips

After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Obama’s healthcare overhaul last week, we discussed the case with veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips. Phillips, the managing partner of Sidley Austin‘s Washington, D.C. office, is a renowned Supreme Court litigator. He has argued 75 cases in front of the high court, more than any other attorney in private practice.

Check out our conversation below. He had a lot of insightful comments about the performances of Paul Clement and Donald Verrilli, the mind of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and even a few jokes…

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Obtaining a summer associate position at a major law firm remains difficult. That’s the upshot of a recent report (PDF) issued by our friends at NALP. You can read summaries of the report at the NALP website and at the ABA Journal. This quip, by NALP executive director Jim Leipold, pretty much says it all: “This is not a hot recruiting market.”

Given that employers are still in the driver’s seat, at least when it comes to entry-level recruiting — recruiting of lateral lawyers, whether associates or partners, is a different kettle of fish — you’d think that law firms would use this opportunity to experiment a bit with fall recruiting. There are some interesting alternatives out there to the standard model of 20- to 30-minute screening interviews, typically held in the summer before or early fall of the 2L year, followed by callback interviews at the firms. E.g., JD Match (disclosure: a past ATL advertiser).

But law firms, as we know, are a conservative group. They tend to stick with existing models, even if those models are imperfect.

Well, most law firms. Nobody ever accused Quinn Emanuel of not daring to be different….

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(Note: the scenarios depicted herein may be vastly different from what you experience(d). They are based on my opinion alone, and fact patterns may differ drastically. The process that I advise is based on an amalgam of numerous colleagues’ experiences.)

There is nothing like the feeling of a strange voice on the phone telling you that they’d like to speak with you about a job for which you’ve applied. There is a rush that comes with finally receiving a response, a euphoric “you like me, you really, really like me…” Okay, so that’s a bit over the top, but after slogging through job hunt Hell for months with no response but the rare (these days) ding letter, it’s certainly a nice change to have someone want to speak with you.

So, after that initial shock wears off, get to the getting. Not only do you want this job, the person on the other end of the phone wants to hire you. Nobody enjoys seeing candidate after candidate — time is money, and unlike law firms where interviews can entail lavish lunches or dinners, in-house interviews are vastly different….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “House Rules: You’re in the House — Now, Stay There…”

I wish I could name names; I really do. But I work at the world’s leading insurance broker for law firms, and I can’t go around offending the clients (or potential clients). You’ll just have to guess.

All of these interviews actually took place. I swear it.

First, there was the senior partner at a major New York firm, interviewing me at the start of my second year of law school: “You know, a lot of students want to make excuses for not having perfect grades. Sometimes, those excuses are pretty good: You hear from the single mothers. You hear from people who are working full-time and going to law school at night. The excuses aren’t bad.

“But I have to tell you something: If you have to give me an excuse, I don’t want to hear it. We have too many people who are perfect looking for jobs here. If you’re perfect, we’ll hire you. If you have to make an excuse, don’t even bother telling me. If you have to make an excuse, we’re not making you an offer.”

I didn’t say these stories were uplifting. I said only that they were true.

The next one’s at my expense:

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the difference between résumé-based interviews and behavioral interviews. (In a nutshell, résumé-based interviews ask applicants for opinions about their personal histories; behavioral interviews ask for factual descriptions of how applicants handled certain situations in their lives.)

I really didn’t expect that to be a controversial topic, but I received messages by the e-mailbag full. Two folks recommended entirely revamping the way we interview candidates for legal jobs, and I’m sharing those two thoughts here — revealing the less controversial suggestion before the jump and the more controversial one after, just to leave you hanging.

My first correspondent, from a large West Coast law firm, said that he liked the idea of doing behavioral interviews, but he didn’t think interviews should be a game of “gotcha.” Thus, we should not surprise applicants at their interviews by asking an applicant to, say, identify a situation in which the applicant was forced to lead a group, what the applicant did, and how the applicant assessed the results. Instead, my correspondent suggested, firms should send to applicants in advance a set of behavioral interview questions that might be asked during the interviews, so the applicants would have a chance to think about their pasts, identify responsive situations, and give considered answers when later asked the questions.

I think that’s a fine idea, but I don’t think it’s a novel one. I recently saw several business school applications, and many B-school essay questions read strikingly like behavioral interview questions: Identify a certain type of situation in your past, and explain how you dealt with it. If business schools think that carefully crafted written answers to those questions yield meaningful insight into whether to admit an applicant into school, then there’s no reason why law firms shouldn’t ask similar questions and give applicants plenty of time to frame their answers.

But my second correspondent was even more radical . . .

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