Law Firm Interview Tips for Attorneys & Legal Staff

Harrison Barnes

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Making the right impression with the legal recruiter or the hiring partner is crucial when interviewing for an attorney job or legal staff job. Finding out that you’ve been chosen for a law firm interview is exciting as well as nerve wracking. You impressed the law firm enough that either the legal recruiter or the hiring partner reached out to you to schedule an interview. Now it’s time to shine. But how? How can you make sure that your skills and abilities show that you’re the best associate attorney or legal assistant to choose for the law firm job opening? Here are nine law firm interview tips perfect for both attorneys and legal staff.

Do Your Research Before the Law Firm Interview

One criticism many law firms have revealed to legal recruiters about both associate attorneys and legal support staff who attend job interviews is that they seem to know very little about the law firm. While there’s no reason for you to memorize the firm’s entire history, taking the time to visit the firm’s website and reading the about page, reviewing the firm’s practice areas, and reading the attorney bios can help you be more prepared for the interview. Understanding the firm’s mission as well as some of its history can help you stand out better from others going through the interviewing process.

Take some time to review their LinkedIn page, especially if they have one devoted to their practice or the page for the hiring attorney. You may be able to find recent positive news about the law firm that you could congratulate them on during the interview. You may also be able to find this information on a Facebook business page or a Twitter account devoted to the practice. If you’re asked during the interview where you found the news, tell them. It shows the legal hiring manager that you’re comfortable with using the internet to locate accurate information as well as the ability to perform basic online research.

Review Your Social Media Accounts

Many law firms look up candidates on social media either before the interview or before making a job offer. Do yourself a favor and make sure that all of your social media profiles are set to private, meaning no posts should be visible to anyone who is not on your friends list or who has not requested to follow you. Remove pictures or status updates that relate to anything illegal or questionable. While we all do have the right to free speech, we aren’t always protected from the consequences of what we say online.

Prepare in Advance

Review the law firm’s website at least one day before your interview. Look for recent positive news. Additionally, review and practice answering possible law firm interview questions that you could be asked. This is particularly important for some of the more difficult questions such as why you’re looking to leave your current position or looking for a new position, why there are gaps in your employment history, or when you’re asked to tell the legal hiring manager about your greatest weakness.

Also consider ways that you can work in your strengths as they related to the attorney job or the legal assistant job that you’re interested in. Review the job description as well. This could help make it easier for you to know which of your skills you should seek to focus on during the interviewing process.

Dress Appropriately for the Law Firm Interview

Although many law firms have embraced a business casual environment when clients aren’t expected or if they practice in certain areas that don’t involve a lot of client contact inside of the office, it’s still important to ensure that you dress appropriately for your law firm interview. This does not necessarily mean that you look up the dress code of the law firm and match it for the interview. It means that you keep in mind that while the legal industry has begun to change, it is still quite conservative.

How do you dress appropriately for a law firm interview? If you’re applying for an entry-level attorney job or an entry-level legal support staff job, you honestly may not know the answer to that question. The short answer is that you don’t wear anything to a law firm interview that you wouldn’t wear to court. You could visit the district court and visit some of the courtrooms to read what some of the rules are for courtroom attire. Many judges post this on the doors leading into the courtroom.

When in doubt, dress conservatively. Ladies, do not wear skirts or dresses that rise above your knees when you are standing or that rise much above your knees when you sit. You can, of course, opt for dress pants or slacks. Ladies should keep their jewelry conservative as well. Men should wear slacks or suits.

Ladies or men should not wear jeans unless they are specifically instructed, without asking, by the hiring partner or legal recruiter that this is okay. Additionally, your hair should be neatly styled. Many law firms as well as courts may have no issue with men having long hair as long as it is kept neat.

Take Hard Copies of Your Application Materials

Consider the documents you used during the application process. You should take five hard copies of each with you to your interview. Some law firms may have more than one person who handles legal recruitment, meaning that your interview could have multiple people. You want to ensure that you have enough copies for everyone. Your application materials may include your cover letter, your resume, and a writing sample. Do not ever assume that the law firm has these documents because you applied online or emailed them. Always take hard copies with you to your interview.

Show a Reasonable Level of Enthusiasm

Law firms want associate attorneys and legal staff who are happy to work there. When you attend your interview, display a reasonable level of enthusiasm. The hiring partner doesn’t expect you to bounce off the walls, but they also don’t want to feel like you’re just there to fulfill an obligation. Smile, make eye contact, and be personable. They want to know that you want to work for their law firm. Of course, you don’t want to come off as desperate, but you do want to be enthusiastic and positive. Some ideas for showing enthusiasm include asking thoughtful questions, telling the hiring partner how excited you are to be chosen for the interview, and, at the end of the interview, asking about the next step in the law firm’s hiring process. Sending a thank you note expressing your gratitude is another great way to showcase your desire especially when you state that you look forward to hearing from them.

Focus on the Law Firm Job Offered

While growth opportunities in law firms are certainly prized and often offered, it is imperative that you focus on the law firm job being offered during the interview. Do not spend this precious dedicated (and limited) time on anything other than what is being offered, unless it is specifically brought up during the interviewing process. For example, do not discuss your future plans unless the legal recruiter or hiring partner asks where you see yourself in the next few years. Do not discuss the parts of the job you do not want to do or that you do not enjoy unless you are asked. Otherwise, all you’re doing is sending a signal to the legal hiring manager that you are not the right person for the position because you will not be happy.

Salary is another topic that should not be discussed unless it is brought up. This is a topic that is saved for the presentation of a tentative or actual job offer. Remember to use this scheduled time specifically to discuss your skills and how they directly solve the law firm’s needs.

Know When to Redirect the Interviewing Process

Because a specific amount of time is scheduled for law firm job interviews, it’s important to keep things on track. That’s not always easy. There are many reasons why side conversations could take place. At some point, you could start to worry if you’ll have the time to showcase your specific legal skills that you know will wow the hiring partner. One thing is for sure: you know that if the interviewing process isn’t redirected, you stand a chance of having your credentials tossed in a giant pile along with others. And you cannot let that happen.

You must know when to redirect the interviewing process politely and with confidence. One way you may be able to do this is to say something similar to, “I know your time is limited and I am very appreciative that you made time to meet with me. Before our time is up, I wanted to make sure to emphasize my experience / education in [major pain point or requirement found in the attorney job or legal job description].” Showing that you are able to regain control of a professional situation and redirect a conversation to point it back toward its ultimate goal helps emphasize another professional skill: interpersonal skills. It’s actually more than one skill. As a skill set, it’s highly prized by law firms for associate attorneys as well as legal support staff.

Specifically State Why You’re Interested in the Legal Job

Whether you’re applying for an attorney job or a position as a legal staff member, one way to ensure that you stand out among the other applicants going through the interview process is to specifically state why you’re interested in the job. This is where being prepared before the interview comes in handy. Understanding the mission or objective of a law firm and what they contribute to the community helps you formulate the specific reason why you want this job. Does the law firm have a record of helping indigent community members? Is that important to you? You already know why you’re interested in that law firm, but the hiring partner cannot read your mind. It is your responsibility to tell them why you’re interested.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company, LawCrossing, has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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