Law Student Interview Guide
Before the on-campus interview
Think about your career path. Work with career services to identify firms that match your goals. Things to consider: type of law, firm size, location, and boutique versus full-service firm.
Do your research. Once you receive your schedule, get to know each of the firms you’ll be interviewing with. A cheat sheet might be helpful for pre-interview prep and as a quick reference between meetings.
Know why you’re interested in the firm. In doing your research, identify what draws you most to the firm and be prepared to talk about your interests with the interviewer.
Know your interviewer. You’ll find yourself much more relaxed if you know a little bit about the person across the table or on screen. With that said, last-minute substitutions can happen, so don’t be alarmed if you have a different interviewer than anticipated.
Know your résumé. Interviewers will review your résumé beforehand and everything listed is fair game, including the thesis you wrote five years ago. Your résumé should be pristine. Proofread for formatting errors and typos, skip the fancy font, and aim to fit everything onto one page.
Be proactive. Most firms welcome and encourage write-in applications if they’re not scheduled to visit your school.
Sign up with career services for the next mock interview program. You may be matched up with a Cooley attorney for a practice run!
The on-campus interview
Stay calm. Don’t worry if your interview runs long or is cut short. There are many reasons schedules get off track, most of which have nothing to do with you.
Ask candid questions about what is important to you. You should use the interview to arm yourself with information about the firms you’re considering.
Show enthusiasm. Firms are interested in people who demonstrate initiative and a positive attitude. Actively participate in the interview. It should be a conversation, not an interrogation.
After each interview, make notes to help you distinguish the firms. This will be helpful as you receive callback invitations.
Virtual interview setup
- Equipment. Make sure your equipment is working correctly. Test your connection and schedule a practice run with a friend or family member before interviewing to ensure your audio and video quality is adequate.
- Background and environment. Be sure to tidy up the space that will be seen on camera, especially if a virtual background is not an option. Try to minimize noise and distractions during your interview.
- Lighting. The best lighting setup is natural light coming from in front of you. Make sure to check your lighting so that your face is not partially obscured by shadows or backlighting.
- Camera angle. Placing the camera at or slightly above your eye level will feel most natural to viewers and make you look your best. The ideal shot will include your head and shoulders and a couple of inches above your head.
- Eye contact. Keeping your eyes on the camera will make eye contact with your audience. Try putting a Post-it with a smiley face, a picture of your pet, or something fun, near the camera to remind you to look up.
- Control what you can control. We understand that remote work conditions can be less than ideal – if a dog barks or a kid/parent walks behind you on screen, that’s life these days. No one will judge you because of it.
Scheduling callback interviews
Acknowledge or decline callback invitations immediately. If you receive a callback you’re interested in pursuing, respond to the invitation right away. If you have determined from the interview that you’re no longer interested in pursuing the firm, politely decline the callback invitation.
Be as flexible with your time as possible by giving firms a couple of time and date options for your callback interviews.
Be considerate. Try to give as much advanced notice as possible if you’re running late or have to cancel a callback interview.
NALP timing guidelines
Remember to reaffirm your interest in the offers you receive within 14 days of
the date of the offer letter, or employers could retract the offer.
The callback interview
Know the firm and the office in which you’re interviewing. Identify what draws you most to the firm and be prepared to talk about your interests with your interviewers. Request a copy of your schedule the day before the interview and research your interviewers by looking them up on the firm’s website or on LinkedIn. Other helpful online resources include nalpdirectory.com, firsthand.co, chambers-associate.com
Read up on different interviewing techniques. Firms use many styles, including behavioral interviewing.
Prepare your questions in advance and be ready to discuss the following:
- Personal background. Share your previous employment history, notable accomplishments and why you decided to attend law school.
- Educational background. Highlight the courses you have enjoyed most and least and why, how those courses led to your interest in the firm, your participation in journals or organizations, and how your education has prepared you to work in a law firm.
- Career objectives. Consider the most important factors to you as you evaluate firms, and why you have chosen private practice or a specific type of law.
Weighing your options
Be transparent. Let the recruiting staff know which factors are playing into your offer decision so they can offer assistance as you gather the information you need to help make your decision. If you didn’t have a chance to meet with someone you wanted to meet with – for example, a junior attorney or someone in a particular practice group – now is the time to ask!
Connect with former summer associates and alums. Get to know students who recently summered at the firm. The recruiting staff can help initiate that contact if you ask. Another great resource when considering multiple offers are law school alumni.
Write it down. Determine what is important to you and make a list noting how each firm fares in each area. Things to consider may include: practice area offerings, industry expertise, training, pro bono, diversity, firm culture, location, summer program experience, etc.
Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t let your offer expire without informing the firm of your decision.