Nine Interview Tips for Lawyers
We’ve recently received some requests for interview tips for attorneys; and we aim to please! Here are several tips that are sure to help you reach your goal — a second interview!

1) Let them know why you are interested in their firm

Make it clear that you aren’t looking for any port in the storm and that you are being highly selective about the opportunities you are choosing to interview for. If you are only meeting one firm for a specific position and where not even actively looking until Swan contacted you, then be sure to convey that.

Firms want to know why you are leaving your current position. You must be consistent with your answer and you must keep it positive.

Firms may ask you where else you are interviewing. Keep it vague; you can say something like: “firms similar to yours that have a biotech component to their corporate group.” Again, you want to enforce the perception that you are being extremely selective and that you will only move for the right fit.

2) Ask them what they need

Why are they hiring right now? New client? New case? How long have they been looking?

3) Discuss three solid examples of your work

They may or may not ask for specific examples, but you can take charge and lay them out. What you discuss should dovetail with your resume and cover letter. Be sure to review both of those documents beforehand.

Knowing what you want to discuss in advance is also a wonderful way to stay relaxed during your interview!

4) Don’t be afraid to discuss a difficult issue that you had and how you resolved it

You want them to see you as a problem solver and someone who remains calm under pressure while getting the job done.

5) Discuss your long term goals

Make it clear that you LIKE what you do and that you are looking for a firm to commit to for the long haul where you can continue to develop your own book of business. Firms are skittish about associates jumping ship; assuage these fears even though the question will not be asked directly.

6) When it’s your turn to ask questions, pursue one line of questioning in particular: work distribution

How is the work distributed; how are associates matched up with partners; how much work is generated in that particular office and how much of it comes from sister offices? By asking these questions, you will get an idea if this firm can give you what you want, and, they will get a glimmer what it would be like to have you as someone they can assign work to.

If you are speaking with an associate, ask them what they like best about the firm. Ask them how long they have been with this firm and if they enjoy their position. Keep it positive.

Be prepared for different types of interviewers. Some attorneys you will meet with will be prepared for you and will be great at interviewing. Let them lead the way.

Others will have glanced at your resume 2 minutes before the receptionist leads you to their door and they will be slightly panicked at the thought of spending the next 30 minutes with a stranger. Make it easy on them. Lead the interview by addressing 1 – 6, above, and allow them to interrupt if something you have said intrigues them.

7) Have fun!

So much of interviews are about chemistry. Clearly, you have the right credentials and they are very serious about you or else they would not have invited you in for an interview. Now they want to see if you are someone that they would want to work with on a daily basis and get to know better. Are you a good face for their firm? Are you trustworthy? Would clients like you? Be professional but also don’t hesitate to laugh and engage.

8) A few “don’ts”

Don’t ask about salary, billable hours, or flex-time options at your first interview. Don’t criticize your current firm, current boss, colleagues, etc. Don’t check your blackberry or cell before or during (this HAS happened) your interview. Don’t exaggerate your expertise and/or experience. Stick to your resume and cover letter.

9) A few “do’s”

Do dress professionally – this means a dark suit and slacks or skirt for the ladies. Do have your business card. Do be warm and friendly with the receptionist and HR coordinator. Do come prepared: research recent press about the firm; know their biggest deals/ wins; know what practice groups they have and what cities they have offices in; demonstrate an understanding of their clientele. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you will be and the more confident you will appear!

If you have more tips or more questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re attorneys, too; and we’ve all been through the interview process. It can be stressful, or it can be the beginning to a wonderful career!
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