More below from LegalJob’s guest blogger Katie White who polled several hiring partners and recruiting professionals about law student hiring in the Washington, DC market. 

It is difficult to break in to a large law firm without the class standing and grades the big firms require.  However, the following can help: 

Personality is always important.  Firms are interested in hiring someone who is well rounded, and will fit with the culture of the firm.  Interpersonal skills, understanding the firm’s culture and demonstrating your sincere interest in the values of the firm make a difference.

Relevant prior work experience will often make a big difference.  Firms benefit from associates who know the industry of a client and have work experience that relates to what the clients of the firm do.  

The ability to explain your grades.  If your grades are not where you would like them to be, why not?  It is important to have thought this through and to have prepared a coherent story to present in your cover letters and interviews. If your other attributes fit with the firm’s needs and the reason for your grades not meeting the firm’s criteria are credible, this obstacle can sometimes be overcome.

Referrals from firm clients, contacts of partners, or partners or associates who work at the firm count for a lot in the hiring process.  So networking can really benefit you.