LegalJob is one year old — what has it learned

To mark LegalJob's one year anniversary, LegalJob has reviewed three of the most frequently asked topics/questions and has refined its responses, based in part on your feedback.  This post will be one of a three part series and will cover the first of these questions.

One of the most frequently asked questions is in the area of interviewing.  In general, the question is how can one help to ensure a successful interview.  The question has been asked in different ways, including:

  • What's the number one thing you want to get across in an interview?
  • Should I make a list of talking points and memorize them for my interview?
  • How do I explain away my average performance in my first year of law school?

The bottom line is that, generally, the most important concept to communicate in an interview is that your background and skill set match the firm's needs in such a complete way that you will be able you to hit the ground running and add value from day one.  In other words, the firm would be wise to hire you, invest its resources in you and train you because there is a reasonable chance that you will be a strong contributor.  Consider the following checklist (but do not feel the need to cover all because you want to come across comfortable and relaxed):

► Explain why you are specifically interested in that firm.  For example for tax nerds, perhaps it is the firm's particular focus on international tax issues and specifically on transfer pricing matters.  You are interested (and qualified) because you have specific experience in the area that you could contribute to the firm.  Use examples, get into the weeds, and talk substance.

The following are tips for articulating your experience.

  • Match your skills with what you think may be required of you based on the job posting (or whatever information was communicated to you about the position), and your rigorous research of the firm.
    • Along these lines, study the client's of the firm and the interviewer's background, including the projects they are working on currently or have worked on in the past.  You want to be in a position to ask the person substantive, thoughtful questions about their work.  This shows you have done your homework and allows the person to talk about their favorite subject.
  • Be concise but go into specific technical detail about the issues you dealt with so the interviewer can appreciate both your experience and your ability to clearly explain complex legal matters.
  • Demonstrate by your examples that you are a thoughtful attorney who cares about getting the right answer (as opposed to merely finishing an assignment).
  • After getting into the weeds, close your speech by explaining how your specific experience has general application in the broader area so that it is clear that you are not a one trick pony.  In other words, you could readily apply your knowledge of the law and reasoning skills to different fact patterns.

► Highlight the various opportunities you have had to perform legal research and present your conclusions in written format when explaining your real world experience.  Perhaps offer to provide a recommendation letter(s) or have one handy that can confirm your strengths in research and writing (and strong work performance generally).

► If possible, supplement your hands on experience (which involved lots of research and writing) with an explanation of your academic successes in this particular area (which could also serve to stand in contrast to less than perfect grades in other areas).

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