When preparing for a law firm interview, one of your primary goals is to anticipate and prepare for virtually every significant question that the firm is going to ask you. Of course, not all interview questions can be accurately predicted. But many can, at least in terms of the general subject matter. Of course, some of the questions that will be asked will not be predictable. Most of these questions will be trivial, however, and do not require preparation. For these questions, as well as the interview in general, you just need to have strong overall preparation. This includes dressing right, having strong confidence (which comes in part from being well prepared for whatever they are going to ask you), clear enthusiasm for the opportunity and your most charming personality at the forefront. Rather, it is only the substantial questions that you need to prepare for. And it is these questions that you can reasonably anticipate and be entirely ready to hit out of the park.
In fact, the essence of every law firm interview of a lateral attorney candidate can be boiled down to just ten primary points or issues that the firm really cares about. Many – if not all – of the substantive questions that you will be asked during the interview will relate in part to one or more of these ten points. This means that if you are fully prepared to respond to each of these ten key points, you will be well on your way to delivering a knockout performance. Boiled down to the basics, what each law firm really wants to know about you is:
- Are you able to fully perform the job at a consistently high level?
- Can we always depend on you to get the work done whenever or wherever necessary?
- Will you work hard to be as profitable for the firm as possible in terms of keeping yourself busy, hours billed, business developed, etc.?
- Will you always be fully professional and never make the firm look bad?
- Will you always be someone who is personable and easy to work with and not a jerk?
- Are you really enthusiastic about obtaining this job for the long term?
- Will you be a "team player" that generally fits in to the firm's culture and values?
- Will you respect our authority and allow us to manage you?
- Will you gradually grow and improve and become more valuable to the firm?
- Do you have any "red flags" that we would want to know about?
- What kind of specific transactional/litigation experience do you have?
- Why did you leave your prior job?
- How many hours did you bill last year?
- Why are you interested in this firm?
- Tell me about yourself.
Of course, every candidate is different, and as a result the particularities of every interview question and answer are going to be different. Consequently, there is no "one" proper way to answer any specific question. But the best way to prepare is to be able to firmly understand and persuasively explain why you meet all of the ten points described above. Then you are ready for virtually any reasonable, relevant question that comes along.
- See Top Ten Interview Questions for more information
Finally, what if you do get a substantive question that was not reasonably foreseeable or otherwise related to the ten points? Sometimes, this just may just be a broad open question like the "tell me about yourself" question identified above. In that situation, you are entirely free to use any of your prepared responses relating to the 10 key points. The more difficult types of unforeseeable questions fall into the "oddball" category. Such questions are rare, but they happen. Obviously, you can't fully anticipate or specifically prepare for such questions. You can, however, prepare a strategy for dealing with the possibility of one arising in an interview. Often, a good strategy is to again fall back on general "themes" that you have created to respond to questions that do relate to the 10 major points. Although the question may not seem to be very relevant to these points, there are usually opportunities that you can take advantage of to steer your answer back into so you can use one of your previously prepared answers.
- See Interviewing Tips for more information
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