How to do a Telephone Screening Interview as an Attorney or Law Student: Why Most Attorneys and Law Students Fail Law Firm Telephone Screening Interviews
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It is increasingly common for law firms to do phone interviews before bringing in attorneys for formal interviews. They do not want to waste time on people they can tell very quickly are not likely to work out.
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

While law firm screening interviews are common for attorneys trying to relocate to another city, law firms typically will not conduct telephone-screening interviews for candidates they are truly interested in hiring. Most law firms will just go ahead and do in-person interviews with the people they like on paper right away. Firms want to impress the candidate as much as they want the candidate to impress them. They also are busy, have a staffing need, are losing money each day without adequate staffing, and want someone as quickly as possible. A phone interview is more passive, less committal, and suggests that you may not be the right candidate.

If a law firm wants to speak with you before meeting you in person, WATCH OUT. Let’s get something clear right away: The telephone screening is an opportunity but not necessarily a good thing. A phone-screening interview is dangerous—incredibly dangerous—and you need to approach it more seriously than you would an in-person interview. These are not pleasant chats. These are elimination exercises, where the law firm will use laser-like precision in an attempt to remove you from consideration. The law firm is not spending any “face-to-face” time with you because the firm does not yet feel you merit it. You are starting at the very bottom and will need to distinguish yourself from the rest of the candidates whose resumes are dumped in the pile of unqualified resumes that are fired at firms daily. Instead of evaluating you after a series of interviews in a more “holistic” fashion, the interviewer may reject you for just one bad answer.

If the law firm liked you, it would fly you out and meet you in person instead of arranging for a telephone-screening interview. I can tell you from experience: Every law firm wants to personally meet with an attorney (without first speaking with him or her on the phone) if the firm likes the attorney and his or her background.