It’s the time of year when Biglaw firms are all conducting their callback interviews. Callbacks typically take place after on-campus interviews, and are kind of a second-round in the interviewing process. For me, and other associates, that means a lot of free lunches with interview candidates, which is pretty awesome. But for rising 2Ls, it can be a stress-filled few weeks of awkward conversations and half-day interviews galore– all the while wondering if you’re going to get a job at a firm that you actually like.
(For those of you who aren’t law students or in the legal world, “Biglaw” is the term that refers to the largest and most prestigious national and international law firms, where many law students are eager to start their careers.)
Now, I’m not an expert, and I’m certainly not the one making hiring decisions, but I have seen both sides of the process now, so I think I can speak with a little bit of wisdom about the Biglaw callback interview. Without further ado, here are my top 5 ways to ace your Biglaw callback interview:
- Know who you’re talking to- This is the advice you’ve probably heard a million times before, but it really rings true here. Know who you’re talking to. For callback interviews you usually receive a list of the 4-6 lawyers that you’ll be meeting with beforehand. Now there’s no need to memorize every person’s resume, but it is a good idea to remember some general facts about the lawyer you’re talking to. Typically, you should know what area of law your interviewer practices in and if you’re talking to a partner or counsel or associate. You don’t want to make the mistake of calling a young-looking partner an associate, or of asking a litigator about his or her M&A practice. Also, if there’s something that you and the interviewer share (school, hometown, etc.), make a mental note of it. They’ll probably bring it up at some point, and if the conversation lags, you’ll have something to bring up to get things moving again. Now, obviously this could go too far– don’t stalk the person online and memorize every detail about them, that’s just creepy– but remembering a few details shows that you care and did your research. If you don’t do this, it could make you seem uninterested.
- Dress the part- Now is not the time to take sartorial risks. You’ll have plenty of time for that later once you have a job. Most firms in DC are business casual, and some can be downright casual, but that doesn’t mean that you can be business casual when you show up for your callback interview. Wear a suit. You are there to impress people, show you care, and show you are serious. No associate in my office wears a suit on a day-to-day basis, but if you show up for an interview without a suit on, we will judge you.
- Do your research about the firm- During your interview, you need to present your best self to the firm, and you need to show them that you’ll be a good fit. If you show up telling everyone you want to do real estate law and the firm only ever hires litigators, the firm will assume you didn’t care enough to do your research and will move on to another candidate who they think actually wants to be there. If you’re interviewing for a smaller office, explain why that appeals to you– and vice versa if it’s a larger firm. Again, it’s just a matter of showing the firm that you would be a good fit and that if offered a position, you would accept.
- Don’t only ask about pro bono assignments- I heard this a lot from my school’s Career Services Office during the interview process, so I assume it must happen quite a bit. Basically, don’t only talk about pro bono work when you’re interviewing for a position at a firm that needs paying clients to stay in business. I think it’s great to ask about pro bono opportunities at the end of the interview, but if you focus only on that aspect of the firm people will perhaps question your dedication to working at a law firm.
- Pay attention to what’s happening around you- No matter how successful your interview goes, you’ll be doing yourself a major disservice if you don’t keep your eyes open during your callback and see what’s actually going on at the firm so you’ll know whether to accept an offer. Weird asides or jokes during the interview can be very telling about a firm’s culture. For instance, if someone is joking about missing Thanksgiving dinner for a deal, I would run. Also, remember, the people the firm selects to interview you should be people who are happy and well-adjusted and overall cheerleaders for the firm. If you’re interviewing with people who seem to hate their lives (or worse, tell you they hate their lives), pay attention.
Good luck at callbacks!
(And here’s to hoping I don’t gain 10lbs at all these interview lunches 😉 )
Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own and are in no way the opinions of any law firm or law school that I am affiliated with. No law firm or law school has endorsed these comments.