This is meant to be a short article reminding lawyers about what can be generally expected by law firms at job interviews. I’m not going to bother with patronising advice such as “wear your best suit” and “turn up on time”. If you can’t get that right, you need more than what any blog or article can give you.
Interviews usually go in several stages – although the stages can often blend into one another. First, a law firm is likely to ask you about yourself – why you are considering a change, what are your reasons for any career moves you have made, and what your particular legal work experience has been. Second, a law firm is likely to ask what you know about them and why you may be interested in working for them. Firms are unlikely to offer roles to lawyers if the firm does not think the offer will be accepted. The easiest way to prepare for this line of questioning is to thoroughly review the firm’s website – including partner profiles, do some google searches, and ask any contacts you have who work or have worked at the firm. A third stage of the interview should be question time. Even if a firm does not ask if you have any questions, take the initiative and ask if it’s ok for you to ask some. Asking questions not only shows that you are interested, but it will help you learn more about the firm and make a future decision easier for you. Your questions should not be about what is in it for you (such as “will I get an external office with a view”, “what salary is on offer?”), but rather questions about how you can contribute to the firm.
Firms often ask difficult questions. If you get asked about whether you have any other interviews, and you do in fact have other interviews lined up, let the firm know that fact. But ensure that the particular firm you are talking to is aware that they themselves are a very high priority for you. If the firm askes you any questions that you do not know the answer to, do not try to bluff your way through an answer. It can show great confidence for a lawyer to look an interviewer in the eye and say “I don’t know”. But it is often good to add a positive spin – such as “I don’t know but I am interested in that type of work and am confident I will pick that up quickly”. That will show honesty, but also a positive attitude. It can be good at the close of an interview to let the firm know that you have enjoyed the meeting and that you are certainly interested in the role and in the firm.
Interviews can come in so many shapes and sizes. A good recruiter will often not just secure an interview for you. They will then invest substantial time in making sure you are as ready for an interview as possible. Securing the interview is really just the beginning.
Doron Paluch is a Director at Burgess Paluch with more than 15 years’ experience in local and international legal recruitment. If you are looking to make a move or just after some interview advice you can contact him on 03 8676 0302 or email [email protected]