This past week was a combination of brutal + exhilarating.
[The best times are a bit of both, wouldn’t you say?]
On top of classwork, extra-curricular activities, and working in the law library, I also drove to Austin to participate in the Public Interest Law Fair. The beau and I drove straight to Austin after a full day of classes. But you know what?
The Consortium of Texas Law Schools hosted a job fair at UT-Law, and it was a great experience; I wanted to share my perspective.
Here’s what you need to know:
When you apply to these job fairs, it kind of feels like a cattle call. There’s a long list of potential employers that set out their criteria for interviewing (GPA threshold, Moot Court requirement, Law review requirement, 1L/2L/3L, etc.) – then it’s up to you to sift through them all and figure out which possibilities would be best for you.
Once you read through the descriptions, you upload your documents and start applying.
Personally, I wanted a summer opportunity that would offer me the chance to be in court. Having only clerked in a Probate Court, and worked in the PD’s office (but never building an actual case), I felt those skills could be bolstered. This means I sifted through every opportunity and chose Law Clerk Summer positions that fit 1)courtroom experience, 2) writing and research tasks, and 3) challenge my current skillset.
I uploaded 3 letters of recommendation, a blanket cover letter (written to apply to each and every position [why? because I personalized 37 cover letters for a previous job fair and only received 1 interview. I thought shaking things up a bit was warranted]), the most recent transcript, and my résumé.
Once you apply to the positions you are interested in…you wait.
And wait some more.
After a few weeks, the firms and/or government agencies post your worthiness.
I am happy to report that, of the eight positions I applied to, I received six interview invitations. ::woot::
Thankfully, I was able to cram all six interviews into a single day.
Friday morning started with a BANG! I hit the ground running, on pure adrenaline…because I tend to avoid eating before an interview. I made sure to print eight copies of my resume and writing sample, just in case an interviewer needed them.
Here are the most important interview tips I have for you:
1. Dress Professionally
For the love of legal briefs! Please do not show up to an interview looking like a cow chewed you up and spat you out. Wear some nice slacks and a button down, or a suit if you have one. I prefer to wear dresses to interviews, with a blazer. It’s comfortable, and usually means I don’t have to iron a crease into the pleats. Wearing a power suit is perfectly fine as well, but since we were traveling, I didn’t want to worry about packing an iron (in case the hotel didn’t have a working one, or whatever lack-of-iron-catastrophe would befall me). There are interesting takes on what attire is appropriate for interviews. I think the best thing to remember, especially for legal interns and young attorneys, is that we have not built our reputation just yet. Work on solidifying the foundation of your professionalism, and then [maybe…much later in your career] you can loosen up on the prim & proper points of your wardrobe. Maybe.
2. Have extra copies of (at minimum) your [proofed] resume in your padfolio.
Do yourself a favor, and make the extra effort to be extra prepared. Although I always take extra copies into an interview, it is rare that I am asked to proffer anything. I have however, impressed a few interviewers with my preparation. The added prep gives your interviewer the notion that you are a professionally polished person, ready for anything, and prepared for everything. That matters. People want to hire reliable associates, team members that can be counted on. This just adds an extra layer of greatness to what you’ve already put down on paper. Even better? It shows them you want the job, and you are willing to work hard. Our generation takes a bunch of crap for being “lazy” or “entitled.” That’s certainly not all of us, and it throws a pleasant curve ball to a veteran interviewer when you show up ready to for the game.
3. Rise to the challenge.
In this particular set of interviews, the attorneys interviewing me all exhibited different tactics. The most-challenging interview was conducted in a large jury room. The heating unit was rather loud, and the attorneys barely spoke above a whisper. It was infuriating. I couldn’t tell if it was on purpose, so I decided to just be myself. I leaned forward in my seat, paid attention to what they each had to say, and – when they asked me the first question – I raised my voice higher than theirs and spoke. I felt like I was screaming, but that wasn’t true. The lead interviewer smiled, and then leaned forward in his chair and continued the conversation with more questions.
::It was a trick afterall::
Sometimes, interviewers will do things to throw you off; it’s a tactic to enable them the opportunity to see how you will react. When in doubt – be yourself. And remember, all of the interviewers were in your shoes at one time. They know what it feels like, and they will likely not try to break you down. Part of their job is to make sure they like you, because they’ll have to work with you.
Be bold. Be confident. Hell, strike a power pose in bathroom stall before you walk into the interview. Give yourself a pep-talk. Show them just how your intellect, tenacity, and charm will add value to their incredible team.
4. Know Your Strengths & Weaknesses
In other words….practice for the damn thing! You know the interviewers are going to ask standard questions. So you need to PREPARE! Look up questions that interviewers tend to ask. There’s a whole slew of them available online. Do yourself a favor, and dive into them. The key is to prepare, without it appearing that you memorized each answer.
These interviews are a lot like speed-dating. You only get 20 minutes to impress these attorneys. It does not look great to have a ton of “umms,” “well, yeahs,” or “huh, hadn’t thought of that one before!” comments. You owe it to yourself to present the best candidate those interviewers are going to see, because you. are. fantastic!
5. Research the Position!
Ladies and Gents…this is imperative. Do not, I repeat, do not go into an interview without reading about the company/firm/government agency you are interviewing with. That is the fastest way to get yourself dropped! Know exactly what your duties entail and have a prepared answer for why you’d like to work in criminal/family violence/immigration/patent law. Just trust me on this. Knowing about the company’s mission, or agency’s perview is important. These interviewers need to know that you actually give a damn about the work they do. Don’t muck it up.
These tips are sure to get you in great shape for your interview.
Regardless of the occasion, interview as often as you can. The more practice you have, the better the conversation flows at the table. I share the above advice, as it was shared with me. For the sake of full disclosure, I [so far] received three offers from the six interviews. My summer is set and, quite frankly, I am thrilled to have the jobs lined up. I am truly looking forward to gaining a better insight to the federal court system, and the unique challenges those cases will encompass.
Now all I have to do is focus on my coursework and clinic cases this semester.
[More on the clinic later]
How are your plans going this semester?