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Getting an interview and getting a job: Interviewing at law firms

I am happy that I have a job (that I enjoy, no less).

Call it what you want — a jungle, a nightmare, a never-ending cycle of rejection –- but the legal job market in today’s economy can be characterized with this single legal term: sucky. Large law firms have cut back the hiring of summer associates (thereby decreasing the number of offers they will make at the end of the year), recent graduates are facing a difficult time finding legal work, and a Boston University Law Student has even written the dean of the school requesting his tuition back because the student cannot find a job (this topic is for another blog).

Whatever you want to call it, the legal job market is one tough place right now.

I have seen it firsthand, but (fortunately for me) from the other side of the interview table. For the past few years, I’ve spent many hours interviewing potential candidates for law clerk and associate positions at our firm.

Towards the end of last year, the firm decided to begin the process of hiring a litigation associate to help alleviate the workload of our very busy department. So an ad was put out (in The Daily Record, no less) and resumes started coming in. And then more resumes came in. And then more… (you get the picture).

After we had a nice (and very large) stack of resumes, we culled through the bunch and were amazed by the number of (overly) qualified candidates. Individuals graduating magna cum laude in law school, law review, moot court, real world experience, trial experience … the list goes on and on.

So how did we decide to interview one candidate with a 3.79 GPA and an editor of law review to another candidate with a 3.68, a year’s worth of trial experience, and a member of moot court? (One thought was to throw the resumes down a flight of stairs and the closest to 10 to the bottom would get an interview, but we figure our head of personnel would frown upon the “Stairwell Method”).

Here are some of the don’ts that I have seen over the years. Don’t have typos. Don’t include where you went to high school (some will disagree with me, but I’m not from Baltimore and didn’t go to high school around Baltimore and still find it weird that people ask me where I went to high school).

Don’t send an outdated cover letter that is inconsistent with your resume (i.e. if you have passed the bar, don’t say you are awaiting your bar exam results). Don’t leave out your GPA, because there will be a presumption against you. Some of the best attorneys did not graduate Order of the Coif (and some of the worst attorneys may have had that distinction). While one’s GPA should not be the only measure to the hiring of an associate, I can only assume the worst if you don’t put it on the resume (similar to an adverse inference ruling because of spoliation of evidence).

Don’t forget to show more than your legal qualifications. I want to know a little about you outside of work.  Part of the process is determining if you are qualified for the job, but another important facet is how well you will fit in with others at the office. These are the ones just off the top of my head.

Please remember that these are my preferences. In hopes of counterbalancing my potential quirky rules, I spoke with Shauna Bryce of Bryce Legal Career Counsel. Shauna is a Harvard-educated attorney turned legal career counselor and gave me a great list of tips to get an interview (and get a job). Her advice will follow in my next blog.