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Pandemic-Era Job Hunt: How New Attorneys Can Ace Their Interviews

July 29, 2021

By Lyle Solomon

Many in the legal profession are hoping for a return to the pre-pandemic pace of work by the end of 2021, and law firms as well as other organizations will be looking for recent graduates and newly minted lawyers to grow their business. After all, fresh talent is less costly and can offer a new outlook on legal problems.

Finding a job is still a competitive process, so new attorneys need to focus on the crucial step of acing their job interviews. If you are about to face a first interview or a callback, it is wise to prepare yourself by following these five tips to impress your interviewers and land the job. 

1. Be well-dressed and presentable. Because attorneys’ primary responsibility is to represent their clients, appearances are important. So, making a good first impression by appearing polished and professional will increase your chances of being hired.

These days most of the interviews are being conducted virtually via Zoom or Google Meet due to the pandemic, but dressing professionally is still essential — it shows that you care about your career and respect the interviewer. Once you start the job and begin to deal with clients, you should stick to the same routine.

2. Do your homework. Lawyers are noted for their ability to conduct thorough research. Identify who you’ll be speaking with during the interview and do some research on them. Make a list of their achievements, awards, and accolades. Bringing it up during your interviews will show that you took the time to learn about them as individuals and give them a glimpse into your research skills.

In addition to reading their firm bio, check out various websites while conducting your research, including Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, the BBB, and Martindale-Hubbell, as well as articles published in legal industry journals.

Know beforehand what role you’d play in the company if you’re offered the job to help you craft a narrative about where you want to take your career and how the organization fits in with your objectives.

3. Be confident about the legal practice area and the position you’re interviewing for.
According to Law.com, the legal industry lost about 64,000 jobs in April 2020. The pandemic was responsible for the majority of the layoffs, but economic downturns and other crises are inevitable. Lawyers can avoid some risk by focusing on recession-proof practice areas, including bankruptcy, cybersecurity, health care, employment law, and in-house legal support.

Again, it’s important to know what position you’re applying for. If you want to be an associate, portray yourself as someone people want to work with. Though your personality is vital in any job, it is especially so at this level where a lot of teamwork will be necessary.
You also want to show that you’re a competitive, hard worker, but you don’t want to come across as an arrogant solo player.

4. Showcase your accomplishments. Your CV is the key tool to promote yourself as a potential employee, so take advantage of it. In your CV, include a few career success stories, along with some important details about each one. This will promote your professional experience and qualifications. It will also assist in the development of your brand and show interviewers you are someone they can trust and work with.

Don’t list everything you’ve ever done on your CV. You should only add roles in which you played a key part and that you are willing to discuss in detail.

5. Prepare yourself to answer and ask questions. Anticipate potential interviewers’ questions by researching ones that are most commonly asked. By practicing each one, you will be able to respond like a pro. If you're looking for some sample questions, click here.
Be prepared to ask some insightful questions to showcase your inquisitive nature, but remember not to discuss personal issues, money matters, work hours, break time, or other similar topics. Also, avoid any questions that could put the interviewer in a difficult situation or break the firm’s commitment to confidentiality and ethics. Respect an interviewer’s confidentiality and the law firm’s nondisclosure policies.

Never say anything disparaging about your previous employment. It appears unprofessional and indicates to hiring managers that you are not the person they want.

Here are some examples of questions that you may ask the interviewer:
●    Tell me about the culture of your firm/practice group/organization.
●    How is work distributed, and how will I be assigned tasks?
●    What kinds of cases do attorneys at my level usually handle?
●    What criteria will be used to evaluate my work?
●    What kind of responses might I anticipate?
●    What distinguishes this company/organization from others in its field?
●    Can you provide me with a more detailed explanation of the firm’s management organization/structure?
●    What kind of interactions do attorneys in this office have with attorneys in other offices of the firm/organization?

The Employer Perspective 
Louise Campbell, managing director of Robert Walters Ireland, advises job candidates to have a good answer to the question “What do you know about us?” that goes beyond a recitation of the company’s About Us page.
“Read the annual report instead; that way you get a feel for the type of language the company uses and you’re already tapping into their DNA,” Campbell said on Robert Walters’ careers blog. “What sort of phraseology comes up? Is it ‘We’re all about caring for customers’ or ‘We’re here to drive change’ or ‘Our priority is unlocking value for our stakeholders’? Get a good idea of the keywords that characterise the company’s approach, and then you can play those back at the interview.”

“In the most impressive interview I’ve ever led, within the first 20 minutes I was thinking, ‘I need to hire this person — they need to work for me,’” Campbell continued. “When you’re hiring you always know there’ll be a bedding-in period involving induction and training. So it’s really refreshing to talk to someone who’s already done some significant thinking to get their head around the role.” 

Resilience and adaptability are also essential, Campbell said. “What we learn at school often doesn’t equip us with the tools for the jobs of tomorrow, so you need to be able to demonstrate evidence of your willingness and ability to learn new skills, and adapt or take on new challenges and working patterns.”

Joanne Chua, Robert Walters’ regional client development director for Southeast Asia and Greater China, also offered this perspective: “In many senior roles, technical expertise and relevant industry experience are a given. But beyond that, what hirers are often looking for today is evidence of softer skills, such as grit and resilience.”

“It shows you can cope and adapt in a fast-moving world with rapid technological changes. Businesses today face constant disruption, frequent restructuring, and ongoing transformation — employers are looking for anecdotal evidence of your ability to survive and thrive in such a climate,” Chua added.

Lyle Solomon is a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in Los Altos, California, where he specializes in consumer bankruptcy. In addition to his extensive litigation experience, Solomon has written several articles on financial well-being.

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