INTERVIEWING AND OPPORTUNITIES:
The 2L Year
Now that the summer is over, the interview season for 2Ls begins. On-campus interviewing for law firm opportunities is supplemented by job postings and future externship possibilities. The start of the fall semester brings both career openers as well as a reexamination of job goals and possibilities. Here are a few tips to help you through the process.
If you haven’t already done so, take a moment to review your online presence to insure that prospective employers view only those items that will encourage them to hire you. By the same token, unlawyerly items that might close the door to job consideration should be removed. It is now commonplace for prospective employers to explore social media to see who has applied and who they might be interested in interviewing, and what they find out about you online can open or close the door to an interview.
Updating your résumé to include your academic successes from your 1L year is a necessity. Even though you might not have done as well as you wanted, it is important to include your GPA and or class rank, as their absence on your résumé is an indicator of your own feelings and can appear as a lack of candor. But also make sure that any parts of your record and background that will make you attractive to an employer is prominently noted. Remember that your résumé is designed to open the door a crack, and making it unique and interesting allows it to jump out of the stack to be noticed.
If you have gotten past the selection process for an on-campus interview, take the time to research not only the firm, but also members of the firm who you might have some “connection” with, either because they attended your law school, undergraduate school, high school, or have similar interests. If that firm member is a member of the interviewing team, you can highlight the connection during the interview; if not, you can possibly “name drop” the connection either at the interview or the possible call-back. Prepare questions for the interview team about the firm based upon the firm’s website to show that you did your research; law firms appreciate candidates who take the time to show interest in the firm, its practice areas, and people. The initial interview is not a time to ask about compensation, benefits, work balance, or the road to advancement, unless the interviewer brings up the subject. Even then, your candidacy will be enhanced by your concentrating on your work ethic rather than your search for perks. After the initial icebreaker, gauge whether the interviewer is seeking information or just sizing you up. While confidence is a strong point, aggressiveness needs to be tempered by concentrating on your strengths and interest in the firm, not how lucky the firm will be to get you. The interview will usually end with a question of whether you have anything you want to ask; prepare your question carefully and have it relate to professionalism. For example: “I am involved in a number of organizations here on campus, and will be seeking leadership roles. How does the firm feel about participation in bar association activities and leadership outside the firm?”
In looking for positions outside the on-campus interview process, remember that while the résumé is important, the cover letter is what the prospective employer will examine first. Demonstrate your interest in the firm with a reference to the firm’s background, and make a specific reference to your résumé to entice the employer to read it. The goal here is to get the firm to respond with an interview, not a form letter. This means that the cover letter and résumé must create interest in you. It should be professional, but it must also demonstrate that your uniqueness is a factor that should interest them in meeting you. Sometimes asking for an opportunity to discuss your interest in the firm’s practice areas over a coffee is received better than a formal interview request. But when you do meet with the firm representative, come prepared with a copy of your résumé, writing sample, and any other items which might get you noticed. Show that you were prepared for the meeting.
Some 2Ls decide early that they are looking more at the possibilities of externships for the 2L year or the 2L summer. These opportunities are more likely going to result from networking contacts, the career services or externship offices at the law school, or the professors who you have connected with—all acting as “conduits” to get you in the door. Most of the time the cover letter/résumé application process will prove to be invaluable, but in this instance the personal connection is likely going to be the door opener. Accordingly, it is important to provide the “conduit”–your networking contact, career services office, or professor—with information and facts that will enable her/him to get the interest of the people at the externship location. The conduit’s motivation to act on your behalf must be cultivated and nurtured, so that the externship person knows that the conduit is actually interested in your candidacy.
While a number of 2Ls receive offers during the fall semester, the job market in many areas of the country heats up during the spring semester. Keep an eye on the career services job board, the local legal news sources, and your networking opportunities for possible connections. Concentrate on creating an experience during law school that makes you marketable and unique. Grades are always important indicators of success, but organizational membership (especially in leadership roles), specialized coursework and seminar participation, and public service are always important to prospective employers.
For more tips on interviewing, personal development, and professionalism, consider joining the ABA Section of Litigation as a law student member. Membership is free and will enhance both your academic achievement and your networking opportunities.
Author: Prof. Laurence M. Rose
University of Miami School of Law
Director, Litigation Skills Program
Member, ABA Section of Litigation Leadership, Law School Membership