28 Ways to #Win at In-Firm Week

Ultra Vires emailed all the students from the CDO’s 2014 Second Year Summer Student Employment Directory and asked them for the most important things to keep in mind during in-firm week. Here’s what people said. Keep in mind that interviewing is going to be different for everybody, so feel free to internalize or completely disregard all of the following heart-felt advice.

Generally…

  • Be yourself
  • Call a friend who has gone through the process already to check in and ask all of your inane questions (have them on stand by)
  • Don’t get emotional during the process – maintain a cool head

Setting up the schedule

  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Know your time constraints and know how many firms you can meet with per day. You don’t want to be scrambling around because you’ll just end up not interviewing to the best of your ability.
  • Don’t overextend yourself with in-firms – think carefully about what you can handle
  • If you feel confident, don’t be afraid of being strategic and turning down second (or third) interviews with your safety firm during interview week. It is way better to be awesome interviewing at three firms than okay interviewing at six.

The basics

  • Treat everyone around you with respect
  • Have a short 30-45 second explanation for everything on your resume, including your interests. You never know who you’re going to run into during the interview process and if you can’t explain something on your resume, or at least have a conversation about the topic, it doesn’t look great
  • Be friendly to everyone you meet, including non-lawyers. Articling students, assistants, paralegals, and receptionists are all part of the firm and you’re trying to create a positive impression with everyone
  • Don’t make or bring your own business cards
    ABO (“always be ‘ON’”)
  • Figure out your route ahead of time – including elevator bays!
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Know your way from one interview to the next. If you’re unfamiliar with where the firms are (ie, most of you), Google Maps them or walk by the buildings before (this includes mapping out bathroom / food breaks) and print it out
  • Try to be as relaxed as possible and engage in conversations with the people you meet at the firm, whether or not you’re being formally interviewed by them

Strategy

  • Don’t ever give up on everyone other than your #1 choice because you feel secure – aim for 2 offers
  • Do make an effort to find out who is on the Student Committee and meet those people
  • Just because some of your interviewers (who may be on the Student Committee) like you, this does not necessarily mean an offer is coming. The entire Student Committee has to agree to make you an offer. So, keep your options open
  • Communicate interest in the firm wherever possible
  • Do attend cocktail parties even if you can only go for 30 minutes before dinner
  • I heard a lot of horror stories about how firms will tell you “you are a shoo-in” and then not call, and as a result we should all keep our options wide-open. Personally, this line of thinking made things a million times more stressful—the firm I ended up at told me they were sold on the Monday, and I was pretty into them then and definitely sold as of Tuesday but I continued agonizing and leading other places on. In retrospect, it was really silly but I guess I’m not sure I could/would have done it any other way ultimately
  • Definitely ask to come back to meet more lawyers. Think about specific people or types of lawyers you would like to talk to as some employers will ask you for 2nd/3rd interviews who you would like to meet (e.g. I asked to meet female corporate partners)
  • Do research beforehand of anyone you’d like to speak with/meet in particular

Asking questions

  • Make sure you have a list of well thought out questions as some employers will leave a long time for you to direct the interview
  • Have more questions prepared than you think you’ll need
  • Do ask tough questions (though it’s okay to wait until Day 2). I told a firm I was concerned about their treatment of women having heard some anecdotes from people that I trust

Thank-you emails

  • Bring a ziplock bag to put all the business cards in and when you get a chance during the day, write down specific things you talked about with a particular lawyer on the back of their business card (g. “business development”, “Rob Ford”) (makes writing thank you emails SO much easier at the end of the day). Pre-writing a template thank you email will also save you tons of time later on

Finally…

  • Don’t take the process too seriously; your worth as a person is not dependent on whether people at law firm X like you. It is really hard not to take it personally if things don’t go well, but in the end it is just a job interview. There are always more opportunities for interviews (especially at the big firms)

Do treat yourself – I took Wednesday off and got a pedicure; it was necessary

SIDEBAR: The First Choice Bomb

Even though it contravenes the rules, firms still do it all the time. Firms will pressure you to say whether or not they are your first choice. Be prepared. Here’s what students had to say about navigating those tricky first choice waters.

  • Every firm (!) I interviewed at pressured me to reveal my “first choice.” Spend time thinking about how you would respond to this question and be strategic about how/when you reveal this information
  • Don’t tell everyone they’re your number one, but docommunicate interest. You really have to spell it out to them, I said “If I find myself in the very fortunate position of having some choices, I see myself working for you” and I heard that the Head of Recruiting was still nervous about whether or not I would accept
  • Don’t drop the “first choice” bomb unless you are absolutely sure you would accept that firm if they offered you a job, and only say it to one firm.
  • Keep your options open — don’t tell all the firms that they are your number 1.  However, you can say something like: “I can really see myself happy here. It’s a close call btw you and another firm. I need some time to think… But I can definitely see myself being happy & thriving here.”
  • If a firm asks you: are we your first choice? Respond: are you asking because you will be making me an offer? Cut the bullshit and get straight to the point.
  • Do not tell a bunch of firms that they are your top choice.

SIDEBAR: Boutique firms

The Importance of Being Interested

  • Make it clear that you are genuinely interested in the area of law that the firm practices. This is especially important if you have past experience in a different area of law. No firm wants to feel that they are your back-up plan.
  • Boutique firms typically only hire one or two summer students a year and therefore will be hesitant to extend an offer to a student who they are not sure will accept it. If you really like the firm but are not 100% certain it is the place for you, let the firm know early on. If they really love you, they will work to convince you that they are the firm for you.
  • Obviously being enthusiastic about the particular firm is always important, but it is particularly important in the boutique context. When a firm is only hiring 3-5 students, they need to know you won’t turn down an offer.
  • Express lots of interest. Make sure you know why you want to work there. They don’t make many offers, so they want to make sure you will accept it, if they do make an offer.
  • Contrary to what the CDO says, firms are going to break all the rules (especially boutiques!) and that is okay. Don’t let anything throw you.
  • Try to talk to a summer student or articling student at that firm – especially if you’re interviewing at firms that aren’t full service. For instance, my firm only did one interview (no dinners / no call backs)

Do the work

  • If you don’t receive a second interview, it’s not the end of the road. If you are really interested in the firm, you should call the firm to ask for a second interview. By doing so, you will be show the firm that you take initiative, have confidence, and are genuinely interested in the firm and the area of law they practice. The worst that can happen is that the firm will say no and you will be in the exact same position as when you called. There’s really no downside.

Make sure your personality comes through in the interview. As a student at a boutique firm, you will likely get a chance to meet and work with almost all of the firm’s lawyers. The firm will therefore want to be sure before extending an offer that you are a good fit for the firm and that you will work well with your future colleagues. It’s also important for you to feel as if the firm is a good fit for you as you should genuinely enjoy work.