Advice for in-firm interviews

Ultra Vires reached out to students who participated in the recruitment process last year for their thoughts and reflections on in-firm week. Keep in mind that not every firm is the same and, although there are a few key points to remember for all interviews (know your resume, know why you want to work there, etc.), you shouldn’t treat this article or any other as a checklist of things you must do. Do what makes sense for you in the context of your experiences, interests, and particular interviews.

Bay Street

What were in-firms like?

  • “Not overly substantive. More personality-based.”
  • “Very draining, meeting that many people and having to keep your energy level up for each one…”
  • “Dinners were nice, but remember they are still interviews. You can be more relaxed at dinner but this is not an outing with friend.”
  • “Kind of bro-y.”
  • “I remember standing around and realizing that there were barely any women there. It made me quite uncomfortable. Are they all like this, or is this firm particularly bad? Is it just this particular night? Do I want to work in a place like this?”
  • “Some conversations will be like pulling teeth – you’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to come up with something new to say.”
  • “Like chatting with good friends over a beer.”
  • “It actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.”
  • “Seemed like a genuine attempt to get to know me.”

How did you prepare?

  • “Made sure to have things to quickly draw on that distinguished me from other candidates to work into conversations.”
  • “Had an upper year friend/guide/Jedi Master who helped prime me for what to expect and had great advice on how to refine my approach to the whole business.”
  • “Know your strengths and your weaknesses and how to present them to your interviewers.  I have the least Bay Street resume possible – it’s all human rights.  So I developed a narrative of why I wanted to work on Bay Street.”

How you dealt with the results of in-firms?

  • “Got together with a group of friends who also had finished the process for drinks and to decompress.”
  • “By eating the greasiest food I could find, with my hands, on the couch.”
  • “Played video games all day and then got drunk with my friends.”
  • “Wrote an article for UV.”
  • “Thanked the firms as their offers came in and slept on it. I didn’t call anyone back until the next morning. I needed time to consider the options without all of the background noise of interviews.”

Advice?

  • “Don’t pretend to be someone you are not and end up somewhere that you don’t feel comfortable just because you wanted a job.”
  • “Try to be your most polished self – show your personality but avoid off-colour remarks or inappropriate jokes.”
  • “Do not let yourself feel small or insecure during this process. These firms need you, and the incoming students are the future talent of their firm.”
  • “Stay grounded – even if you think you are doing really well in the process and are sure you will end up with one (or even multiple) offers, never ‘switch off.'”
  • “Pack granola bars or other snacks. If you have more than four in-firms, don’t expect to have time for food in between. It takes longer than you think finding each firm and maneuvering around.”
  • “Drink coffee.”
  • “Treat every firm like they are your first choice, even if they are not. (But don’t tell every firm they are your first choice unless they are.)”
  • “Pick your workplace based on those people you’re likely to love working with – indeed, at this point, that’s exactly the basis on which they’re selecting you.”
  • “Have a story that goes with each item on your CV – something that demonstrates what you did, what you learned and why that position will help you succeed at firm.”
  • “Be nice to everybody, from receptionists to the Managing Partner.”
  • “Don’t drink all the water – especially if you have interviews back-to-back.”
  • “Frame it as a three-day activity of eating great food, meeting plenty of new people (at least some of whom are bound to be fantastic), and having great conversation.”

Government and Public Interest

What were in-firms like?

  • “Nothing like an actual ‘in-firm’ interview. No snacks, no dinners, no small talk. Just a handshake and an oral exam on 1L criminal law.”
  • “Substantive skills actually mattered.”
  • “The opportunity to be judged on my knowledge, rather than my networking skills.”
  • “Consisted mostly of questions related to the case we were asked to prepare. There was also one hypothetical scenario question (unrelated to the case).”

How did you prepare?

  • “Searched their website, read the statutes that they deal with most often and made sure I knew the important section numbers.”
  • “Searched the office on Quick Law to get a better sense of the kinds of cases they work on.”
  • “Went over the past questions together with a friend, kind of like a study group.”
  • “About a week before the interview, the office sent an except from an Ontario Court of Appeal decision to prepare. I made sure I understood and could articulate the facts and reasoning. I also reviewed the relevant area of law (i.e., the offence at issue and closely related offences), read the cases cited in the excerpt (there weren’t many), noted up those cases, and noted up the excerpted case. I went over the sample interview questions for this office in the CDO Government Interview Guide and then read (at least a good chunk of) the Crown Policy Manual.”

How you dealt with the results of in-firms?

  • “Slept for about 14 hours straight.”
  • “Had a big glass of wine while I was waiting for an offer, and I messaged an old friend who is not in law school.”

Advice?

  • “Bring your A-game in terms of criminal law knowledge and leave your schmoozing skills at home for this one.”
  • “Study your 1L criminal law notes, test yourself with the Government Guide on utlawcareers, and be prepared to talk about why you want to be a Crown as opposed to a defence lawyer.”

Boutique

What were in-firms like?

  • “Felt less like an interview and more like a really great conversation with people who were extremely knowledgeable about criminal law.”
  • “Lasted approximately 20 minutes, was a fairly standard interview.”
  • “Very casual and conversational; much more relaxed than the OCI. I met with the senior partner and another lawyer.”
  • “It was fun, unstructured and engaging.”

How did you prepare?

  • “Had an upper year help me prep.”
  • “Go beyond what is on the firm’s website and look at some major cases lawyers at the firm have handled”
  • “Talk to a student who has summered there.”
  • “Practiced my answers…with family, with friends, the mirror. It helped knowing how to articulate my answers ahead of time.”

How you dealt with the results of in-firms?

  • “I had road-trip plans for right after 5pm on call day. So good or bad, I’d have something to look forward to.”

Advice?

  • “Don’t panic if they don’t ask you to come back in for a follow-up interview. I know some firms do this, but not all of them do (especially if it’s a smaller firm and they have a lot of interviews to get through), so don’t read too much into it.”
  • “Had my interview here late on Day 2, I guess try to get an interview earlier?”
  • “Trust your instincts, and if it doesn’t feel right to you – don’t push it.”
  • “Use the opportunity to see if you like the firm, it’s not just about whether they like you.”

For some bigger picture perspective on the whole process, take a look at this piece on “getting through the process with your sanity (and your self-confidence) intact” by Laura Berger (Class of 2013).