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Why All That Interview Research?

Chambers Associate spoke with dozens of legal recruiters and employers each year during their research for their online OCI guide. Among other things, these recruiters and employers told them what they look for in prospective hires. Check out what they heard from employers and hiring partners about interview preparation about interview preparation and research:

“Law students really need to bust their gut doing homework on firms. You need to know about its practices, its history, its strengths and weaknesses. It’s also increasingly important to be aware of a firm’s business ideas.”

“Prepare. It seems like very old-fashioned advice, but I’m not sure that people entirely understand what preparing means. It takes more time than some students set aside for it. Practicing to get over the jitters is good, but what’s more important is thinking through what you’ve done in your life to understand what skills you have that can contribute to being a lawyer. When we sense that somebody’s done enough thinking about themselves to know which part of their experience to talk about at an interview, we’re prone to think they’re analytical and will be able to perform the tasks required of them.”

“Show a serious interest in what the firm does, and what the people you are speaking to do.”

“Know the firm you’re talking to. Knowing your audience will carry you far in this profession – it’ll show that you’ve put some thought and effort into the place you’re interested in working.”

“During interviews candidates should have good questions about the firm. Not just questions to which the answers are on our website, but things that show they have done their homework.”

With these tips in mind for your next legal interview, you will definitely have the research part mastered. Questions about how to go about your interview research? Make an appointment with your career advisor today so you can be prepared for tomorrow.

Winter Break: A Time to Job Shadow

So you’ve got less than a month and a half until Winter Break. Hooray! Time spent at home with family and friends will be a restful and well-deserved break. However, you’re probably not even remotely in the relaxed holiday mood as your mind is most likely overwhelmed with upcoming exams at the moment. As you should be dutifully studying like expected, you might want to pencil in a few phone calls this month to your connections to line up some work over break. Why? To land a job.

Working over winter recess doesn’t sound like fun, but it could mean the difference in landing a job or not. But this is not your typical 8-5 work you’ll do over the holidays. This job is actually job shadowing. Job shadowing is a great way to get a sense of what it’s truly like working in a specific practice area and work environment. Also, if you are planning on practicing law in your hometown, the best place to be networking is within your hometown. Family, friends, classmates, and friends of family can all be great resources in finding a local attorney in the area willing to walk you through a few days at their office to give you a feel for the job.  There’s no way to be 100 percent sure you’re going to fit into a practice area or job until you’ve actually tried it — and shadowing or volunteering is as close as you can get.

Interested in working outside of your hometown? Do you have your sights set on the Big Apple or Washington, DC? If you can, set up a trip to your career city destination and spend some time networking. If you have family or friends in the location in which you would like to eventually work, reach out to them and ask for connections to find job shadowing opportunities. If you can’t make the trip this winter, try and set up some travel time during Spring Break to seek out a job shadowing opportunity.

Even recent 2L and 3L panelists in our “How I Got My Summer Job” seminar mentioned that they were aggressive enough to seek out employers to job shadow over the winter break, resulting in immeasurable experience and knowledge and some even earned a job later that summer. Be sure to stop by our office if you don’t know where to start in finding an individual to job shadow.

If you have a firm in mind in which you would like to job shadow, do a little homework first. Research the company and the position of the person you’re tailing so you have a context for your new experiences. Come prepared to strictly observe, but be ready to roll up your sleeves and work as well. Ask to spend the last few minutes of your day reviewing your experiences with the person you’re shadowing and getting answers to questions you may have. Solicit feedback as well.

Be sure to thank your job-shadow host with a handwritten note and make every effort to maintain your new contact as an active member of your network. You may even ask them to help you pursue additional job-shadowing opportunities so you have the broadest picture possible and knowledge of multiple practice areas. In the end, you’ll have gained an important person in your network who could also be your greatest asset. As you keep in touch be sure to mention how you would like an opportunity to come back and work for a longer period of time, or even for an internship. You never know if your time over the holidays could result in a holiday present to you later down the road — a job!

Networking 101

This is a recent article from our OCPD Weekly Newsletter, sent to 2Ls and 3Ls.

You’ve heard it over and over again.  Networking is the key to success. Networking will help you find a job.

If one more person tells you networking will solve all your problems, you’ll scream!

Take a step back. Think about all that networking entails.  It is a skill – much like analyzing a case or presenting an argument.  Like all skills, these take education, practice, and time to develop.

Networking is not just about finding a job. It’s about building relationships.  This is a skill that you will use throughout your professional career.  Employers – whether law firms, government, or public interest – expect law graduates to not only have excellent analytical skills and writing ability, but also be able to develop connections with coworkers, clients, and potential clients.  By building rapport with colleagues, community members, and other professionals, you begin to establish the trust that is the foundation of a business relationship.

You already do a lot of networking. Are you on Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? These sites are about building relationships.  People who are active in social networking generally enjoy personal engagement, enjoy getting to know people.

Nevertheless, you’re not going to get very far if you limit yourself to online networking.  You have to get out there, attend professional events, volunteer, take part in community activities.  Just show up.

Once you’re there, here are some tips for “working the room.”  The more events you attend and the more actively you participate, the more skills you will build.  As you get more comfortable in this type of environment, you will see that building relationships gets easier. Who knows, it might even turn out to be fun!

Have something to talk about. If you’re going to an event sponsored by a specific group, see if that group has been in the news lately (it’s easy to run a news search on Lexis or WestLaw). If you know who is going to be there, read up on their bios. Keep up on what’s going on locally – what are people talking about outside of the law school bubble?  None of these things may come up in conversation, but you’ll feel more at ease knowing you have something to break an awkward silence.

LISTEN.  This may be the most obvious, but hardest to do. You’re nervous, you’re thinking about the next thing you want to say in the conversation. Focus on what the person is saying and let the conversation flow naturally.

Get over your distaste for “small talk.” Small talk is the foundation of any relationship. How did you meet your significant other? Chances are you didn’t immediately start out with discussion of serious issues like money and children. Small talk allows you to find the connection on which you will build a deeper relationship.

Finally, DON’T check your Blackberry/iPhone, text anyone, or look at your phone in the middle of a conversation. Nothing says “I’m not interested in what you’re saying” more than this.  If you check your messages out of nervous habit, leave the phone at home (or in the car, at the very least).

This week’s student newsletters are available in their entirety here:

 

3L Newsletter6

2L Newsletter6

 

Government Hiring is Down, But There is a Glimmer of Hope

This recent post from the PSLawNet blog discusses the most recent hiring statistics from federal government honors programs.  While the numbers are troubling, it’s important to focus on the good news – there are federal agencies with new or reinstated honors programs:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a new federal agency devoted to safeguarding the economic strength and vitality of America’s families.  The Louis D. Brandeis Attorney Honors program is a two-year fellowship that gives graduates an opportunity to participate in enforcement actions under consumer financial and fair-lending laws, participate in court proceedings defending Bureau rules and regulations, provide analysis for fair-lending compliance examinations, and develop policy.  The application deadline for the 2012 program was October 5, 2011, and will probably be in early October 2012 for the 2013 program.
  • The new Department of Energy Honors Program is a 6-12 month rotation during which graduates are assigned to individual Assistant General Counsel offices.  The offices offer a wide variety of legal practice areas including environmental law, legislation and regulation, litigation and enforcement, international law, procurement, intellectual property and others.  Honors Attorneys may be eligible to compete for permanent positions in DOE after passing the bar exam.  The deadline for the 2013 program will likely be late September 2012.
  • The Federal Communications Commission’s Attorney Honors Program is a two-year program during which attorneys participate in various aspects of federal administrative practice as they relate to the FCC’s oversight of television, radio, cable, wireless, wireline, satellite, and other communications services and facilities. Attorneys at the FCC draft decisions in adjudicatory and rulemaking matters, work with internal and external constituencies to resolve complex policy issues before the agency, participate in international negotiations, represent the FCC in dealings with other government agencies, Congress and the private sector, and defend FCC decisions in the federal courts.  All Honors Program participants will work at the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC and will be assigned to one of the agency’s bureaus. At the end of the two-year program, Honors Program attorneys will be eligible for consideration for continued employment at the FCC. The deadline for the 2013 program will likely be late September 2012.

The PSLawNet blog post also offers some valuable advice on making yourself competitive for these government positions – tips include showing a commitment to public service, enthusiasm, and a demonstrated interest in the agency’s area of law. Foreign language skills and experience in the agency’s area of law (including internships) are also a plus.

How do you show these things?  By doing volunteer work, participating in community service activities, and taking part in events that demonstrate your commitment to a particular issue or cause.  In addition, attend conferences and take classes in the particular area of law that interests you.  If you are interested in working for the government, there is still a lot you can do to make yourself a competitive candidate, and it starts with being aware of what that agency is looking for.

Law firms using new interview techniques

During the economic downtown, some firms have begun to use new interview techniques to assess candidates.  There has been discussion of identifying core competencies and utilizing more behavioral interview questions.  Check out this recent article by Vivia Chen about the firm McKenna Long & Aldridge who has begun using psychological testing in the interview process.  The lesson for students: take the time to fully prepare for your interviews!  This means not only researching the employer, but also spending time up front doing the necessary self-assessment to be fully aware of your own values, skills, and interests.

Increase in Behavioral Interviewing by Law Firms

There is a renewed emphasis on behavioral interviewing in law firm hiring this year.  Check out an article by Gina Passarella that appears today in The Legal Intelligencer  discussing this very topic.

Show Off Your 'Emotional Intelligence' During the Legal Recruiting Process

In the July 20th issue of the New York Law Journal, Alison Bernard and Niki Kopsidas discuss a concept that is getting more and more attention from legal employers – “Emotional Intelligence”.  In a tight job market, legal employers are looking for ways to determine which candidates will not only excel in the academic practice of law, but who also possess the “soft skills” necessary to build strong client relationships.  Read their article to learn more about “EI”, and how students can demonstrate it in the interview process and develop it while in law school.

Building Your Reputation As A Young Lawyer

Building and maintaining a positive public image is very important for young lawyers.  In the July 14th issue of the New York Law Journal, consultants Michelle Samuels and Shannon K. Stevens offered great tips to help attorneys get started on the right path.  Read their article.

Legal Market update from BLS

On July 6th The American Lawyer reported on the latest legal sector employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Full article copied below: Continue reading »

Stay Safe (and Private) on Facebook

In recent years it has become commonplace for legal employers to google job candidates and check out their online social media presence.  As job-seekers, students should take care to monitor their online reputation.  But even after graduation, lawyers must continue this vigilance and take care to present a professional image both in person and online.  For Facebook users, here is a helpful article from The New York Times on “5 Steps to Stay Safe (and Private) on Facebook“.