You’re in for a treat! My fantastic friend Rebecca Netter, who left Biglaw to become a legal recruiter, has agreed to answer some questions about getting a legal job, from the perspective of someone who spends all day figuring out if someone is a viable candidate for legal jobs.
In other words, she knows what she’s talking about.
Alison: What did you learn as a recruiter about getting a law firm job that you didn’t know when you were in law school?
Rebecca: Pre-professional activities, such as clinics, journals, pro bono work, and clubs, and classes that are applicable to the type of law you want to practice, are really important. I thought I could take whatever classes I wanted to in law school and then figure out what I wanted to practice and how to practice it later. This turned out to be wildly inaccurate.
So, I’d recommend picking a few areas of law in which you may want to practice and bulk up on relevant classes and other activities. This will help you figure out if you really like the area of law, help your résumé and interview content, and put you in the know when you get the job.
You’ve reviewed a lot of résumés. What are the three most important things you look for?
- It is a truism that typos are a killer, and yet this point cannot be overemphasized. You need others’ help to spot typos. Send your résumé to at least three trusted advisors for a comprehensive review. If you’re in a rush, at least write the résumé at night and check it once more in the morning. Even when you don’t think you have any typos, you probably have one. Hunt it down and eradicate it.
- Concise communication is a skill. Every sentence, phrase, and word on a résumé should be cogent and to-the-point. Constantly ask yourself if you can reword any part of your résumé to be briefer and more powerful.
- Put your best material at the top of the relevant section (and put the best sections at the top of the page). Résumé reviewers often only read the first part of each section.
When you meet a candidate, what do you look for? How do you figure out if they’re going to be hireable?
- Confidence! In an interview, “fake it ’till you make it.” If you don’t truly feel confident, put a big smile on your face and pretend that you do.
- Paradoxically, humility. Always note that you have a lot to learn but that you are confident in your ability to pick it up, ideally citing examples of substantively similar situations when you have done so in the past.
- Enthusiasm! Even if you can’t quite fake confidence and you fail in the humility department, energy and enthusiasm can cover you. Show a genuine and effusive interest in the job, the company — even the interviewer him or herself.
What are your best OCI or callback tips?
OCI Tips: The night before your interviews, spent around 15-30 minutes on each company’s website and try to gather 3 to 5 “unique” things about the company, or at least things that their PR department has manufactured to be unique! This could be the firm’s size, practice areas, culture — whatever you can pick up from the website or other anecdotal knowledge.
Once you’ve distilled this information down to a few manageable points, you want to work this data into your interview:
- to show that you know about the firm and have done your homework (this will set you apart from many other candidates)
- because it will give you a perfect framework to select accomplishments or characteristics from your own background/experience to work into the interview that are most relevant to that job.
To keep everything straight, grab some index cards and title each with a company name. Then write brief, bullet-point reminders of these data points (perhaps formatted with 2 columns: “Company” and “Me”) on the card. Keep the cards in your pocket all day and review just the card you need before that interview.
Callback Tips: Be relaxed and personable. These people are trying to imagine working with you every day, and they want to feel like it will be a pleasant experience.
Read on for more tips on getting a law firm job.
- The Inside Scoop on Law Firm Summer Associate Programs
- The One Question That Will Improve Any Résumé
- The One Thing That Needs To Be On Your Résumé To Ace Any Callback Interview
Return to Summer Jobs 101.
Have more questions for Rebecca? Leave them in the comments!