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September 28, 2007

Question of the day: Why do you want to work in ...?

The most important question in an interview is often the first one: "Why do you want to work in private practice?" or "Why do you want to be a prosecutor?"

Your answer can make or break your candidacy. Should you look like a deer in the headlights, your chance to be an effective and successful candidate will have been sharply curtailed.

Employers are looking for thoughtful answers that show your understanding of what they do. For example, if you are interviewing with a private practice, you should show that you know what kind of clients the firm represents and demonstrate your interest in working for that segment of the market. If you are interviewing with a legal services organization, talking about global solutions to dreadful problems will miss the mark. Unless the office is doing class action work, you will find that most legal services lawyers represent one client at a time.

Know your audience and then hit that question out of the ballpark.

September 25, 2007

Thank you notes for interviews: a time of transition

In response to a query on the NALP List:

After consultation with numerous employers and career professionals, it is clear that we are in a Time of Transition: Paper? Email? Typing? Handwriting? There is no hard-and-fast rule for any of this communication, other than to think about your audience and use your judgment.

SCREENING Most people over the age of 20 hear Mom in one ear saying "Write a thank you note to each and every person you talk to." The problem, of course, is that Mom wasn't considering on campus interviews where the screening interviewer makes a decision before the candidate leaves the room. The rule for 2007: "No thank you notes for screening interviews."


1. FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Ask the recruiting professional whether thank you notes are expected or considered, and ask if email is appropriate. Then, follow directions, remembering that if you write a bunch of letters that no one will pay attention to, each and every one of them will be placed in your file by the short-staffed recruiting office.

2. TIMING: Any thank you note must be in the mail or email by close of business on the day of the interview. Write them in the lobby, at the airport or train station or in a coffee shop BEFORE you go home. A note that arrives a week after the callback is a waste of time, energy and, if snail-mailed, postage and trees.

3. HANDWRITING? Write by hand ONLY if you are using something the size of a 3x5 card on EXCELLENT card stock (think Crane Paper) and if your handwriting falls between very legible and extremely elegant. No smiley faces dotting the "i" ever ever ever.

4. WHO GETS THE NOTE? If you were interviewed by a large number of people, AND you are compelled to write thank you notes, write to the person(s) with whom you made the best connection and then write about something that relates to the actual conversation. There is no point in writing "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate your time. Sincerely..."

Another Networking Success Story

A recent grad e-mailed our office with updated work contact information. Knowing that this grad had already been working at a job that interested him, I inquired how the job switch had happened. Here is his response:

[I]t was classic networking I guess. The director of the [new employer organization] had come to me and my old boss months ago for advice on starting up this nonprofit. When she needed a staff attorney, she emailed all the lawyers she knew to see if anyone knew anyone who would be interested.

I wasn't planning on leaving my job at the time, but I scheduled an appointment with her under the pretense of "how our organizations can work together" but really to scout the position out. We had a really great talk, and I decided it was a great match in style and ambition -- so I put my name in for consideration. The rest is history.

Declining Offers


Question: What is the protocol for declining offers?


1. It is always best to call the person who extended the offer. You may leave voicemail during regular business hours asking for a return call (once), and then leave the decline on your second voicemail which might be after hours. This shows that you tried to do this person to person, which is brave, forthright and appropriate.

2. Follow up with an email to the person who made you the offer with a CC to the recruiting staff member with whom you had the most contact. Your language, of course, is that of thanks (for the interview time) and regret (that you have to make a difficult choice). ...

The NALP GUIDLINES for TIming Of Offers is:

Sept 15 -- no more than 5 offers

Oct 1 -- no more than 4 offers

Oct 15 -- no more than 3 offers

Nov 1 -- no more than 2 offers

You may find more information on the timing guidelines and guidelines for student professionalism in the interview period here,, and you will find a handy chart summarizing the rules here.

September 24, 2007

Myers Briggs Assessment Workshop

One of the most important keys to developing a successful career is self-awareness. Who you are, what you like to do, the kinds of questions that interest you -- all of these are important pieces of information as you sort through the myriad options open to you with a law degree. During this semester, we will offer students the opportunity to take one of the more common self-assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), on-line and receive an interpretation from CPDC staff members. Steve Marchese and Vic Massaglia will be holding a group interpretation session on October 8, 2007 - 3:30 - Room 55.

If you are interested in taking the MBTI and participating in a workshop, you must register for the event through Symplicity. Registration will close two days before the session in order for you to have enough time to take the MBTI and get results for interpretation by our office. To login to Symplicity, click the following link:


(Based on a post written by S. Marchese)

September 12, 2007

How will your interview be evaluated?

Here are some examples of entries on candidate evaluation forms:


Using the space provided, please comment on the following:

1. Intellectual ability (creative, alert, sound reasoning)

2. Verbal ability (articulate, logical in expressing ideas)

3. Motivation/Work ethic (as demonstrated by past work record, interests and goals)

4. Personality/Self projection (personable, likeable, enthusiastic, eye contact)

5. Judgment (focused, mature)

6. Interest in [the firm] (Level of interest in our practice areas and office location)

7. Offer status (Should an offer be extended)
Strong Yes/Moderate Yes/ Weak Yes
Strong No/Moderate No/ Weak No

8. Opportunity for additional comments


1. Rating on a scale of 1 to 5:
Personality (presents self well in the interview; does not present self well in the interview)
Oral expression (articulate; not articulate)
Business development potential (shows potential; does not show potential)

2. Practice areas of interest:
[long list]

3. Recommendation for hiring:
Strongly favor/favor/acceptable/opposed/strongly opposed
Likelihood to accept an offer (scale of 1 to 5)

September 10, 2007

Don't Forget Federal Legal Employment Opportunities

Although private sector employer hiring seems to dominate this time of year, it is important to also keep track of opportunities to connect with employers in the public sector. Federal agencies present law students and recent graduates with fertile ground for employment. (Indeed, not surprisingly, it is the largest legal employer in the nation.) Although many of these opportunities are located in the Washington, DC area, there are also plenty of openings throughout other parts of the country.

NALP just recently updated its Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide for 2007-8. This resource is available as a free PDF download and is chock full of helpful tips, ideas and leads. You may find the document at the following link:


In addition, the Law School subscribes to the University of Arizona Government Honors and Internship Handbook, which is updated continuously throughout the year. This is the definitive resource for finding information, including hiring contacts and application requirements, about both federal and state legal hiring programs for both summer and post-graduate employment. If you are interested in accessing the Arizona Guide, please e-mail our office at cpdc@umn.edu

Finally, for those interested in non-legal employment with the federal government, the Presidential Management Fellows program offers students who will be graduating this academic year the opportunity to be hired with one of dozens of federal agencies in what would normally be civil service positions. Although these are not practice positions, many agencies actively seek out law graduates. (Please note there is both a nomination and assessment process.) For full information, please see the following link: