July 22, 2010

Upcoming Job Fairs & Tips for Successful Participation

Attending job fairs is an excellent way to meet multiple employers at one location. Check out these two websites regarding upcoming job fairs in addition to tips on how to be successful at a fair. Note that many job fairs are restricted to students from participating schools.

Job Fair Tips

Dress professionally - Wear a suit, handle this as you would a regular interview.

Resumes - Bring a supply of resumes to hand out to the employers. Take a portfolio/briefcase to hold your documentation (e.g. resumes, writing samples,firm literature, etc.). And don't forget to bring a pen or two!

Continue reading "Upcoming Job Fairs & Tips for Successful Participation" »

July 10, 2010

2010-2011 OCI Forms Now Available Online

Following a review by the NALP Recruiting Section and the Ethics & Standards Advisory Group, updated versions of all NALP OCI forms have now been posted at These forms include an Open Letter to Law Students, which schools are encouraged to share with their students; the NALP Travel Expense Reimbursement Form, which is especially helpful for students to use when expenses will be shared by several employers; the OCI Student Evaluation Form, an optional form that can be distributed by schools; the Employer's Interview Outcome Form for schools to distribute to employers later in the fall; and the Law School Career Services Request Form, which can be distributed by schools to employers invited to interview on campus in 2011-2012.

February 26, 2010

Interview Strategies: Navigating the Question Minefield

By Valerie Fontaine and Roberta Kass February 22, 2010

"The hidden dangers lurking in virtually any interview are those tough or possibly inappropriate questions for which there seem to be no right answers, but many wrong ones. Listen carefully, determine what underlying information is being sought, and answer directly and succinctly without giving away any negative information. Don't let your body language indicate discomfort with the question.

Give some thought to these potential questions beforehand and come up with a loose script that amplifies your positive points and can be adapted to each particular situation, while sounding fresh in the delivery. If there are any obvious issues raised by your resume, such as a gap in employment, a change in practice area or several job moves, be prepared with positive responses."

For the entire article, please visit Interview Strategies: Navigating the Question Minefield.

February 10, 2010

Interview Strategies: Facing and Acing a Panel Interview

by Valerie Fontaine and Roberta Kass
Special to
February 01, 2010

"Rather than being intimidated by facing multiple interviewers at the same time, you can ace a panel interview with some preparation. Basically, you need to follow the rules for one-on-one interviews, but with a few tweaks. Just as with any interview, you must do your homework regarding the firm, job, and interviewers, and be prepared to sell your skills and appropriateness for the position. You should always be prepared for the possibility of a panel (several interviewers at once) or serial interview (a series of individual interviews) as you may not get advance warning, so bring several extra copies of your resume to any interview."

For the complete article, click here.

December 17, 2009

Loyola Patent Law Interview Program

The Loyola Patent Law Interview Program is a two-day interview program held in Chicago each summer that brings together patent law employers and law students from across the country to interview for summer associate positions and post-graduate employment. The 2010 Patent Law Interview Program will be held on Thursday, July 29 & Friday, July 30 at the Embassy Suites Chicago - Downtown/Lakefront at 511 North Columbus Drive in Downtown Chicago.

For more information, visit their site at Loyola Patent Law Interview Program. Also, see your CPDC counselor who can help you prepare.


December 16, 2009

Preparing For Behavioral Interviews

By Brett Pyrtle, Star Tribune Sales and Marketing

"In this economy, there are no sure things. But when it comes to a job search, good preparation for behavioral interviews can deliver added reassurance."

For the entire article, visit Preparing For Behavioral Interviews


March 24, 2009

Interviewing Essentials: 6 tips for success

Very very useful information from Exec/Comm: Interviewing Essentials: 6 tips for success.

February 4, 2009

What is Your Greatest Weakness?

In the Career Journal of the Wall Street Journal online, an article by Joann S. Lublin, entitled A Question to Make a Monkey of You, focuses on correct and incorrect answers to the classic interview question: "What is your greatest weakness?" A small portion of the article is here:

Worldwide Panel LLC, a small market-research firm, is getting flooded with résumés for four vacancies in sales and information technology.

However, officials expect to reject numerous applicants after asking them: "What is your greatest weakness?" Candidates often respond "with something that is not a weakness," say Christopher Morrow, senior vice president of the Calabasas, Calif., concern. "It is a deal breaker."

The weakness question represents the most common and most stressful one posed during interviews. Yet in today's weak job market, the wrong answer weakens your chances of winning employment.

Continue reading "What is Your Greatest Weakness?" »

January 30, 2009

Tricky (But Fun) Interview Experience

Here is a message I'd like to pass on reflecting one of our student's interviewing experience last year.


Here are some of the tricky interview questions I experienced yesterday down at [law firm X]:

Say that you have been a lawyer hear for 40 years or so and you die. Your obituary reads in the paper, “____________ (your name) died yesterday. He was an attorney at Firm X and …? How would you finish that sentence, or how would you want that sentence to be finished.

The interviewer also handed me my transcript and told me to pretend he was my father. Convince him that, based on this transcript, he should continue to pay for my law school tuition. He went class by class and I had to explain the courses and the grades and why they are important. The backdrop to almost every question was, why wasn’t this an A+ like contracts (half sarcastically I think, I couldn’t tell).

Both of these questions were in the same 30 minute interview. The interviewer was pretty laid back despite the unconventional questions. Definitely a unique interview experience. I hope this helps."

Remember - the interview is a conversation where you are to a) promote your skills experience, talents, b) show how you fit - what it's like to work with you, and c) show why you want to work for them.


January 21, 2009

Interview questions

You will find the answers to many of your interviewing questions in CAREERFILES on the CPDC website:

Interviews and Negotiations
Answering the Hard Questions
Behavioral Interviews (NALP Bulletin 1/2005, w/permission)
Callback & Year-Round In-Office Interviews are the SAME
The Confidential Job Search: How to apply for a job without blowing your cover
How to shoot yourself in the foot during an interview
Interview Questions From Private Employers
Interview Questions From Public Employers
Interview Questions Candidates May Ask of Public & Private Employers
Mock Interviews: Why do them?
NALP's Letter to Law Students [About the Interview Process]
Negotiating with small firms
Telephone Interviews for the 21st Century
Second Career Law Student Concerns

October 2, 2008

Interview Checklist--The 25 Forbidden Questions

A couple of students have come to me recently and have asked, "Can they ask me this question...?" Here is an article from HR Advisor Daily that lists 25 questions that should be asked.

Interview Checklist--The 25 Forbidden Questions
Thursday, October 02, 2008 7:00 AM
by Steve Bruce

Check each forbidden question to indicate your awareness that it cannot be asked in employment interviews.

Forbidden Questions--Age

* “How old are you??
* “What is your date of birth??

(You may ask, “Do you meet the state minimum age requirement for work?? and “Are you over 18 and under age 65??)

Forbidden Questions--Availability for Work and Travel

* “Can you work Saturdays and Sundays??
* “Do you have children??
* “What are your child care arrangements??

(You may ask, “These are the hours of work -- can you attend work during these hours?? and “Work sometimes requires overtime. Can you work such a schedule?? and “Do you have any obligations that would keep you from work-related travel??)

For the complete article, please click the title of the article above.


September 18, 2008

OCI and Students Holding Offers

NALP Part V and Students Holding Offers (message from NALP)

Q. What is the maximum number of offers that a law student can hold at any one time?
A. As stated in the NALP Principles and Standards Part V.A.3, "A student should not hold open more than five offers of employment at any one time. For each offer received that places a student over the offer limit, the student should, within one week of receipt of the excess offer, release an offer." This guideline applies at any point in time during the recruitment season. Interpretation 3 provides additional guidance for law student candidates interviewing in more than one market.

NALP's Part V Task Force is working on a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the new interim timing guidelines. These FAQs (which will continue to grow), along with other resources such as the Interpretations and recent Bulletin articles, are available at

September 8, 2008

Tight timelines for considering offers

Bryan Cave's Lynne Traverse never fails to provide sound advice.

August 28, 2008

Callbacks and other in-office interviews: all the same

THE SET UP Be confident. Getting a callback or in-office interview indicates that the employer presumes
that you are qualified. You are going to
(1) let your personality and interests distinguish you from everyone else,
(2) get some of your questions answered;
(3) get some of their questions answered,
(4) to see if you "fit" with them, and
(5) to see if they "fit" with your idea of an employer you would trust with the beginning of the next stage of your career.

This also applies to the letter that reads "If you are in town we would love to meet you." Go! They mean it.

YOUR PREPARATION If you haven't done so before, do comprehensive research on the employer (and on the city, if it is a new location for you). Check, the employer's website, Nexus for newspaper clippings and W est or Lexis for important cases they have litigated. Some -- but not all -- firms have NALP forms and firm resumes. You may be winging this part of your prep with an employer without a website and just a small martindale presence.

YOUR ARRIVAL Never arrive too early, and never, ever show up late without a good excuse. Carry a cell phone so that you can notify the employer of your delay. Turn it off when you enter the building. Fifteen minutes before your interview is the earliest time to arrive. Any earlier makes your interviewer nervous or annoyed; any later and you risk making yourself crazy worrying that you might be late. If you are very early, walk around the block, have a cup of coffee or just sit somewhere other than the employer's lobby.

Continue reading "Callbacks and other in-office interviews: all the same" »

July 8, 2008

What are "they" looking for? Tell your story

What are "they" looking for?

Yes, some employers make a first cut for grades. But beyond that, recruiters and hiring partners are looking for candidates who can express themselves well -- both in their writing and in their speech.


The first paragraph should tell who you are and what you want. "I am a second year law student at the University of Minnesota and I am interested in a summer associate position with your firm." If you have good grades and you want to mention your journal or moot court, add that. But remember that the topic sentence of this paragraph -- indeed the entire focus of the paragraph -- is "Who are you and what do you want?"

The second paragraph relates your experience to the work that you will do as a law clerk or summer associate. "But I've never worked in a law firm! How could I possibly know what I will do?" While you might not be able to chart the entire anthropological lifecycle of a law clerk's day, not only do you know what law clerks do, but you have done it well.

Law clerks research and write. When you were an undergraduate or in graduate school, you researched and wrote papers for a variety of courses. Let your employer know that you enjoyed the work and, that you especially enjoyed doing research in original (not electronic) sources. Why is this important? While much of your time in law school is spent embracing the law, a large amount of practicing lawyers' time is spent searching out and parsing facts -- facts that can't be found on the internet, but might be located in a client's paper records or in a dusty courthouse basement or by talking to potential witnesses.

The third paragraph should address something about you that might be valuable to a potential employer? Again, you ask "How can I possibly know this?" Think about what lawyers actually do: they read, write, talk on the phone and go to meetings. But why? They are acting as advocates for their clients, their business, their policies, their problems and their personal lives. Anything that you have ever done that demonstrates your advocacy skills can fit neatly into this paragraph. For example:

1. Teaching: You have explained things to people who were unfamiliar (and possibly resistant) to your information.
2. Coaching: You have identified problems, including three dimensional problems such as how to hold a baseball bat or how to swim the Butterfly, and then explained and demonstrated the solutions.
3. Other work: One Peace Corps returnee had to climb a jungle-covered mountain to persuade people in his district who had never EVER left their villages, to accompany him to the largest city in the country to make the case for water control projects that he was developing. This is advocacy.

The fourth paragraph will usually take one of two forms:

1. Thank you for taking the time to review my credentials. You may reach me at [phone] and [email], and I look forward to hearing from you.

2. Thank you for taking the time to review my credentials. I will be in [your city] during the week of [x date] and I will call you next week to set up a meeting. In the meantime, you may reach me at [phone] or [email], and I look forward to meeting with you.


Tell your story. Know three things about yourself that an employer ought to know before you leave the interview room, and be prepared with three examples of each which you can use to answer just about any question that's thrown at you.

This is the ONLY way that you can begin to be prepared for behavioral interviews. Behavioral questions usually begin with "tell me about a time when..." If you have thought about your leadership, scholarship and other skills and you have prepared by telling your stories OUT LOUD, you will appear comfortable and sharp in your interviews.

June 27, 2008

Stop before you say this

8 ways to kill an opportunity in an interview. You have been warned.

June 22, 2008

Interview Prep: Real Estate for the Near Future

STOP! Before you enter an interview room this fall prepared to say “I want to do real estate because I liked my property class,? come down from the clouds.

While you were in school: This is not 2007. The Real Estate market has been roiled by the collapse of subprime mortgages. Lenders are no longer making low-doc or no-doc Liar Loans with Irrational Exuberance. Borrowers with good credit are having trouble getting financing. The Developers you might have wanted to work for are not necessarily building new developments. Some cities have double-digit vacancies in commercial real estate. These are troubled times.

Still interested? Create your own Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A. You want to be able to intelligently discuss trends and troubles. There should be no “deer –in-the-headlight? conversations in your interviews because you will have done extensive research. You have the rest of the summer to talk to realtors, brokers, bankers, and real estate lawyers, to read the Wall Street Journal and the local regular and business newspapers in the city in which you hope to practice so that you know the state of the marketplace.

Sound like a star in the interview. If real estate in your target city is troubled, find out if the employers that you are meeting are going after work in the industry. (For example, Ballard Spahr has formed a Distressed Real Estate Team). When asked about your interest, explain that you know that real estate is in trouble, and that you took time during the summer to explore the issues by talking to realtors, bankers, brokers and others in the industry. If the firm is hiring in that group, you are ready to roll up your sleeves and go to work during troubled times so that you can be prepared to work in the good times.

Plan B.
If the firm isn’t hiring for Real Estate, you can use your real estate research to show your initiative by explaining that you are ready to apply that same energy to work in any business group. People will be impressed by your willingness to explore a practice on your own time and on your own dime. You will also have created an opportunity to show your flexibility -- an ideal characteristic in troubled economic times.

June 11, 2008

Networking or Information Interview Alert!!

Advice from an alum: Although you are not expected to be a subject specialist when you go for a networking or information meeting, you owe it to yourself and to your host to be more than minimally prepared. You, after all, called the meeting.

Bad Beginning: "Hi. I'm interested in construction litigation. Can you tell me all about it?"

If your meeting is based on your interest in the lawyer's practice area and she has been working in the field for a decade, you ought to have reviewed her listing, Googled her and be able to name the topic areas of her recent reported cases. And yes, it would be excellent if you noted that she had litigated one of the really notable cases in her field.

May 29, 2008

The Confidential Job Search: Apply for a job without blowing your cover

Because some employers will fire you on the spot if word gets out that you are job hunting, you need to know how to conduct a covert and quiet job search.

COVER LETTERS Your cover letters should begin: “I am applying in confidence for …?

RESUMES Only when a candidate is particularly concerned about secrecy, should the word “resume? appear on a legal resume. Now is the time to add “Confidential Resume? over your name, like this:

Jane Smith
10 South Maine Street, N.W.
Anytown, MN 55555

EMAIL and PHONE NUMBER Under no circumstance should you undertake a confidential job search using your employer’s email or your work phone number. Work email can be monitored (and spam-blocked), and your phone really does belong to your employer.

During the work day Now. Right now. Ramp up your networking with professional organizations and people within your targeted professional group or practice area. While your boss may become suspicious if you take a lot of time to meet with people whose work is wholly unrelated to your current practice, he should not be grumpy if you are meeting with people who do the work that you do. Sometimes you may be able to explain networking and attending CLEs with professionals in other practices if your target practice is related to your current work, or if it is related to one of your employer’s stated expansion areas.

On your own time (including breakfast and after work) If you are trying to change careers or leave your current practice area, meet with these professionals either before or after work. If your boss is particularly prone to paranoid fantasies about departing staff, do all of your networking before or after work.

Early in the interview process When you are asked for references, explain that you are applying in confidence and that you would prefer that a reference checker call the people who are on your list, and not at your current employer. Call the CPDC for help if you are asked to blow your cover with a reference check before there is an offer on the table.

Offer contingent on a reference When the prospective employer has settled on you, and only a bad reference from your current employer will tank the offer, that offer is “contingent on a reference.? This is the time to provide contact information for your current employer. This is also the time to face the music, face your employer, thank her for all of the amazing experience that you have had (with a straight face, please), to let him know that you are about to receive an offer for a position that suits your long-term career goals; and that you hope to receive an excellent reference for the work that you have done. Finally, give this required recommender a list of useful things to say about work that you have done.

What about a bad reference? Protect yourself by inoculation and prepare the interviewer for a less than stellar reference.

May 12, 2008

Top 10 Interview Mistakes

Take a look at the top ten real-life examples of interviewing mistakes according to Career Builder:

• Candidate answered cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a "private" conversation.

• Applicant told the interviewer he wouldn't be able to stay with the job long because he thought he might get an inheritance if his uncle died - and his uncle wasn't "looking too good."

• The job seeker asked the interviewer for a ride home after the interview.

• The applicant smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room.

• Candidate said she could not provide a writing sample because all of her writing had been for the CIA and it was "classified."

Visit CNN for the entire list.

April 8, 2008

Best Selling Legal Career Guide Updated and Expanded

Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, 2nd Edition, by Kimm Walton, 2008.

* The long-awaited second edition of this bestseller has finally arrived! This essential and very readable handbook is now significantly expanded to over 1,300 pages. Kimm Walton's informal and infectious style, wit, and humor remain, however. She covers every aspect of the job search, from exploring practice areas to conquering the large firm without stellar grades.

Note that we have copies of this comprehensive text in the CPDC.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Secret to Being Happily Employed for the Rest of your life
Chapter 2: Figuring Out What the Heck the Job of Your Dream Is
Chapter 3: Getting the Most Out of Your Career Services Office
Chapter 4: The Most Important Element of Your Image

Continue reading "Best Selling Legal Career Guide Updated and Expanded" »

March 14, 2008

Conflicts Checks -- required for all candidates

Sometime during the recruiting process you will be asked to complete a Conflicts Check. Employers need to know whether you have worked on matters which have created conflicts that need to be waived or otherwise resolved before you come to work.

BUT I'VE ONLY DONE PRO BONO WORK! The anti-sweatshop or landlord-tenant work that you did may involve one of your prospective employers' clients.

I WAS A PARALEGAL -- THAT DOESN'T COUNT! Yes, it does. You know everything about cases the you've worked on. You can be conflicted out.

I WAS JUST A LAW CLERK! There is no waiver for "just a law clerk." You must track your work and disclose it.


1. Full legal name of client and of all involved parties;
2. Case caption if applicable;
3. Basic nature of the matter or case;
4. Date case/matter started/ended;
5. Amount of time you spent on the file and basic nature of your responsibilities

I FORGOT WHAT I WORKED ON AS A 1L. HOW DO I GET THE DOCUMENTS? Ask your former employer for a case list.

IF MY EMPLOYER FINDS OUT THAT I'M INTERVIEWING, I'LL GET FIRED. HOW DO I HANDLE THIS? You may be able to generate this list from your billing records. If not, you may have to disclose your job search to someone you trust at your current employer so that you can get these records. NEVER, ever resign before your conflicts have been cleared!

SOME OF MY WORK WAS INVESTIGATIONS AND IT IS UNDER SEAL. THOSE RECORDS WOULD NOT SHOW UP IN A CASE LIST. HOW DO I SIGNAL TO A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER THAT THIS MIGHT BE A PROBLEM? Your employer will ask if the list is complete and if you say no, most employers have routine probing language that can help wall you off from clients and industries which may cause conflicts.

WHAT IF A CLIENT WON'T WAIVE THE CONFLICT? Only the client can waive the conflict. Because the most senior billing partner is responsible, clearing a conflict will require that you disclose that you are in a job search. Never resign before the conflict is cleared.

HISTORY LESSON: The "Chron File" In the Dark Ages, which included typewriters, carbon paper and something called "Onion Skin," lawyers had secretaries (individuals who worked only for them), who created "Chron Files" for each lawer. A "Chron File" contained a copy of every document that the lawyer ever drafted, mailed or filed. With a "Chron File," there was never a question of what you did and when you did it.

QUESTIONS? Contact the CPDC at 612/625=1866.

Thanks to Martha Capper of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., and the Minnesota Legal Career Professionals, the Twin Cities NALP City Group.

February 22, 2008

Need to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills?

If you are interested in further developing your communication skills, I have just the resource for you. Consider joining a Toast Masters group where you will

* Learn to communicate more effectively
* Become a better listener.
* Improve your presentation skills
* Increase your leadership potential
* Become more successful in your career
* Build your ability to motivate and persuade
* Reach your professional and personal goals
* Increase your self confidence.

I would be happy to talk with you about my experiences with this organization. I learned a lot, and it has served me well.

Check out this link for a club near you with their contact information.


December 13, 2007

Prepare for a new version of an old interview question

We are hearing about a new version of an old interview question:

Tell me something about yourself that is not in your resume.

If you have prepped for the "Three things that an employer needs to know about you" with the accompanying three examples of each (3x3), you may have one example left at the end of the interview when you get this question.

If you haven't done the 3x3 prep, in the split second that you have to answer this new question, please consider the following:

1. This question is a dressed up version of "What do you do outside of school or work?" It is your chance to share something about you that is interesting that humanizes you beyond the information on your resume.

2. Don't share information that might make you appear goofy or irresponsible -- employers don't really want to hear stories about their candidates cavorting in any context.

3. Keep your Youthful Indiscretions to yourself. What happened during your college years should remain buried in the memories of your college pals.

This is your chance to spin your life and set your course. Grab the question and go!

October 4, 2007

Employer Research: Just Do It!

Career expert Richard Bolles as well as law firm recruiters suggest that "[w]herever possible, you must research the organization [firm]...before going in for an interview.�? For employers, your efforts will reflect your interest and understanding of the organization. For you, it will help you determine if they are a good fit for you.

Topics to Research

• Areas of Practice
• Location of offices
• Firm Size
• Biographies of lawyers - be discreet here
• Clients they are representing
• Cases they are working on

Where to Look

Employer's Website - Their 'Mission Statement' - bios, 'About the Organization', etc.

NALP Directory/NALP Form - The annual NALP Directory of Legal Employers,, is the most widely used directory in legal recruiting. The 2006-2007 edition includes information on more than 1,700 employers nationwide and is an invaluable tool for job searchers, career counselors, and legal recruiters alike. The CPDC has a hardcopy of the directory if you are interested.

Martindale - The Legal Personnel Locator offers free access to data on an extensive network of key non-lawyer staff members, including management personnel, librarians, marketing professionals and paralegals.

American Lawyer
- The American Lawyer covers the most significant legal business stories and the most important legal news stories. Often the two overlap. Corporate governance, bankruptcy, and the Supreme Court, are all topics that we address through our special perspective.

Daily News
Newspapers, radio, and TV

University Faculty/Staff Members - You will be surprised how in touch these individuals have with the legal and business communities.

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..."

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 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)

August 26, 2007

Interviewing with an agency? Or a non-profit?

When the interviewer asks "Why do you want to work for my agency?" he or she is giving you a chance to answer the easiest question imaginable which, if answered incorrectly will sink your candidacy like a stone.

At the DC Interview Program, the Federal Election Commission's interviewer noted that students often miss a huge opportunity to hit a home run by failing to mention the precise mission of the agency or office to which they are applying. He used his own office as an example:

"I am interested in making sure that elections are free and fair" or "I am strongly interested in voting rights" are both three strikes and out for his agency, which works ONLY on campaign finance. On the other hand, "I think that McCain-Feingold poses interesting problems" would be a home run in his interviews.

Managing Lunch Whether Networking or Interviewing


1. Dress like your host: if you are meeting during or after work, wear a suit. You can never go wrong. If your meeting is at the midpoint of her Saturday morning run, sweats are fine.


2. Eat from the middle of the menu. Unless your host urges you to eat the most expensive item, don't go there. You are spending someone else's money -- and if you are lunching with a partner, at the end of the year, it comes from that shareholder's personal pocket.

3. No finger food; no red food. 'Nuff said.


4. None. This is a 21st century business lunch. The three-martini middle-of-the-last-century lunch was then; this is now.


5. This your chance to put your best foot forward. Before coming to what you hope might be the main event -- talking about your prospects for work -- there will be a time for small talk and general chat that is friendly but steers clear of TMI issues (wild frolicking, drinking, youthful indiscretion) and questions that are entirely self-serving (is this place a sweatshop? are the partners jerks?). "TMI" is truly none of their business; "self-serving" questions can be asked in other ways. (What do you do outside of work? How do the partners communicate with associates? With one another?")


6. What is the best way to answer the question: "Will you work for us?" if I know that there are other jobs and firms that I am more interested in, while I am still very interested in this particular firm?

Unlike the sales pitch for purchasing a car ("What would it take for you to buy the car TODAY?"), you are unlikely to get the hard sell in an interview or callback lunch. A fair answer, though, is that you are at the beginning of the interview process and you hope that you will be able to touch base with [your host] as you proceed, to answer questions and to help you assess the information that you are gathering.

August 10, 2007

Interviewing Advice from a National Consultant

Mary Crane is a consultant to Fortune 500 corporations and law firms, a non-practicing lawyer and a former assistant White House chef. She has spoken often at NALP Conferences, and offers some conservative, practical advice for students as they begin to interview.

Preparing Candidates to Fit

Students should know that business etiquette begins with the business interview. Here are ten rules that can help your students land the jobs they want:

Rule 1 Arrive on time. Nothing creates a worse impression that a candidate who arrives late. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the interviewer’s time

Rule 2 Dress appropriately. Remind students that they should dress for the jobs they want. All clothing should be crisply pressed, and shoes should be business-like (no sandals; no flip-flops). Tattoos should be covered, and any extra body studs should be removed

Continue reading "Interviewing Advice from a National Consultant" »

July 16, 2007

Articulating Your Transferable Skills defines the word 'skill' as "to separate, divide; archaic: to make a difference". My take on the word: "a specific ability or abilities used to distinguish one task from another to make an impact."

Communicating transferable skills - which are drawn from experience acquired from previous jobs, volunteer opportunities, and so forth - to potential employers is a challenge many students face. This difficulty often arises during the process of preparing resumes, writing cover letters, and participating in job interviews. It is the responsibility of the candidate to explain how his or her previous experiences and education will benefit the firm or company. Or, as the Webster definition asks 'how can your skills fit and make a difference'? When communicating your skills, think about what potential employers will be looking for specifically when they are reading your materials or listening to your interview answers.

The following link provides a list of legal skills that attorneys possess (click "Skills & Abilities" tab). Of course, this list is not comprehensive, but a good place to start.

After reflecting on the skills that are needed in the legal field, take a look at the skills you have to offer from your past experiences. Note any transferable abilities that employers may find interesting and useful. The following additional resources may be helpful as you identify your own skill set.

February 23, 2007

Telephone interviews: how do I prep? what do I wear?

Employers use telephone interviews to identify and recruit candidates, and to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. They are also used to minimize the expense of screening out-of-town candidates.

While you are actively job searching, it is important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moment’s notice. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk.

NOTE: An unscheduled phone interview is an ambush. If you are roused from a deep sleep or are otherwise vaguely indisposed, you may ask to call the interviewer back at a more convenient (but very very soon) time. Even 10 minutes will help you compose yourself. The interviewer will not think ill of you.

Be Prepared

Prepare for a phone interview just as you would for a regular interview. Know the three things about you that an interviewer must know before the end of the interview, and three examples of each of those characteristics that you can weave into your answers so that you can communicate your agenda. Know the answers to “resume? based questions, and be prepared to answer “Why do you want to work for me??

Continue reading "Telephone interviews: how do I prep? what do I wear?" »

January 11, 2007

"Travel" is a loaded word

When interviewing for a job which you and the employer know will involve a lot of "travel," be careful how you show your enthusiasm. If the interviewer gets even the slightest hint that when you say "travel," that you mean "vacation-like activity," "umbrella drinks" or any kind of unprofessional frolicking, your candidacy is doomed.

Use language that acknowledges that you may be BASED in one city and have assignments, projects or trials in other cities or countries. De-emphasize the "travel" and focus on the work.

November 13, 2006

Your website and blog are the equivalent of your locker at work

Don't be surprised when an employer asks you about the blog or website which you have helpfully listed on your resume.

Delete questionable or suggestive material. You may be applying to employers who routinely counsel their clients have their employees take down risque material from the locker room walls. Your blog or website are the equivalent of your locker room wall. You have invited scrutiny, and you will never know when it costs you an interview or an offer.

October 31, 2006

A "writing test" may be part of your job application

FROM NALP EMAIL -- We recently asked finalists for one of our divisions to turn around a writing exercise in 48 hours, which we found extremely helpful in distinguishing between several excellent candidates. Having the opportunity to compare and contrast the writing samples knowing that our candidates all had the same timeframe within which to do the work was extraordinarily valuable.


This is part of a (mini) tidal wave from employers who are trying to discover what kind of skills their candidates have before wasting valuable time in interviews. I have heard of this with both law firms and judges.

Law Firms The first law firm to do it was a Chicago litigation boutique which spun out of a Giant Law Firm. The always-helpful-but-extremely-expensive publication OF COUNSEL explained that the firm planned its growth around cherry-picking junior laterals from Giant Law Firm Litigation Departments. The boutique’s managers assumed that laterals with the credentials good enough for Giant Law Firms could actually write. After finding that assumption to be flawed, those managers instituted a writing test before the first face-to-face interview.

Judges Many judges will put their candidates in a room with some documents and a laptop and ask that they write a bench memo that becomes part of their application package.

The main work of most law-trained people is reading, writing, talking on the phone and going to meetings. Most of the reading and writing is done somewhere between in-a-hurry and shriekingly-close-to-the-statute-of-limitations. Asking students to provide a time-limited writing sample that is unambiguously their own work provides employers with good preview of their candidates' skills and provides those of us in career development an opportunity to remind students and alumni of the primacy of legal writing.

August 24, 2006

Why could saying "I do my best work on what interests me" sink my employment chances like a stone?

We urge you to find your passion and follow it, but you need to carve out a contrary corollary in the early part of your career – during the job interview and in the first year or two of work. WHY?

Especially in a conversation about grades, it is human nature to say "I do well in things (classes) I like." Why might that language create a huge roadblock to employment?

Your interviewers know that every project cannot possibly engage your energy and intellect at the level you seek. They know that your assignments may be difficult, tedious, confusing, or dull. They know that your work will be new to you, and they know from their own experience that you may not “like? all of the work that you get.

As professionals, they would never tell a client “I’ll only do my best work on projects that I like.? Interviewers don’t want to think that you would say that to them once you were hired.

What can you say instead? As a student, you had some luxury to focus on classes you liked more than others, however, as a law clerk or lawyer, your know that your focus will be on doing the best job that you can for each client.

NOTE: This issue has come up in conversations with interviewers during the past two months.

August 11, 2006

Talking About Previous Employers

This post is a reminder that the interview is your opportunity to promote a) your skills, abilities, experiences, and potential and b) how well you will fit into the firm or organization (e.g. personality, values, goals, etc.). If you have previous work experience, "During the interview, plan on never speaking badly of your previous employer(s). Employers often feel as though they are a fraternity or sorority." Chances are good that you may be talking with someone who knows someone at one of the organization(s) you are referring to. If you have been fired, had a poor experience, and/or continue to have strong negative feelings about a previous employer, focus on what you learned, and be respectful in your comments. This may be difficult at first but after practice, this approach will certainly work in your favor. Feel free to contact the CPDC if you are having difficulty with talking about your previous work experiences.

Ref: What Color Is Your Parachute? - Richard Bolles

August 7, 2006

How YOU should conduct a behavioral interview

As more employers turn their attention to extracting information from you by way of behavior interviewing, you will find that interviews begin their questions for you with "tell me about a time when..."

Turn the tables to get the information YOU want with your own behavioral questions.

The keys to crafting behavioral questions are (1) to define your goal: what do YOU really want to know? AND (2) to ask questions that people can actually answer.

1. If you care about "lifestyle," don't ask whether the employer is a "sweatshop" -- regardless of the answer, it's a conversation killer. Ask, instead "What do partners and associates do outside of work."

2. If you have ever been screamed or barked at by a supervisor, you don't want to recreate that experience. Asking whether the employer has screamers or chair-throwers is another conversation killer because the correct answer in an interview would be "Of course not." You will get better answers by asking about the communication styles of the department chairs whose practices you are considering.

3. If you have no desire to spend a significant amount of time alone in a room with your computer, you wouldn't ask if new lawyers are bored with their work. Whatever might the answer be? "Of course not." You might, instead, ask how lawyers in various groups collaborate in their work. Do lawyers work in teams or on solo projects? How are group projects organized?

4. If you are curious about the kind of training that you might get, you could ask about the employer's training program, but, asking "Do you have a training program?" elicits either an unhelpful "yes," or an equally unhelpful and unsettling "no." Try asking what the training goals are for each year, who sets them and how new lawyers know how they are progressing.

June 2, 2006

1200 Seconds to Success: The Screening Interview

Tips on Interviewing Strategy freely adapted from an undated six-page document credited to GRANT THORNTON found in a file that hadn't been opened since 1991. Some things never change:

1. Be on time.
2. Know the interviewer's name and use it in the interview.
3. Bring a resume, transcript, writing sample and list of references. You will appear prepared.
4. Expect to spend some time developing rapport. Check the morning news for current events.
5. Take care with non-verbal communication. Have a strong handshake, keep good eye contact and don't fidgit.
6. Don't let your nerves take control. Interviewers are lawyers who put their pants and panty hose on one leg at a time -- just like you do.
7. Don't play the comedian or try to entertain the interviewer unless you are interviewing for show biz job.

Continue reading "1200 Seconds to Success: The Screening Interview" »

May 23, 2006

Don't bring the "pain" to the painful interview

When interviewers believe that a 20-minute interview lasted for two hours, despite how the clock reads, the interview has gone wrong -- really wrong.

Is it possible to devise a contemporaneous repair for an interview meltdown? Probably not, although once you have diagnosed the disaster, you may meet the interviewers later in life and laugh at yourself.

Can you be prepared for the next interview? Yes, if you can answer one question and be prepared to discuss one subject:

ONE QUESTION Why do you want this job? Not "Why do you want a job?" but "Why do you want THIS job?" Interviewers need to know that you have thought about the place in which you will work and the work that you will do.

ONE SUBJECT with three parts What three things do I want them to know about me before I leave the room?* When you have to struggle to name two, and then you sit, clicking your tongue, while trying to puzzle out the third, the interview has gone irretrievably badly.

*For an extended discussion of the three things you need to communicate to interviewers, consult Kimm Walton's Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams.

April 19, 2006

It's not just your own blog or MySpace entry that you need to monitor...

Email from a student who interviewed recently with a large federal agency...

[Unnamed agency] is truly "big brother." My friend has a blog where he posted some stories from our recent Vegas trip (and there is no way they could have found it with a simple Google search of my name). At the end of the interview they showed me that they had printed out the blog.

It was quite a surprise (at least the stories weren't that bad, and they certainly weren't criminal). I was really embarrassed by the fact they found them though, but they assured me they wouldn't affect whether I was hired (mostly because I didn't write them), they just wanted to point out that I need to be careful if I worked there. It taught me a real lesson. I have to be very careful about what might be posted on the internet that has my name somewhere on it.

March 10, 2006

"Tell me about a time when..." -- 21st century employers' behavior based interviews

A resume will always remain the interviewer's first tool of information extraction, and you should be prepared to talk for one minute about everything that appears on yours. But wait! How you respond to 21st century behavior-based questions are now likely to be crucial to successful interviewing. Instead of "Tell me about yourself," employers are betting that "Tell me about a time when you solved a problem," will provide more useful clues to your potential fit with their organizations.

For more information and sample questions:

To see what NALP professionals have to say...

March 5, 2006

Phone interviews for the 21st century

Phone interviews will combine traditional and behavioral questions. Your answers and the sound of your voice are all you have, so breathe deeply, sit up straight and check CAREERFILES for evaluation criteria from an alum whose firm used phone-only screening interviews.

February 10, 2006

What not to wear #1

An Alum called to share this story (2/06): A Lateral Candidate arrived at a very conservative law firm in a very conservative city wearing jeans and a t-shirt. "I just got off the plane," he said. Jeans and t-shirts are appropriate interview attire if -- and only if --

(1) you are meeting a lawyer at a coffee shop before or after her morning run; or

(2) the suit you were wearing on the plane because you knew that you had an early interview was taken from your body by force, your luggage was destroyed, and the only available clothing was what you could borrow from the Air Marshall.

"He was completely unprepared and totally unprofessional," said our Alum.
For more valuable advice from alums covering all stages of your job search and career path, go to "Going to Work: Paths to Professionalism"

February 2, 2006

When the interviewer asks"Do you have any questions?" Be prepared with powerful questions...

Near the end of most interviews, you'll be asked "Do you have any questions?" Design your questions to get the answers you want by asking questions that people can actually answer. "Is this place a sweatshop?" or "Tell me about your culture"and "Is your boss a jerk?" are impossible to answer. You'll get what you need with open-ended questions, such as "What do people do outside of work?" or "Tell me about how you have benefitted from your agency's training programs" or "I am very interested in your tax practice. Can you describe the leadership style of Ms. X, the department chair?"

For more interview tips go to Career Files