in Careers Advice, Interviews

Interview Preparation for Lawyers

How to Prepare for a Legal Job Interview

Dress

Attending for interviews is your chance, and often your one and only chance to present yourself as a potential lawyer to the firm. It is important that if you are male that you wear a suit with a jacket, and a tie that is fairly smart. A flowery tie or one with Mickey Mouse characters on is not going to go down particularly well with the firm and may make you stand out for all the wrong reasons, especially on an assessment day.

For women it is important to wear dark coloured clothing not too over the top and that is of a similar vein to a suit worn by the men. Interviews are not the time to show off your latest Karen Millen outfit!

Dress can also help you. If you are well presented, well dressed and feel confident in yourself about what you are wearing and how you look to other people, you will come across well in interview. If you go into an interview environment and feel very uncomfortable in the clothes you are wearing you will present this to the people who are interviewing you.

Items to take with you

Carry spare copies of your CV and covering letter not only so that you can look at your skills & attributes and remind yourself of various matters before going into interview, but also in case the interviewers in front of you only have one copy of your CV and they are sharing it. This is not a common occurrence in larger firms, but smaller firms tend not to prepare very well for interviews and you may find this to be the case.

A copy of any application forms or covering letter will be useful so that you can remind yourself of your writings before going into interview.

It can also be quite embarrassing to turn up for an interview and mention facts that were not on your application form. This can lead to firms thinking that you have either made up various facts on your CV or that you are a confused person who does not possess a good memory for facts.

Carrying money and credit cards is also very useful and something that is occasionally forgotten by people attending interviews. It may be that you need to get a taxi from the train station out to the firm if there is a long distance between the two. You may also find that you need to buy yourself lunch if the interviews are going to go over to the afternoon and you have been kept waiting.

It sometimes assists to take with you examples of any case papers you have worked on, although client confidentiality may be an issue. If you have been in the press with a particular case, or written an article for the local paper, firms are often very interested in seeing this, especially in the current climate for marketing.

If you are a partner or solicitor with a following or team to move with, it would be very helpful to take details of your clients with you together with billing levels, targets, team salary levels, and any other information relating to the various financial issues that arise.

Check your current employment contract for restrictive covenants preventing you from working within certain areas for set time periods. This can be quite important for some firms, and it may even be a waste of time attending for interview.

Travel

Travelling to interviews is a particularly exhausting experience. Often interviews are held at awkward times for people to be travelling, whether 9.30am or 5.00pm. A particular problem is when you are planning to relocate, and need to get to Carlisle from Oxford for 5pm. We would advise you to think carefully of the following:

The interview may be one of the most important meetings you will attend during your career. It may decide the type of lawyer you become, whether you get a post with a firm looking to hinder or progress your career and whether you attain partnership if not already.

As a result we would advise you to think very carefully before making a 100+ mile journey the morning of your interview. You may be better to think about the cost of booking a hotel room in the city you are travelling to the night before. Whilst this may be £60 or £80 (or even more) this may be money well spent if you are able to get up in the morning, feel fresh & vibrant, and ready to attend an interview. You will not feel like this after a 100 mile train journey standing up!

The other reason for staying in the city or town where your interview is to be held is that on the morning of the interview you will not have to depend on the reliability of the train, bus, other public transport network or the roads to get you to your location.

Firms will not be very sympathetic towards anyone who phones up from a train parked 20 miles outside London Euston saying that they are stuck. Firms are not interested in that in the same way that district judges in county courts are not interested in solicitors who are stuck in a traffic jam 10 miles from court! It is your responsibility to ensure that you are at an interview in good time and that you are able to present yourself in a reasonable condition, ready to take on a tasking experience.

Attendance

It is important to turn up for an interview 10 -15 minutes early. This is very useful for more than one reason. Firstly, if you turn up 10 – 15 minutes early it gives firms an indication that you are somebody who is punctual and can keep time. In law firms this is of particular importance as firms are looking for people who are able to keep time well as their whole income depends upon it.

Secondly, it gives you the opportunity to experience exactly what type of firm it is that you are going to see. Often firms will ask you to wait in their reception area and you will get to hear the secretaries and receptionists talking. Invaluable information can be gained of exactly the type of firm you are going to see from the way the secretaries act and behave.

If the secretaries sound disgruntled and speak to each other in a hostile manner or there is a cold atmosphere around the place, it may be that there are a lot of office politics going on in the practice and that you will be faced with this if you join the firm. If you see secretaries and receptionists who are nice and friendly, who offer you a cup of tea and speak to you like you are a human being rather than a zombie, this may be how they will interact with you when you join the firm.

The wait also gives you the chance to observe the partners in practice, as you will often see them buzzing around the place telling their various staff members what work they require from them within the next 5 minutes. If you see a partner running around an office shouting at the top of his voice and being generally rather rude to everyone you may feel that this is not the type of firm that you wish to work for. If he is shouting at the secretaries, it is almost certain that he will be shouting at you in a few months!

Help! I’m Running Late!

If you find yourself running late for an interview, telephone both your consultant and the firm to let them know. Even if you are going to be 5 minutes late, it is vital that the firm know this and the reason for it. Most will not mind, and if they do, would this be the type of firm you want to work for in the first place?

You can get intervew training assistance from us online through video training, our eBooks and face to face interview coaching by visiting our Legal Careers Shop

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk