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Avoiding "Law Dorkery": An Insider's Guide to Landing Your Summer Clerkship

Part 3: The Callback Interview and "Who Did You Meet With Today?"

In most cases, the third and final stage of the interview process is the callback interview to the firm's office. The general, yet ignorant, thinking of most law students at this stage is that once you have been offered a callback, the offer is all but guaranteed. Like most general theories in this arena, I would dispute this. In fact, a candidate normally meets a lot more people in the callback interview than they do in the initial screening interview.

With this in mind, it is important to have your Tiger Woods A game on your callback. If you are coming in from out of town, most firms will fly you in the night before and put you up at a nice hotel in town. Although typically this is an all-expenses paid trip, be mindful of the fact that firms, even if they tell you otherwise, do care if you empty the mini-bar or order filet mignon for breakfast.

First and foremost, be sure to be on-time or a couple of minutes early for your interview. If you show up late, you will end up wasting the time of people at the firm, and time is money. You will usually first meet with one of the recruiting coordinators of the firm. Do not make the mistake of blowing them off or acting condescending to a recruiting coordinator or any other staff member of the firm. Recruiting coordinators have a lot more influence than you would think, and if you are rude to a staff member then, trust me, they will be sure and let a decision maker know about it immediately and/or remember it years later if you happen to become an associate at the firm. After chit-chatting with the recruiting coordinator, you will generally go through five or six interviews. Most of these will be with one or two attorneys and you will find that you are answering the same questions over and over again. As I mentioned in Part 2 above, resist the temptation to give canned responses, and remember the General Rule. Engage your interviewer in some form of conversation that will set you apart. I remember one callback interview where all I did was sit in a partner's office and talk about stocks I like. Seems odd, but he remembered that conversation nearly a year later when I clerked and told me how refreshing it was to not to hear the same crap from me. Would he have remembered this if I told him about my upcoming moot court competition? Not likely. In sum, you need to be able to quickly analyze your interviewer's personality and then adjust accordingly. As stated in Part 2, I recommend sending a quick thank you email to each interviewer afterwards, as typically, their comments on you are due a day or so after the interview has been completed.

In addition to these five or six interviews, many firms will have a couple of attorneys take you out to dinner the night before and/or for lunch after your interviews. Do not be mistaken, these lunches and dinners are not because the attorneys need a free meal and having nothing better to do. Instead, I would equate these meals to an "informal secret interview" and it was shocking to me how many candidates weren't bright enough to pick up on this part of the game. Although you are not sitting in some attorney's office, you are being tested on how you can interact socially. I have had people tell me some of the most unbelievable things in these interviews, so be mindful of what you say. Additionally, and although I think this is the most obvious point, don't order the most expensive thing on the menu unless the attorneys insist that you do. I am quite confident that people have lost offers over something as stupid as ordering a $35 steak and lobster special at lunch. You don't have to eat your napkin, but you do have to use your common sense. Another thing that inevitably happens at the post-interview meals is that one of the lawyers asks, "Who did you interview with today?"

From my experience, every lawyer who meets a candidate is given a list of other attorneys in the firm that the candidate is interviewing with. This means either that the lawyer (i) was too lazy to read his or her sheet (which is the most likely scenario) or (ii) is trying to make you sweat. If you are good with names, then do your best to regurgitate the list. If you aren't, it is completely understandable, especially after you have been through 25 interviews, to not remember everyone you met with that day. My advice is to bring the lawyer list that most firms give you when you arrive for your interview with you to the post-interview meal. Make a preemptive strike by asking question about something on the list before you are asked. This may sound like overkill, but I was blindsided by some old crotchety partner when I was on a lunch interview and the partner was not impressed that I couldn't remember the six people I had just met with. Interestingly enough, this was the only firm out of twelve that I went on callback interview with where I did not receive an offer, or for that matter, any response at all, not even a flush letter. Once you are through with your interview, the time it takes to hear from the firm will vary. I actually received one offer at the end of my on-campus interview (which I later declined because that was just weird), but this is extremely uncommon.   A lot of the timing depends on where the firm is in the interview cycle.  If you are one of the first people to come in for a callback it may be a few weeks, whereas if you are one of the last, it may be a day or two. 

 Please check back soon to read Parts 4, 5 and 6 of this article, which include, How to Accept or Reject Job Offers, I Didn't Receive Any Offers - Now What? and The Clerkship: How NOT To Get a Permanent Offer

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