Q&A with Lisa McLafferty, Firmwide Director of Attorney Recruiting & Development at Winston & Strawn LLP

Published: Aug 13, 2019


Summer associate recruiting season is well under way. As a law student, you may be curious what is going on behind the scenes and what the hiring partners and recruiting professionals are really thinking. In our latest series of Q&As on the recruiting process, Lisa McLafferty— Firmwide Director of Attorney Recruiting & Development at Winston & Strawn LLP—answers some of our questions about how the firm prepares for the recruiting season, the number one rule for resumes, and how candidates can maximize their summer experiences. Read on for her insights and advice for both law students and laterals.

How do you prepare for the summer associate recruiting season? 

Our team is constantly honing and sharing our best practices to be more efficient in today’s highly competitive, tightly condensed recruiting season. We’re always looking for ways to be quicker, smarter, and faster while still delivering an experience that is familiar and reassuring for the students. Automation is huge. We’ll be doing more things this year to help us on that front, particularly those that enable us to get back to students more quickly. We also prepare for summer associate recruiting by developing excellent collateral materials that really set us apart and effectively convey “Why Choose Winston.” What makes Winston a great place to work is our people, so we highlight those people—from professional staff members to partners—in our communications to candidates.

What is the biggest mistake you see candidates make during summer associate recruiting and lateral recruiting? 

I’d probably say not doing research on our firm and being unprepared for the interview. There are many great resources at your fingertips, from the information that Vault compiles to our firm’s website to LinkedIn. And if you’re a student, career services and law school colleagues are great resources. Seeking out someone with a personal connection to the firm is also useful.

Finish this sentence: Every legal resume should have ______________.

I would get rid of “have” and say “be perfectly proofread.” Make sure you catch and correct any misspelled words or formatting or punctuation mistakes. From the recruiter’s perspective, it’s really difficult to pass along a resume that has a typo to a partner for review because you know that typo is what they’re going to focus on. We have had times when a partner has said “I really like this candidate, but they have a mistake on their resume.” Will that result in not getting an interview? Not necessarily. But it certainly is not going to help.

How can candidates maximize their summer experience to understand everyday practice?

First of all, candidates should try to put themselves in the shoes of the more junior associates at the firm. It also goes without saying that they should focus on producing the same excellent work product they’ve been producing in law school.

It’s also important for candidates to really get to know the law firm. Take full advantage of and make every effort to attend those “optional” learning opportunities offered throughout the summer. At Winston, we have introduced robust programming around the practice areas, including a litigation week and a corporate week. The department chairs give an overview of these two areas, and the leaders of the various corporate and litigation practice groups have an opportunity to present as well.

Certainly summer associates should get to know their classmates, but it’s also critical to start developing relationships with the attorneys and staff at the firm. Coming into the office, keeping your door open, and networking and talking to people are important for developing relationships. Winston’s goal is to make offers to 100 percent of our summer associates, so chances are you’re going to be coming back to the firm the next year—and to those relationships you developed over the 8-10 weeks of the program. 

A few final tips:

  • Be proactive. If there’s a practice area you want to explore, find out who leads that group, and reach out to them.
  • Be on time. That goes back to being responsive. Once you’ve got the job, be on time.
  • Be well. You’ll need to keep up your energy levels and stay healthy during what is a busy time full of new people and experiences. Try to stick with your regular eating, exercising, and sleeping routines. Enjoy yourself as much as you can, but take care of yourself too.
  • Be yourself. It’s essentially a 10-week interview. It can be nerve-racking for the firm and the law students. Both of us have an important choice to make.

How can laterals set themselves apart when interviewing and integrating into the firm?

Do your research, know the firm, be prepared, and try to connect. Many times, we are looking for specific expertise, and that alone can set a lateral candidate apart.

Integrating is key for laterals to be successful. A firm’s formal integration program is only as good as the lateral makes it. Laterals need to make a concerted effort to win over their new colleagues—both attorneys and staff. When you’re trying to make a good impression at a new firm, it’s important to treat the professional staff well. The easier you are to work with, the easier they’re going to make your life. During those first three to six months, really focus on getting to know people, doing great work, and building trust. Laterals are probably used to having some flexibility, but I think it’s important when you first join a firm to be in the office. Being present, attending office events, and getting involved with recruiting (shameless plug!) are great ways to get to know and successfully integrate into the firm.


As Firmwide Director of Attorney Recruiting & Development at Winston & Strawn LLP, Lisa McLafferty provides oversight and strategic direction for entry-level and lateral non-partner attorney recruiting activities, as well as programs involving attorney orientation, integration, mentoring, and performance management.

This is post first appeared in the Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms, 2020 edition. To view the full guide, click hereTo view the Winston & Strawn’s full profile, click here.