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Sidley Recruiters Share the Top Eight Questions You Should Ask in Your Law Firm Interview

Published: Jan 11, 2021

Topics: Education  Grad School  Interviewing  Law  

Any interview can be nerve-racking, but in a virtual environment, it is especially important to approach interviews with a good attitude and to be prepared for anything! After putting together detailed and compelling answers about your background and experience, now it’s time for you to ask the questions of your interviewer. Your questions should show that you are prepared, interested, and thoughtful. But most importantly, this is a chance for you to be in the driver’s seat—to learn more about what makes each firm unique and gather the information you need to make a well-informed decision at the culmination of the recruitment process.

When preparing the questions you would like to ask, focus on the aspects of law firm life that are most important to you. Are you interested in a small or large firm? A firm with a top-tier training program? Are pro bono opportunities for junior associates a top priority? As you conduct your pre-interview firm research, make notes on any specific topics you would like to address. Below are some questions that we think will work particularly well in any interview to help you determine where you should spend your summer.

What is your typical day like?

Understanding what day-to-day life is like at each firm is essential to finding the right fit as you begin your legal career. The answer to this question may provide insight into the type of work you will be doing, the amount of contact you will have with clients, as well as the expectations partners have for junior associates at the firm.

What type of training can I expect as a junior associate?

Becoming a successful lawyer and building a rewarding career means developing excellent legal skills. A firm that is invested in its associates’ development will likely offer support through training opportunities. Hearing from your interviewers, with specific programming examples, about how the firm supports associates early in their careers should be a big consideration when making your final decision.

What about working at this law firm makes you most proud? 

This question can uncover unexpected insight into the firm’s culture. It provides your interviewer with an opportunity to share what they think makes their firm special and may solicit answers that touch on the relationships they value most, the roles they hold on committees, or particular matters that they found most rewarding. Collaboration is a term that is often used in this context, so ask the interviewer for specific examples, and see if their answer is in line with what collaboration means to you.

What characteristics do successful associates at your firm possess?

This is another way to assess whether the firm is the right fit for your personality and career goals. At this initial stage of your career, you have the opportunity to learn a lot about yourself and the aspects that are most important to helping you be a successful lawyer. You may be looking for a firm that values independent and ambitious junior lawyers; or you may prefer a firm that emphasizes a team-based approach to work.

What is the firm’s commitment to pro bono work, and what type of pro bono matters have you worked on?

As a lawyer, pro bono matters provide opportunities for you to help members of the community in which you live and work. Pro bono representation can present associates with unique opportunities for client interaction and skill development. Ask for specific details about how the pro bono work your interviewer has done benefited their development. If meaningful pro bono work is important to you, asking this question will help you discern which firms really demonstrate their dedication to pro bono cases. 

How are associates provided feedback on their performance, and can you tell me about the review process? 

Feedback is an important aspect of your growth as a lawyer. It’s important that you understand the evaluation process at each firm, because they may approach it differently. Understanding who evaluates associates and when you will receive feedback allows you to familiarize yourself with the process and set expectations for your progress and development.

How did the firm adapt to working remotely and serving clients during the pandemic?

This is uncharted territory, and gaining an understanding of how the firm adapted to serve the needs of their office, lawyers, staff, and clients during 2020 can give you a sense of the firm’s commitment to supporting its community, as well as how the firm is looking ahead to the future as we navigate these uncertain times.

How effectively does the firm utilize technology?

Now more than ever, a firm’s access to the most current and up-to-date technology is critical to effectively communicate with clients, maximize tasks and caseloads, and accurately record and bill time. The answer to this question can help you understand how the firm you are meeting with has incorporated technology to help run their business and serve their clients efficiently. 

We hope these questions have provided some insight into how best to prepare for the upcoming OCI season. As a final tip, we encourage you to research, prepare, be yourself, and take a deep breath. We wish you success in all your interviews as you navigate this virtual recruiting season!

This is a sponsored blog post by Sidley Austin LLP. To view the firm's full profile, click here.

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