The On Campus Interview process is one of the most exciting and sometimes frightening parts of being a law student. The good news is that by this point you have made it past the initial screener interview and the interviewer liked something about you. You have one more interview to contend with before you obtain that coveted summer associate position and lockdown your junior associate position post-law school.
It is important that you be well-prepared for your callback interview, they go on for hours and they are incredibly important interviews. Read on to learn about the ins and outs of preparing for your callback interviews. If you have not yet started or completed your screener interviews you can check out tips here.
Set Your Callback Interview Sooner Than Later
Your screener interviewer will typically notify you that you have received a callback interview within a week or two of your screener. Don’t worry about being put on the spot to pick a callback interview date, your interviewer is not going to schedule your callback. By now, every 2L law student should have a professional voicemail, but just in case you don’t, it’s time to change it to one. You will typically receive an email from a secretary at the law firm requesting your availability for a second interview.
Now the ball is in your court and you need to schedule your callback interview. Students should schedule their callback interview sooner rather than later. In order to understand why you should schedule your callback as soon as possible you need to know a little bit about law firm summer associate hiring practices. Law firms do not save a certain amount of summer associate positions for law students who do callbacks at a later time. Summer associate positions are offered on a first come first serve basis. This means that the earlier you schedule your callback the more positions there will be available.
When scheduling your callback you should be prepared to offer a couple of different dates. Fridays are an option but firms often will not hold callbacks on Fridays because attorneys are working from home.
It’s a really great sign if you have received multiple callback interviews, and this might tempt you to try and schedule two callbacks in one day. Do not schedule multiple callback interviews in one day, callbacks tend to run for at least two to three hours, often longer, and it is highly unlikely that you will be able to maintain the same level of energy and enthusiasm during your second set of interviews.
Be Aware of the Typical Callback Interview Structure
You are probably already aware that callback interviews tend to be very long. What you probably didn’t know, is that callback interviews can be as short as two hours and as long as eight hours. Different firms have different practices regarding the length of interviews and whether lunch or dinner will be provided.
Firms are all over the map in regards to length of interviews, but the basic structure remains the same. Callback interviews generally consist of at least four, thirty minute interviews. The better callbacks will coordinate topics so that each interviewer focuses on a different area of questions. In low quality callback interviews, the lack of coordination among the interviewers will be painfully obvious, and they will all ask the exact same questions.
You should also be aware that the meal during the callback interview will vary be firm. Most firms during my callback interviews set me up with either lunch or breakfast with a few of the junior associates before or after the callback interview. One firm (who will not be named) opted to group all of the law students interviewing that day into a single room and have lunch together. If you participate in one of these, it will likely be one of the most cringe-worthy experiences of your life. These group interview lunches are always an awkward and painful contest of brown-nosing among law students.
Practice for Your Interview
Practicing for your callback interview may seem like an obvious point but many law student fails to practice for callback interviews correctly. Law students frequently treat callback interview preparation like screener interview preparation and review the same sample questions. This is the wrong approach to take to practicing for your callbacks.
The point of a callback interview from the firm’s perspective is to dig a little deeper into their candidate and confirm that your success at the initial interview was not a dud. Interviewers will typically be asking a much broader and more in-depth array of questions and you should be well-prepared for this. You need to know everything on your resume, writing sample, and cover letter cold.
Become Familiar With Common Questions
The specifics of individual questions can vary from interview to interview, but the types of questions asked are typically quite consistent between interviews. Oftentimes, the most common questions will make it feel like you are back in a screener interview, but sometimes you will get curveballs during callback interviews.
Some of the more common but trickier interview questions include: (i) tell me about a time you had xyz problem and explain how you resolved it, (ii) questions about law school courses, especially your favorite course, and (iii) why BigLaw/Corporate Law (assuming this is a Biglaw interview).
When responding to a question about a problem you had at work, it is helpful to consider what the interviewer is looking for. The interviewer is typically trying to get a sense of how you respond to pressure and issues in the workplace. As a junior associate in a law firm, you will be placed under a heavy workload and you will make lots of mistakes. The interviewer is trying to determine how you will respond to making mistakes.
Questions about your favorite law school courses come up frequently and should be an easy question to knock out of the park, if you have prepared. Answer honestly if you do in fact have a favorite course and give a succinct answer on why it is your favorite. If you don’t have a course you like, consider which one is the most bearable and have an explanation ready to go on why it is your favorite.
The “Why BigLaw” question is also extremely popular in screener interviews, as well as callbacks. You should aim to stay away from replying that you are interested in BigLaw because the starting salary is fast approaching a quarter of a million dollars and prepare a more thoughtful response based on the type of work you are interested in and clients you will be working with.
Psychological Questions Are Commonly Asked During Callbacks
Odd psychological questions are unfortunately a frequent component of the callback interview. The interviewer is typically aiming to throw you off of your scripted responses and identify how well you think on the fly. Some examples of odd questions I have gotten include: (i) what do you think about police brutality, is it largely overblown or is it a serious issue? (this was pre George Floyd), and (ii) if you had the choice, what kind of animal would you be?
It’s especially difficult to prepare for these kinds of questions but it is a good idea to be aware that questions out of left field do appear during callback interviews. If you get one of these off the wall psychological questions just take a few seconds and think about what your interviewer is asking. Don’t expect to get the answer right because there usually is no “right answer”, it’s just a question to evaluate your thought process.
Know the Law Firm
One extremely important question to be prepared for is “why this firm?” Not every firm will ask this during the screeners but every firm will ask you this question during callbacks. Your response does not have to be an earth shattering revelation of why that firm is the only one you could possibly see yourself working at, but you should have a few things ready to go about the firm to show that you did your research.
A good idea would be to search through the alumni database to locate any recent graduates from your law school who are employed by that particular firm. Speaking to a junior associate will give you a better idea of how the firm operates, help confirm whether you are interested in working there, and identify what makes the firm stand out from other players in the field.
Know Your Interviewers
The vast majority of callback interviews will give you a list of the 4-7 attorneys who will be interviewing you ahead of time. If the firm does release your interviewers names ahead of time you will be expected to do something with that information. Check out the firm’s website and look at the attorney’s bio, if there are any notable cases or transactions they have handled it would be a good idea to ask about them during the question session at the end. Interviewers will typically reserve a few minutes at the end for you to ask them questions. Showing that you have taken the time to understand a little more about your interviewers job will go a long way.
Familiarize Yourself With Proper Interview Decorum
The intangible components of an interview may be impossible to quantify but they are clearly very important. If you show up to a callback interview dressed poorly with a limp handshake that is what you will be remembered for. Here is a short list of soft factors that you should be aware of when preparing for a callback interview.
- Dress is business professional, whatever you would wear to a courtroom as a practicing attorney.
- No cursing and do not talk politics even if your interviewer has a MAGA hat on their desk or the interviewer invites you to opine on a political issue.
- If you typically shake hands with a limpy handshake it is time to firm your handshake.
- Look people in the eyes when you speak to them, people will draw all kinds of inferences from you when you don’t look them in their eyes when you talk.
- Don’t consume alcohol if you go out to lunch or dinner with the junior associates, remember that you are still in an interview. Even if the associates consume alcohol, they are already employed but you are not.
- If you are interviewing with seven attorneys you should take seven resumes, transcripts and (if applicable) cover letters for the callback. 99% of the time your interviewers won’t ask for copies of these documents but I did have several attorneys lose my resume in a pile of junk on their desk and having one handy is helpful.
Send Thank You Letters
Sending thank you letters varies depending on personal preference. I only sent thank you letters to attorneys I felt I “clicked with” and were memorable in my mind. Law schools frequently recommend that you send thank you letters to everyone you interviewed with regardless of how well you clicked with an individual. On the otherhand, you likely are not doing yourself any favors if you send a generic thank you letter to an interviewer that you did not meaningfully conversate with. Some interviews (and interviewers) are just not very interesting and that is okay. Hopefully, you have a thoughtful and engaging interview with several of the interviewers, and those are the people that you want to send thank you letters to. Whichever strategy you choose to take, make sure to be 200% sure that you have the interviewers name spelled correctly.
Callback interview season is an extremely exciting time for law students. All of the hard work students have put into their studies is beginning to pay off. Hopefully, this article has helped you in preparing for callback interviews. Callback interviews are can be stressful and they certainly will sometimes feel like you are running a marathon, but they are also a great opportunity to nail down employment ahead of your graduation. Good luck on your OCI process!