Law firm interviews are not known for being particularly rigorous. The interviews are a conversation, with the interviewer using your résumé to ask questions to see if you have a sincere interest in their practice and if you would be a good fit with their firm. Substantive legal questions are rarely asked. Large firm interviewers may refer to your transcript during the interview as well. By reviewing the list of courses you have taken, the interviewer can assess the sincerity of your interest in the firm’s practice areas. Because large firms are typically grade conscious, they may also use your transcript to see whether you have any honors.
Your first interview with a prospective law firm is usually called a “screening interview.” Screening interviews can be at the firm, but more typically take place during an interview program and are typically 20-30 minutes in length, although they can be longer. If the screening interview is viewed positively by the firm, the usual next step is to invite a candidate to the firm for a “callback” interview.
During a callback interview, the firm has already seen your résumé and talked with you, is impressed with you, and has chosen to spend a substantial amount of time to get to know you better. Typical callback interviews last for half of a day, and involve you meeting individually for 20 to 30 minutes with four or more attorneys. The firm will often have two or more junior attorneys take you out to lunch after the interviews are completed.
Visit the Interviewing Section of CDO’s Toolkit for Student Job Seekers for complete interviewing advice including a link to sample law firm evaluation forms.
Splitting the Summer
Some firms allow students to split their summer between two employers. The NALP Directory, under the “Recruitment & Hiring” tab in the Summer Associate Hiring Questions section, asks employers to indicate whether they will allow students to split the summer, and if so, how many weeks the student is required to spend at their firm. If a firm allows their summer associates to split with another employer, they may place limitations on that split, including requiring that the other employer not be another firm; requiring that the student spend the first half of the summer with their firm; and/or requiring that the student spend a certain number of weeks with their firm (typically seven or eight). Some firms allow students to split the summer between two different offices of their firm. This happens most typically when the firm has a U.S. and international office. Students can inquire about this type of opportunity at interviews. The possibility of splitting your summer between two different law firms is remote—most firms require the first 6-8 weeks, and most firms end their summer programs in early August. On top of that, you may wish to participate in VIP in early August.
Typically less than 10% of first-year students and around 20% of second-year students split their summer between two employers. For information about the pros and cons of splitting the summer, consult the Responding to Offers section of the Online Toolkit. Some firms offer students the opportunity to work for the firm for part of the summer and a public interest organization for the other part, with the firm paying the student’s entire summer salary. See CDO’s Firms Sponsoring Split Public Interest Summers for additional information about this unique split summer option.