As a new attorney, the process of obtaining your first job can be exhilarating when your hard work pays off and you receive a call for an interview; at the same time, the process can be intimidating when you consider the numerous other new attorneys also answering those calls. From the day you took the LSAT to the moment you sat for the bar your focus has been on presenting yourself well on paper. Even the resume and cover letter that have led to your sought-after interview presented your skills and talents as just written words. But now you have an interview, and the telling of your story goes live. Are you ready?
Todd Tenge, founder of a personal injury firm in Colorado, was once a new attorney, too. These days, he sits in the interviewer’s chair. As a welcome to the profession, Todd has put together a guide for you, the new lawyer in town. With step-by-step advice, compiled from experts, this guide will help you make the leap from new attorney to a member of the firm.
Prepare for the spotlight
First, you should know that your interview starts well before you sit down across a desk from an interviewer and answer questions. Often, the selection of a new attorney is a multi-step process that begins with a review of your resume and a little online research about you by the firm. To present yourself well in this phase, ensure that your resume is focused on your skills and expertise, concise, professional, and formatted in an easy-to-read fashion.
Additionally, if you have not already done so, now is the time to clean up your online presence. Once you join a law firm, your behavior on and off the job become a part of that firm’s reputation. Your chances of being hired may suffer if a search of your name brings up embarrassing or controversial information. If you can’t eliminate troubling online facts, be prepared to address them if asked during the interview.
Take the stage
After you’ve made it through the preliminary review phase, it’s time to take the stage. This is the point at which visuals become critical. The experts agree: you must dress well. In fact, your appearance goes beyond just the suit or jacket you choose. Your clothes, accessories, and grooming are all forms of non-verbal communication that reveal clues about your personality.
Make sure that your briefcase or bag is well cared for and that your accessories are limited and not distracting. You want the interview to be about you, not your flashy tie or dangling earrings.
Know your lines
You can expect questions about your resume at some point during your interview. This document should be memorized. You should not need to refer to your resume to answer questions about dates or grades. By answering without hesitation, you will demonstrate your ability to arrive well prepared for a particular occasion.
Be prepared to answer off-resume questions adeptly and without faltering, too. Attorneys regularly need to be able to make quick decisions and offer solid advice based on multiple factors. You will demonstrate that you possess these skills by answering questions in a way that conveys your knowledge of not only your goals, but also how they fit into the overall structure of the interviewing firm.
Don’t forget the encore
The show isn’t over when the interview is finished. Thank your audience. A handwritten thank-you note is still expected following a formal interview. Don’t rely on an email for this important step. The day after the interview, write a personal note to each person with whom you met. Only after you’ve sent a handwritten note is it acceptable to email a follow-up to inquire about your candidacy.
Enjoy your new role
Settling into a new role can be difficult. But as a new attorney you’ve moved off the page and onto the stage. May you have a long and successful run.
About the author: Todd Tenge is the founder and managing partner of Tenge Law Firm, LLC.