Megan Corsetti is the Recruiting Manager for Bracewell LLP’s Washington, DC and New York offices and has previously worked with law students in law firms and career services roles.
If you’ve ever interviewed for an internship or job, you know that at some point prospective employers will ask you why you’re interested in their organization. Employers view this question as a complete softball, but unless you’ve prepared it can be hard to substantively answer this broad question. While there’s no “wrong answer” to the question, the best answers demonstrate a genuine understanding of what sets a firm apart in terms of work and culture.
So how do you demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of a firm’s unique offering? Here are four tips you can used during on-campus and callback interviews to help you knock it out of the park, so you can focus on sharing why the firm should be interested in you.
TIP 1 Do Foundational Research
You’ve probably heard this before, and yet students sometimes get firms confused during OCI. There are a lot of details involved, and you need a clear sense of the basics for each firm where you have interviews. Start off with researching where the firm is located, how many offices they have, what cities have summer programs, and other basic firm info. You need to know details like if they have a large summer class in Houston and a smaller class in DC. Talk to your career center to get their historical statistics on firms before you interview. Another great place to look is the NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Most BigLaw firms have office-specific forms that allow you to see their past and projected summer hiring numbers, if they previously recruited at your law school, as well as information about some of their key practices. You can track all this info in Excel for easy sorting during the OCI interview process.
TIP 2 Determine Specific Firm Details
Once you have the basics in place, visit the firm website to review their summer program overview page. This page is devoted to providing information on mentoring, training, and how summer work assignments are structured (for example, do they prefer a rotation or pool system?). After you review the summer program page, jump over to the practice overviews. Firms expect 1L and 2L students to have limited prior exposure to practices and no coursework related to niche practices. Ideally, you’ll assess if you want to try litigation or transactional work over the summer, and maybe find one or two more specific practices (finance, for instance), under those categories. While the NALP Directory of Legal Employers will tell you how many attorneys work in each practice—which is key information—you’ll want to learn what types of clients firms represent in litigation, or specific deals they have recently closed. For that, you need to look at the practice overviews and some attorney bios. This individual firm research brings you closer to crafting a solid response on the work and cultural piece of this question. If you’re still unsure about your practice preferences afterward, you can say you are open to trying all our practices or ask to speak with some attorneys to learn more.
TIP 3 Talk to Us
Which brings us to our favorite tip—talk to us! Interviewing is an opportunity for candidates, summer associates, and lawyers to start developing meaningful relationships. Engage with a firm early on by attending networking events and speaking with the attorneys in attendance. This will put you in a good position to understand what’s unique about a firm. Firms are regularly on campus, and our alumni love meeting law students and sharing their experiences. This can be a great opportunity to learn why lawyers chose—and keep choosing—a particular firm. If you aren’t sure about how to distinguish one firm from another, you can turn the question around and share what you are looking for in a firm and ask a lawyer how their firm fits those criteria. After your networking conversations, write down notes and track the names of the attorneys you met at the event, and send them a brief thank you. You can also use LinkedIn to your advantage. Look up prior summer associates or attorneys that were alumni at your law school and contact them to set up a coffee chat or information interview over Webex.
TIP 4 Put the Pieces Together (and Create a System to Remember It)!
Now that you’ve done your web research and talked to lawyers at your preferred firms, you’ll want to put all that info to good use in this interview response. While there’s no right answer, here’s an example of an answer that could work well to the “why us” question: I’m interested in Bracewell because your Houston 1L & 2L summers get to rotate through several practices and work closely with their mentors on actual client work assignments. I also talked to ____ who summered at Bracewell last year, and they said they loved their Finance rotation and the warm, open culture on that team in Houston.” This response shows that you did your research, you took the time to meet people who know the firm, and you thought about why this would be important to you at the beginning of your practice. Now that you know your answer you need to make sure you remember it (even if you’re nervous during interviews). One strategy we’ve seen work well at OCI is to have an index card with your answer to this question for each firm. That way you remember the unique things you worked so hard to learn, and why you want to work there.
In the same way you’re learning about us, interviewers want to leave the conversation with a better sense of your experience and what you could add to a firm. Think about your answers to questions about your hobbies, meaningful volunteer work, and things that aren’t on your resume.
While we know each student’s answer to this “why us” question can be as different as the student who’s interviewing, we hope these tips help you form a plan to answer it moving forward. Firms really are hoping to hire summer associates who will be at the firm for years to come, and a thoughtful and informed answer can set you apart on an interview schedule.
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