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Top Tips for On Campus Interviewing

Summer is here – and with it comes OCI season. If you’re a rising 2L, you may be looking ahead to the recruiting season and wondering how to navigate your way through all the activity and competing options. We thought it would be useful to set out some of the questions we are often asked, to try to take some mystery out of the process and empower you to deliver your best interview performance when it counts.

I always hear that great first impressions are crucial – but how do I do that?

The most effective way to make a great first impression is to stay organized, upbeat and energized. Your schedule during OCI will be busy – it’s busy for interviewers too – and it’s important to find ways to be as positive during your last interview as you were during your first. Make sure you’re well-rested and that you do your prep work well in advance so that you’re not panicking at the last minute. Finally, it might sound basic, but smile and introduce yourself when your meeting starts (whether in person and online) – yes, they already know who you are, but a warm, confident greeting sets a great tone, and will go a long way in settling your own nerves.

How do I make myself stand out from the crowd?

The best way to stand out is to be prepared for your interview! Think about what is important to you, in terms of your legal training, your areas of interest, and your future career aspirations. Make sure you do some research on the firms with which you are interviewing – most firms highlight key information on their website. There’s no need to parrot that information at interview, but preparing in advance will allow you to use that background to inform your answers and show the interviewers that your interest in the firm is genuine. Showing your curiosity and your enthusiasm about the practice of law will go a long way to making people remember you.

“For firms you are interested in, I recommend taking the time early to get to know the attorneys to the best of your ability. Reaching out to schedule a phone or zoom call with an attorney allows you learn about their work, the firm overall, and ultimately decide whether it is a good fit for you. It’s also a great way to learn more about what qualities and characteristics would make a candidate a great fit for the firm which can help you in future conversations.” – Paul Hastings Summer Associate

Are there standard interview questions I can prepare for?

Every interview (and interviewer!) is different, but there are some topics that you can and should think about in advance. The interviewers will be trying to get to know you in a very short space of time during OCI, so their questions will be designed to get an idea of you and your potential as quickly as possible. Be prepared to answer some big picture questions, such as, “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” and “Why are you interested in our firm?” or variations on those areas. If you have thought about those in advance, it will make it easier for you to think on your feet in response to new questions. Also, make sure that you are familiar with your own resumé – if there is anything on there that you want to make sure the interviewers remember about you, make sure it’s part of your responses!

“Regardless of the student's path to law school, or their 1L summer job, a great interviewee can communicate effectively about the skills they have learned/acquired and how they will apply those skills as a summer associate at the firm.” – Paul Hastings Associate

Am I allowed to ask questions too?

Of course! Interviewers (particularly once you get to callbacks) will ensure that there is plenty of time for your questions and it’s a good idea to have some questions ready so you are not caught out. Think about what you want to know about the firm and about your future career there. If there is a particular practice area you are interested in, you could ask about those opportunities. You could ask questions about pro bono opportunities. You could focus your questions on learning more about the culture of a firm – why did your interviewer join the firm, and what keeps them there? What was your interviewer’s OCI and summer experience, and do they have any advice? You might have questions arising from the interview itself, but having some others ready is always a good idea.

How do I prepare for an online interview? Is it different?

For online interviews, the process and the content will be much the same, but you need to make sure that you treat it as seriously and as formally as you would an in-person interview. Make sure you dress appropriately and that you find a quiet location conducive for a meeting, even for a casual call. If you can, prepare the space a little – make sure there’s no distracting background, elevate your laptop so the camera is at eye level and ideally ensure there is natural light behind the camera (facing you). If none of that is available, no problem – just make sure you have peace and quiet and that you give your conversation your undivided attention.

Are there any common mistakes you see from candidates?

The only thing we would highlight is that some candidates are (understandably) so focused on their own interviews and future career that they can forget there are other people involved in the process! We want you to have the best possible experience of OCI and callbacks, but every firm is handling processes at multiple law schools, and that can sometimes create challenges. It helps us a lot when students are considerate and communicative, so try to keep recruiting teams informed about your availability, be patient with busy schedules, and respond quickly when callbacks are being booked in.

“Interview season is a busy time for all - recruiting staff, attorneys, and especially, law students! Communication is key. It’s always helpful to keep the recruiting professionals updated on your interviewing timelines and offer deadlines. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for follow up visits. If you’re no longer interested in the firm, let us know, so we can spend more time with your classmates and colleagues – we promise, we won’t be offended! If you’re comfortable sharing the names of the firms you are interviewing with, it can help us get a better sense of who we should connect you with to learn more. Ultimately, we want you to find the right fit for you and we’ll do what we can to help make that happen!” – Paul Hastings Recruiting Professional

If there is one piece of advice you would offer, what would it be?

Be yourself! This is your opportunity to find the firm where you think you could spend a large part of your career – being yourself at interview is a great start to that process. You can learn a lot in every interview from not just what is being said but how it’s said. It’s important to figure out if you will have the work opportunities you are looking for, but also if this will be a working environment that will be a good fit for you personally - are these the people you can see yourself working with and learning from?

We hope that these tips can help you feel prepared and calm ahead of the busy recruiting season. We wish you great success in securing the summer associate position that you are looking for!


See this article and more on the Vault Law blog.