Navigating the Recruiting Season – Be Where You Want to Be
The August recruiting season is just around the corner, and, at this point, your days are probably filled with interview preparation, resume building and mock interviews. Before you consider the hypothetical questions you’re about to be asked by potential interviewers, you should take this time to ask yourself some important questions. Deciding where you want to be, both geographically and fit wise, is something you should consider before stepping foot into your first interview. A little research and self-reflection will help you narrow the scope of your search and clarify the number of choices that you will be left with in just a few short weeks. This post will provide you with some “food for thought” as you embark upon the interviewing process.
Decisions before decisions
Before your first interview, you are going to need to select the employers to whom you want to apply. While some students go the route of “casting a wide net” and apply to any and all firms, and others try to set up interviews with the top-ranked firms, we recommend another option. Decide where you want to be, and then find the firms that match your desired outcome. One approach is to make a list based on three criteria:
- geographic location
- firm fit
- practice areas
- Geographic Location
Your geographic preference is a great way to narrow down the firms to which you may want to apply. A firm may be well-regarded by the industry, but if you’re certain of a career in a particular city, there is no point in applying to a firm that does not have an office in that location. Similarly, a summer associateship is no time for a “summer vacation” in a particular city. The city in which you spend your summer is presumably the place that you are going to start your legal career. Expect that you will be working in this location for at least the first few years of your practice. While transfers to other offices can occasionally happen, they are the exception, not the rule. If you are still torn between a firm’s offices in two different cities , the interview is certainly a great opportunity to ask about the differences between them.
When narrowing down your city choice, do not forget to consider:
- your comfort level in the area (Do you know where you might want to live? Can you manage the transportation? Are there friends or family around?)
- specific practice “hubs” (D.C. for government work, Texas for the oil and gas industry, etc.).
Thinking about your geographic expectations ahead of time allows you to eliminate firms without your interested locations, and enables you to ask specific questions about particular markets during the interview process.
- Firm Fit
When you are contemplating where you want to be, you should also equally consider the type of firm and culture in which you believe you will thrive. Do you enjoy working in small teams? Eliminating the firms with extremely large summer programs can simplify the list of potential employers that you may be considering. Speak with students in the class year above you about where they spent their summer and what they liked about their summer program. While a firm’s Vault ranking can be a useful tool in learning about an organization, information gathered from students who already summered at a firm can be invaluable. Reflecting on the atmosphere in which you will excel will allow you to prioritize and target the best places for you and your interests.
- Practice Areas
Your time as a summer associate is a great opportunity to go into the season with an open mind in terms of practice area. That said, you should think about possible practice area interests before applying to firms. If you are interested in entertainment and media, you may want to eliminate firms that do not offer that specific work. On the other hand, keeping an open mind allows you to consider areas you might not have previously considered.
Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind
- The industry changes. When considering geographic locations and the makeup of people and practices at a firm, check to see if any major announcements are being made. Firm mergers, major partner or practice moves, and additional office openings are all factors that can change the dynamics of the firms you are considering. A quick online search of the news stories relating to a firm may be a reason to add or remove a potential employer from your bid list.
- Be honest. With yourself and with your employers, be targeted in your decision-making. Remember that firms are likely tracking your applications and can see if you have multiple cover letters promising your 100 percent devotion to multiple locations. Most firms prefer that you selectively apply. While being open is a great characteristic, applications to literally every law office indicate that a candidate has not started thinking about career decisions, or is not serious about long term plans.
- Go into the interview with a game plan. The interview process is, of course, not just a way for firms to get to know you, but also a valuable way for you to learn more about the firms and what differentiates them. Having your goals narrowed down while going into the process allows you to interview with a more select number of employers, and to have targeted questions prepared that will really get to the heart of the goals you have identified as most important to you. Considering where you want to be at the start can help you get there in the end, and it is very likely that your hard work will become evident during the interviews and pay off in the long run.
For more tips and insights, check out some of our prior posts and links to additional recommended reading.
Finding the Right Law Firm Fit – How to Use Career Profiles
The Artful Curator: Creating the Big List That’s Right for You
Recommended Reading: Finding Your Cultural Fit