Interviewing for a Legal Job? Research, Research, Research


Any time you ask a colleague or friend for guidance about interviewing for a legal job, you’re likely to hear, among other tips, that you need to do solid research on the company where you've applied.

It’s good advice: If you can show the hiring manager that you’re knowledgeable about the company, you come off as diligent, conscientious and truly interested in the organization and the position. You also give the hiring manager good reason to believe you’ll come well prepared to meetings and court appearances. You demonstrate that you’re serious about your career and selective about where you are choosing to work. And you’ll likely avoid embarrassing mistakes, like asking about a practice area the firm doesn’t have.

So how do you go about gathering this information, and what do you need to know? Here are a few pointers:

The best sources

Often, the best source of information is the company’s website. Read it thoroughly and make sure to review the “Newsroom” or “Press” tab – that’s where you’ll find the company’s news releases, which will provide information about the firm’s most recent accomplishments. Spend some time on the organization’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, too, for insight about its priorities and point of view. Finally, search the company’s name on Google and read any recent news coverage so you’ll be able to discuss the latest happenings if they come up during the interview.

The most important information

Before your interview, make sure you learn the basics about the particular company. That means its mission and locations, to start. If you’re applying for a position with a legal firm, also find out its key practice areas, including which ones are well established and which ones are new; research the names of the partners, along with their backgrounds and specialties. If you’re talking with a corporate law department, make sure you understand the business focus of the company.

Having this information at hand is not just about avoiding gaffes or impressing the hiring manager with your answer to the classic question, “What do you know about this firm?” The more you know about these things, the more effectively you’ll be able to show the interviewer how your skills and expertise align with those of the firm or organization.

What you don’t know…

You want to come prepared, but no amount of research is going to tell you everything you need to know about the organization. Remember that you can learn a lot about a legal job and the corporate culture by asking targeted questions of the interviewer. This can help you determine whether the employer is right for you.

Depending on your priorities, consider asking questions about the responsibilities of the position, how cases are staffed, what kind of experience associates get in their first years on the job, or about the firm’s growth prospects. It’s always a good idea to ask the interviewer what he or she likes in particular about the firm, and what may need to change. It’s never a good idea, though, to ask about salary, benefits or vacation time during the first interview.

Like the old adage goes, preparation is half the battle. If you’re unprepared when you go into an interview for a legal job, you’ll likely find yourself flustered and lacking confidence, and you might make a mistake. But if you’ve done your research, you’ll feel more poised, relaxed and ready to make the case that you’re the right person for the position.

For more advice on interviewing for legal jobs, see: “Legal Job Interviewing Tips: Strategies to Stand Out from the Crowd.”