“What’s the biggest mistake someone can make when interviewing for a law firm?” The Experts Answer

Posted: October 07, 2016


As a follow up to our previous post Get That Job At Your Dream Law Firm: A Visual Guide on How To Ace Your Interview, for your benefit, we also asked the experts the most pressing question that all new lawyers want to know about interviewing at a law firm:  “What’s the biggest mistake someone can make when interviewing for a law firm?”

“The advice I always give students interviewing is that it is like a date. They’ve already decided you’ve got the credentials. The question is whether you’ll be a good fit, personality-wise, in the office. And, the question for you, law student, is whether this office is a good fit for you. So don’t take it to heart if you don’t get a job–it isn’t necessarily about how well you did–it’s possible it is just about whether this is a good long-term relationship. And, interviewees should be checking out the interviewer and making sure the office is a good fit for them.”

Jennifer Carr
Academic Success Program
UNLV/Boyd School of Law


“One of the biggest interview mistakes that we try to “correct” is the law student or graduate feeling so nervous and off-balance by the interview process. I encourage my students to take more control of the situation, which helps with the feelings of being powerless and at the mercy of the interviewer and interviewing process. I remind the students that the interview is about them and THEY are the experts in themselves – it’s up to each student to make sure that the interviewer knows what the student wants/needs them to know about their skills, experiences, accomplishments, etc. Not all interviewers are good ones – they may not ask the “right” questions – so it’s up to the student to make sure they convey all of the relevant information and not to wait until they’re specifically asked. I encourage each student to prepare a list of 4-5 items that they want the interviewer to leave the interview knowing about them and then I work with the students on ways to weave those items into conversation. One of the most intimidating situations a potential employee can face during the interview is when the interviewer is prepared only with “Tell me about yourself.” At that point, I want my students to be able to jump in with an organized and relevant list of qualifications and strengths.”

Laura E. Yearout, JD
Sr. Director, Center for Professional Development & Career Strategy
Emory Law School


“The biggest mistake a candidate can make when interviewing at a law firm is not having prepared for the interview and done thorough research on the particular law firm. A candidate should come to an interview prepared to discuss the firm’s mission, practice areas, attorneys and their backgrounds, recent accomplishments, etc. and should have well thought out and well-reasoned questions for the interviewers that demonstrate that research. Preparing for the interview shows interest and enthusiasm on the part of the candidate.”

Alisa N. Benedict O’Brien, Esq. | Director, Career Planning
The University of Akron School of Law


“Sure, that is an easy one for my perspective: To appear disorganized and directionless. Although many applicants think that they should appear willing to be a utility player and take any position or task that is needed, most employers want someone that already has a sense of direction, a goal, and at least a loose plan to achieve that goal. That said, the applicant should also be flexible and willing to adopt another direction/goal and come up with a new plan to achieve that goal. This is what is meant by “a sense of purpose.”

George W. Kuney
Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law and
Director, James L. Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law
The University of Tennessee College of Law


“Not doing research on a firm prior to the interview is a big mistake too often made. Coming into an interview without some sort of basic knowledge about practice areas or scope of work shows a lack of excitement and interest, and in some cases, can make you look wholly unprepared.”

Jennifer Zwagerman
Director of Career Development


“· Not being familiar with the law firm and/or interviewers / firm’s clients.

· Not being familiar enough with your writing sample / publications to discuss

· Bringing up weak points instead of selling your strengths”

Erin Phifer, JD, LLM
Director of Career Services
& Employer Relations
Paul M. Hebert Law Center
Louisiana State University


“The biggest mistake someone can make is neglecting to mock interview prior to interviewing – whether with a career services coach, alumni, mentor or anyone else who can provide valuable feedback.”

Dorian Varga, MIT
Lead Career Coach & Academic Advisor
Student & Career Services
William H. Gates Hall

university of washinton

“Biggest mistake: Failing to have any experience in a law firm prior thereto. One should intern/clerk during law school to have the requisite skills to work in a law firm after passing the bar.”

Kevin Mauseth, Esq.
Director of Admissions
Southern California Institute of Law

southern california institute of law

“The biggest mistake is not researching the law firm before interviewing. Applicants need to know something about the firm they are interviewing with or the applicant will never appear sincere.”

Lori Freeman, JD
Director of Admissions & Career Services
Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana

university of montana

“From my perspective, the answer is that the biggest mistake is when someone pretends to be interested in the law firm’s area of expertise when they are not just to get the job. It doesn’t make the applicant or the law firm happy in the long run when a new employee has no real interest in a particular area of practice or the desire to develop an interest.”

Eric F. Walker | Assistant Dean for Career Services
UALR William H. Bowen School of Law

university of arkansas

“Not being (the best version of) yourself.”

Robin K. Craig
William H. Leary Professor of Law
University of Utah
S.J. Quinney College of Law
university of utah