Making a great impression at a legal internship can open doors for you professionally. However, you will need to land that internship first. One of the most stressful parts of securing a great legal internship is the interview. Law firms will want to meet with you to know that you have the interpersonal skills necessary for success.
To nail these interviews, you will need to do a significant amount of due diligence beforehand. In some ways, these interviews are similar to those you would have for any job or internship. However, the legal profession does generally present a few additional hurdles for you to overcome. Some key tips to keep in mind when it comes to acing these interviews include the following:
1. Learn about the organization ahead of time.
Before interviewing for an internship, you should have a strong understanding of the firm. Learn about the practice areas they focus on and look up some of their recent cases to get a sense of what your work would look like. Understand their mission and their former accomplishments, as well as their strategic plan for the future. Come with some insights about how you can fit into the unique environment and address some of the problems that legal professionals there face.
While no one will expect you to know everything, demonstrating that you have thought critically about what the firm does and how you could contribute to the environment shows that you have a genuine interest in working there.
2. Ask questions during the interview process.
As with any interview, you will have a chance to ask your own questions. Many candidates will come with a list of standard questions they can ask virtually any firm, but these will not make a significant impression on the interviewer.
Asking questions is another chance for you to show the legwork you have done. Think about questions relevant to that particular firm or even that interviewer if you know ahead of time who you will be speaking with. During the interview, you may also think of some new questions. Working these new questions into the conversation shows that you are paying attention and thinking critically about your potential role. These questions open up an exciting dialogue that can help build a productive relationship.
3. Practice some of the basic interview questions.
Many interviewers will ask some stock questions to get to know you better. If you work through the most common interview questions, you should have the material you need to piece together a great, compelling response. Virtually any firm will ask why you want to work there or about a challenge you have overcome in your career so far. Go over these questions with a friend, colleague, or family member.
Your law school likely has a list of questions you should be prepared to answer, but a quick Google search will give you many more. Practice these questions before each interview to refresh yourself and give yourself more time to recall any stories. Importantly, do not give completely rehearsed answers, as that sounds robotic. Instead, pull on these stories and phrases to give a genuine response.
4. Be yourself but be kind and courteous.
Ultimately, interviews are meant for organizations to get to know you better. If you try to present a fake persona, the interviewer may feel like you were misleading them once you show up with a different personality. Furthermore, if you try to fake it, you may end up slipping and making a bad impression as a result. Of course, you can still be yourself while being professional, kind, and courteous.
During your interview, you will likely interact with many people in administrative positions, and these individuals should only have great things to say about you. Professional courtesy is an important skill that interviewers look for. After all, if you cannot play nice with people before you are a part of the company, how will you interact with colleagues or clients when you are?
5. Show your gratitude with thank-you notes.
Some people may think that thank-you notes are a thing of the past, but this is not true. How you say thanks is up to you. Writing a note by hand can make a great impression, but it often takes a few days to arrive at the office. Often, an e-mailed thank-you note is just as meaningful.
In the note, reflect on some of the topics you spoke about during the interview to reiterate your interest and qualifications, but also keep it short. The note should not take more than a few seconds to read. If you write more, you should have a clear reason for doing so. Ultimately, the note shows that you were grateful for the opportunity (even if you do not get the internship), plus it can help forge strong professional connections. These notes may even distinguish you from other candidates.