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“Solicitors are boring”, and other interview fails

I hate interviewing. Actually, that’s not true – a lot of the time I find interviews interesting and stimulating. But some candidates, especially for paralegal positions, make it really hard…

So, as a service to aspiring lawyers everywhere, here are my top tips for making your interview less of an ordeal for your interviewer. All examples are true fact.

1. Turn up. Or at least, y’know, let me know if you’re not going to. If you don’t, it’s just me on my own in a meeting room. Waiting. Looking at my watch. And waiting some more.

You might think it’s no thing, not turning up for somebody that you’ll never see again (or even for the first time). But think: I’m a potential client or boss or opponent. And all that waiting, and the extra hour of work I have to put in the evening to make up for the time I spent waiting? I will remember it.

2. If you do turn up, try to look and act like a potential lawyer. Don’t flash me. Don’t come straight from the gym, bright red and carrying an enormous kit bag. And for God’s sake, don’t dribble.

And what’s with the cloud of perfume/aftershave? I admit that “not smelling bad” is somewhere on my candidate checklist, but really, I’m not going to hire someone that I’m allergic to.

3. Try to have a clue. For example, when I ask you about your career plans, know the difference between barristers and solicitors.

4. Understand who you’re speaking to. In particular, if you’re explaining why you ultimately want to be a barrister, you may wish to avoid saying that it’s because “solicitors are boring”.

Also, if you find that I’m less than attentive to your detailed account of the six months you spent interning in a family law firm, that’s because I’M INTERVIEWING YOU FOR A JOB IN COMMERCIAL LAW.

5. Don’t get angry. Ok, when you asked before the interview whether you need to prepare anything specific, we said no. And yes, we’ve asked you about some actual law. But it really doesn’t help you to present your best self if you get in a huff about it. In the interview. With the General Counsel.

6. No really, try to have a clue. When I ask you about the legal aspects of your current job in pre-litigation debt recovery, reporting to the company solicitor, it’s quite likely that I’m not looking for the answer “there aren’t any really”.

7. Don’t be needy. If you don’t get the position, don’t call to tell me plaintively that you really are the right person for the job. You already had the chance to tell me that, and I decided that you’re not. Now it’s just the equivalent of a football player trying to get the ref to take back the red card. And have you ever seen a referee do that?

All of the foregoing is entertaining, and no-one who’s serious about becoming a lawyer will make those mistakes. But plenty of good candidates don’t convince in person, so here’s my one big genuine interview tip:

8. Bring your A-game. You can be nervous, you can take your time, you can even stutter. But you need to be able to have a discussion about the law and about business, and that means that you need to be switched on and that you need to think on your feet.

That isn’t about experience or age. I’ll cut my questions to the cloth of the candidates, so I don’t ask paralegals about hard law or commercial conundrums. You just need to be able to see the law at work in your life as it is now, and to be able to talk about that and connect it to the position that you’re applying for. If you can do that, you’re a lawyer already.


2 responses to ““Solicitors are boring”, and other interview fails

  1. Julian Summerhayes November 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Solicitors boring! More likely they suffer from an inverse sense of their own importance. They think that ipso facto they have a law degree and that makes them better than everyone else. It doesn’t and they need to move on. Interviewing. Now I did that for 5 years before qualifying as a lawyer (sounds way cooler and C list celebrity than a solicitor). The question that always floored the candidates who wanted a training contract was: “Why do you want to be a solicitor”. 101 stuff. Let’s hope the post gets some mileage.

    Just a wee point, I would tag your stuff and give it some categories. It just makes it easier to find.


  2. Pingback: Am I the world’s worst boss? « The Bizzle

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