How to Get a Big Law Job Callback Interview

Arriving for a callback interview

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If all goes well at your initial OCI summer associate interviews, you’ll receive “call back” offers. A call back is an invitation to go to the firm’s office for a day, or half a day, and meet with a series of attorneys (associates and partners). Typically at least one meal is included in the schedule of events. If the office is in a different city from your law school, the firm will customarily pay for you to fly out and stay in a hotel (although it’s polite to try to schedule all of your callback interviews in a particular city for one time period, so the firms can share travel expenses).

What Happens at a Call Back

Callbacks are fairly straightforward. When you arrive at the firm, you’ll typically meet with the recruiting coordinator, who will give you water, answer any pressing logistical questions, and perhaps tell you a bit about who you’ll be interviewing with. (Ideally, you asked for the interview schedule in advance, so you had time to do recon on your interviewers. If not, listen carefully to the list now.) Your job when you meet the recruiting coordinator is basically to nod and smile. “School is going well, thanks for asking,” and so on. Do not ask any controversial questions at that point (or at any point during the day). If there are things that potentially concern you, you can always schedule a follow-up interview after you have the offer.

After you meet with the recruiting coordinator, you’ll go to your first lawyer interview. Do not expect that this person knows anything about you or has read your application materials. Attorneys are busy and may be filling in for someone who dropped out at the last minute. Be prepared to talk about yourself and answer very basic questions (which are clearly covered on your resume).

Ideally, you’ve practiced a few mildly amusing anecdotes about your time in law school (or any other safe topic) which you can use to fill time when your interviewer isn’t particularly chatty or well prepared. Be sure you can talk about anything on your resume, and be sure you’ve reviewed your writing sample and can discuss it knowledgeably. (And bring extra copies of all of your materials, in case you arrive for an interview and find the attorney has no idea who you are.)

After 20-30 minutes, either the recruiting coordinator will come back to escort you to your next appointment, or the lawyer you’re talking with will take you there. (Watching attorneys try to find the next office can be a highly amusing diversion in large offices, where most people don’t really know each other.) If you need a bathroom break, water, coffee, etc. feel free to ask.

The Next Interview

The next interview will be largely like the first, giving you the chance to further hone “your storyline.” By the end of the day, you’ll have told the same story to between 5 and 10 people, which is surprisingly exhausting! Just be prepared to be tired, and keep going.

It’s fine to ask the same basic questions of each person you talk to, so you don’t have to drive yourself nuts trying to think up exciting new questions all day long. “What type of projects are you working on? Why did you choose to work at this firm? How do you like it?” are all fine. Keep it simple!

At some point, you’ll break for a meal, typically lunch. Often, you’ll be sent to eat with two or three associates (and no partners). But don’t kid yourself — this is still part of the interview and you should act accordingly. Be careful what you order (something easy to eat that isn’t the most expensive item on the menu), don’t drink, and don’t get too friendly. These people will be reporting back on your behavior, so be professional.

After lunch, you might have more interviews (a post-lunch coffee might not be the worst idea), or you might just circle back with the recruiting coordinator. In all cases, be on your best behavior! You must be polite to everyone you encounter, from the receptionist to the managing partner. Being rude to anyone can doom your offer.

Following Up After the Interview

Once you depart, consider following up with an email or hand-written note, thanking everyone you met for their time. Lawyers live by the billable hour, so every half hour interview cost the firm between $200 and $500 dollars, roughly. At a minimum, send a note to the recruiting coordinator, thanking him for a great day and reiterating your interest in the position.

Then, it’s time to sit back and hope for the best! Firms hire on different schedules, so it might be a while before you hear (or you might have a voicemail before you get home). If you haven’t heard from a firm for a few weeks, feel free to (politely) follow up. But, hopefully, you won’t have to wait too long!