You luck out and you get the elevator to yourself. The numbers tick slowly as you ascend. You use the time to straighten out your outfit and take a few deep breaths (don’t forget your paper bag). You walk towards the reception and put on your best smile while letting them know you’ve arrived. Congratulations, you just started your in-firm interview.
It’s easy to lose perspective during this process. Hell, reading this won’t make it any less stressful. But try and remember how far you’ve come, and what that means for the dynamic between the firm and you. Law firms take in hundreds upon hundreds of applications. Less than a tenth will get an offer for an OCI. A handful of those get to meet in-firm. Your resume and transcript have been vetted over and over again. By lawyers too, so you know they’ve been thorough. You deserve to be here. You’ve earned it.
They’ve already decided you’re smart enough, now use the in-firm to show why you’re a fit for the team. Tailor your conversations to highlight why they can count on you sticking around, and why you’re the kind of person they want to stick around. Don’t be alarmed if the interview is conversational. Small talk is good! It’s a bridge that connects you on a human level. It means they’ll walk away from the interview thinking warm fuzzy thoughts about you. But keep your mind on your messaging. The goal is to make sure they walk away thinking warm fuzzy thoughts about the candidate who’s shown their passion and enthusiasm for the firm. Drop those anecdotes you prepped in front of the mirror, and link it back to a selling point. Leadership skills, innovative researching, appetite for challenges, whatever you have. If the firm is one of your top choices, be unequivocally clear about it.
Commitment matters for both sides. Have a few questions locked and loaded, because they will ask you what you want to know. They’re interested in selling themselves to you as much as you are to them. They know there are dozens of other firms hungry for good talent. Use that opportunity to show you’ve spent time looking into them. Into their student program. Into their specialties. Ask questions that engage beyond the typical “I like law, so I want to be a lawyer” drabble they hear from every candidate. Don’t fret if you don’t know exactly what type of law you want to go into. If it’s a boutique firm, obviously tailor your messaging accordingly. But it’s not unusual to go into full-service firms with very general interests. Turn that into a selling point, ask what kind of opportunities their summer programs allow for students to find their passion. But most of all, be yourself.
Remember that time in the elevator? Use it to remind yourself that you’re here for a reason. You made the great impression during the OCI, now more members of the firm want to meet that person. They’re looking for someone to work with for years to come. So don’t be afraid to let the personality come out, make that goofy (but workplace appropriate) joke you were holding in. That’s the part of the process you can control. Sometimes, it’ll go sideways. But take that as a message to you as well as the firm. You’re also trying to find a place to build a career and a life around. In-firms aren’t the end of the world. You’ve caught the attention of some of the biggest law firms in the country, but there are plenty of others out there, where you can find a happier and more fulfilling opportunity. Don’t lose perspective, this process is just as much about you finding your right fit as it is them finding theirs. So above all else, be yourself. You’ve earned it.