The “Dirty Dozen” Reasons Lawyers Don’t Make That First Interview

The "Dirty Dozen" Reasons Lawyers Don't Make That First Interview 2

Getting interviews is the first step in getting a new law job – we all get that.

But what are the reasons behind not even getting to the interview stage?

Harrison Barnes of B outlinesd the 12 key reasons why you may not get to the interview stage.
He points out that every lawyer is employable – apart from those facing serious ethical or criminal problems that are going to bar job prospects. The point is there are plenty of fish in the sea and sticking with it is his message.

But the job of getting a job can be a tough road indeed. As Mr Barnes points out, the legal
profession is not as welcoming as it should be.

Most attorneys get rejected before they even get an interview. If you do not get an interview there is nothing to feel bad about. If a law firm gets 300 applications for a given position (which is a realistic number), they may interview two or three people—or just one. Those are not great odds no matter what your qualifications are.

He outlines the 12 key reasons why lawyers don’t get the interview, including:

  1. The Firm Has Better Applicants for the Same Position

Once a law firm starts publicizing its open positions, it gets a lot of applicants—sometimes literally a ton of them. The odds are pretty good that out of these hundreds of applicants, many are going to have better qualifications and be better suited to the position than you.

They may harken from a more prestigious law firm, a higher-ranked law school, have more on-point experience, or be from a certain class year. You really do not need to worry about it—for the firm’s purposes, another applicant is better. This is just a fact of life and you cannot change it. Why worry?

He points out the practices of good legal recruiters, who will know what your particular skills are and market you to the firm most likely to want them – not simply to the “low hanging fruit”.

A good recruiter (and let’s remember he IS a recruiter) is key, but so too is a focus on the points that are going to make you stand out in the marketplace.

  1. You Applied Too Late

Oftentimes you may, in fact, be the most qualified applicant for the position but—for whatever reason—you apply to the position too late. Once a law firm starts interviewing and speaking with people for a position it is often reluctant to start other people in the process, especially if there is only one position available.

late1Getting an early foot in the door is key to getting a job.  Firms start “bonding” with applicants at an early stage and you’re seriously disadvantaged if you’re not there on time.  Again, a good recruiter will make sure this happens.

  1. Your Law School Is Not Good Enough

Some law firms are snobs in terms of hiring, and are only interested in individuals from certain law schools. There is not much you can do about this. If you were in the top of your class from a given law school, this is often enough to get past the gatekeeper—but not always.

This is a major bugbear for many lawyers, but it can be overcome if you’re exceptionally qualified for a particular position and also if you’re in a relatively low-competition area of practice.  There are other factors too, but those are two of the main factors negating the “best law school” rejection.

  1. Your Law School Is Too Good

Some attorneys may have attended law schools that are too good. Sometimes this makes the law firm think you are going to make trouble, feel entitled, or be likely to leave.

Some law schools churn out lawyers who don’t have staying power or create other issues relating to the culture and fit for the firm.   A feeling that you’re somehow special is a problem often – again overcome with the right approach.

  1. You Look Like You Will Move

Law firms are in the business of hiring and bringing on people who look like they are going to stay in the firm and not leave. Law firms want to hire attorneys that are likely to stick around.

“Flight risk” can be an issue for firms who are seeking not just quality in their lawyers, but also someone who is going to provide some stability and constancy for their clients.  No firm wants a constantly shifting workforce.

  1. Your Grades Are Not Good Enough

Some law firms have grade cutoffs—even for lateral partners. Gibson Dunn, for example, is known for not letting an otherwise impeccable, very high-ranking government officials due to not making their internal grade cutoffs.

gradesThe key points here is to de-emphasize the points that don’t make you feel good and emphasize those that do.  You can’t do anything about poor or average grades, but at least don’t draw attention to them.  Put your best foot forward.

  1. You Look Too Entrepreneurial

One of the things that law firms are looking for (and should be looking for) is how likely you are to be happy and stay at the law firm. If you have a history of starting various businesses and flaunt this, the law firm is going to very quickly figure out that the odds of you sticking around are going to be quite slim.

  1. Your Law Firm Experience Is Not Good Enough or Appropriate

Many legal positions require very specific experience. If you are a corporate attorney, the law firm may be seeking an attorney with IPO or other sophisticated securities experience. If you are a patent attorney, the law firm may want someone with a degree in electrical engineering and not mechanical engineering. If you are a litigator, the law firm may want someone with experience doing trials.

  1. Firms Do Not Like That You Are Not Working in a Law Firm

Law firms typically are quite prejudiced against attorneys who are not currently working inside of law firms. While there are some exceptions (judicial clerkships, for example), most law firms want to hire people coming directly from law firms and not people who are in-house or from the government.

  1. You Are Currently Unemployed

6509335909_d560397040_nLaw firms look down on candidates who are unemployed. Law firms want to hire people that are in demand. They like to feel they are “wooing” someone and getting a hot commodity.

Firms get anxious about people who are fired or who quit, but there can be good reasons for either – such as restructuring activity, major setbacks for the firm, mergers or personal events and family crises etc.  A good recruiter will frame the appropriate gap in your employment history in order to put you in the best light rather than having your characterised as someone likely to leave them or take out some anger and frustration upon them.

  1. They Do Not Like Your Sex, Race, Sexual Orientation, Political Party, Extracurricular Activities, Or Obvious Issues You Have in Your Background

After September 11th, I remember that a few very strong candidates I had with Arabic last names simply could not get interviews in New York City. I am not sure if there was something prejudicial going on, but it sure looked that way to me.

There are law firms all over the country that are composed only of men. There are others that are composed only of women. There are other law firms that are composed only of African Americans. There are law firms that are composed entirely of Democrats and others that are composed entirely of Republicans.

So the way to approach these “special interest” firms is to either focus upon your ‘qualification’ to join them or, if you do not possess the requisite orientation then you can remove or de-emphasize in your resume.

  1. You Are Too Old

If you had a career prior to law school, or attended law school later in life, you may be an older attorney. Law firms prefer younger attorneys because they are generally less jaded, willing to work much harder, and are more impressionable (i.e., they will do what they are told). If you are an older attorney, law firms will generally avoid you.

Clearly it’s difficult to do much about your age much as we would all like to try.  However a recruiter who knows his or her job will work hard to focus on your experience, skills and “limitless energy” Mr Harrison tells us.

Source: BCG Search
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