27.2.19 | Adv. Eleanor Stark, Adv. Sharon Eshed
Something special takes place in the law firms each March. The seats in the waiting room armchairs, most often reserved for clients awaiting meetings on legal matters are, over several consecutive days, taken by young and excited students awaiting internship interviews.
The internship stage marks the longed-for jump from academia to practice and holds the promise of being a significant first step in a legal career. This assumes that they will know how to choose a place of internship that will produce the best of this period for them. But the law firms too – for whom human capital is the main resource – it is important to recruit the most suitable interns. This is a critical choice, since interns are a major and important resource in the legal work carried out at law firms and usually characterized as teamwork and, a strong team, as the cliché says, is a winning team. Every firm is interested in ensuring it has the best in its team.
Today’s interns are also, naturally enough, tomorrow’s attorneys, and an intern who has become familiar and liked in the firm where they interned, will have precedence in getting accepted to work there. The internship period allows the firm to become acquainted with the character of the intern, their legal abilities, and of course to provide them the necessary professional skills.
So what does each one of the parties – the candidates and the firms – need to do to ensure that this special recruitment process, concentrated into a couple of crowded days of interviews in one month of the year, is crowned with success?
From the candidates’ point of view
Try to arrive for the interview a little ahead of the appointed time. This will allow you to soak in the atmosphere at the firm, stare a little at the passersby and get some sort of a general, preliminary picture of how things are conducted at the firm. Every firm is an entire world in its own right, with its own particular energies, and it is important to get an impression of it and try to understand whether you see yourselves as part of it.
In order to know what your life would be like during the internship period – what the daily routine is like, what the nature of the work is – ask to talk to an intern at the firm. It is accepted practice: there is no need to be embarrassed and it is definitely recommended to ask all the relevant questions (What does the intern do? Does he or she attend discussions and meetings together with the attorneys? Do they feel they are an inseparable part of the legal activity at the firm? And, no less importantly, what refreshments are served at Happy Hour?).
It is advisable to do some homework on the interviewers and the firms in advance. It is recommended, for example, to find out what cases are currently being handled at the firm, in which precedents or transactions the firm was involved, and who its main clients are.
And when you are asked to “Tell me about yourself”, which is repeated at almost every interview: It is important to remember – and particularly to make heard, the principal points you mentioned in your resumé, which emphasize the strong points that differentiate you from the rest. It is also advisable to prepare a random legal issue in advance and go over the wording of the law and its relevant rulings one more time, so that you can demonstrate legal proficiency during the interview.
“Pressure” is an inevitable component of the interview, and in order to maintain sharpness and energy, it is best to spread out the interviews you arrange, and don’t forget to eat and drink during the day. In any event, bear in mind that each interview is a “new page”, and even if one did not succeed, don’t despair. Extract the lessons and apply them in the next interview.
From the candidates’ point of view
The interviewing team is also required to do some homework. It should go through the candidates’ resumés before the interview and try to locate their special points of interest. Scores are important of course but, as well as these, there are quite a few other characteristics and capabilities that can be detected and that may indicate the potential success of the candidate. For example, successful integration of challenging work and studies could indicate an ability to withstand pressure. Coaching experience or a long trip with friends may attest to a good ability to work in a team. So that where a candidate thought it appropriate to make note of such details in their resumé, it is worth pausing and talking about them.
It is important to conduct the interview in a relaxed atmosphere, so that the candidate can drop their defenses and feel comfortable. An interview, by its nature, is inherently stressful, all the more so since it is being conducted during a period of high pressure and a heavy workload, when the candidates are running from firm to firm over a number of days. Since the objective is to gain an impression of the candidate, neutralizing the pressure component (insofar as it is possible to do so) will make that impression the best it could be.
Interviewers should remember that the candidate is also interviewing them and, at the end of the process of the interviews, expects to receive a number of offers from different firms. It is therefore worthwhile to dedicate part of the interview to answering the candidate’s questions about the firm and presenting the specific advantages of the internship period at your firm.
By the way, most firms have understood for quite some time that candidates today do not settle only for good salary terms and an opportunity for challenging and interesting legal work. They are interested, and rightly so, in ensuring a fun and pleasant working environment for themselves. A growing number of law firms are today investing in workplace conditions and “the extras” – including team formation activities, trips abroad, fun days out, and even shortening of the work day.
In summary, at the end of March, which is so busy with running around and meetings, the internships forms will be signed, and the best that all of us can do for ourselves in this month – interns and firms alike – is to enjoy the process, make it as interesting, superior and useful as possible. Ultimately, we are talking about people and their talents, which ensures that it will certainly not be boring.