The A-to-Z guide to callback interviews


I promise that this will be the last column I’ll write about law firm interviews. But as a guide for 1Ls, and (hopefully) an amusing look back for 2Ls and 3Ls…

A is for ANSWERS – “No, I don’t think that sounds interesting at all” is the wrong answer. “I’m looking for a place where I won’t have to work that hard” is also wrong. “No, I don’t sleep” usually works though.

B is for BATHROOMS – Given the hours lawyers work, it’s inevitable you’ll be using the bathroom at the office, for at least two different things (creative types can probably come up with a few more…).

C is for CAFETERIA – Related to “B” above, the better the cafeteria, the less time you’ll spend in the bathroom. One firm bragged about its cafeteria in the recruiting brochure. The interviewer I asked said it sucked.

D is for DESKS – One interviewer had papers covering his desk, his floor, and his head. Underneath his desk were more papers, some half-eaten food and a family of small rodents. “This is your future,” the rodents seemed to be saying. “Run. While you still can.”

E is for EVENINGS – Nevermind. You’ll be at work.

F is for FACE TIME – They’d say there’s no face time: “if you have nothing to do, no one expects you to be here.” But then they’d add: “…although if it’s early, like 7 or 8, people usually stick around because it looks bad;” “…but usually I’ll come in on the weekend, just so people see that I’m here;” or “…but it’s not like any associates ever leave before midnight.”

G is for GHASTLY THINGS THAT INTERVIEWERS TELL US WITHOUT REALIZING WHAT THEY’RE SAYING – “On the day of the blackout, I had a big project, so I carried my laptop with me down the 45 flights of stairs, and then got a ride into Jersey with some co-workers, just so I could plug in and get my work done;” “What’s the best thing about working here? Well, the hours suck, the work’s pretty boring, and I have no time to spend with friends and family. But what makes it all worthwhile is that when someone asks me what I do for a living, I can tell them that I work for one of the top law firms in the world. And that makes up for all the rest;” “I don’t think anyone here, if they could have looked ten years into the future, would have chosen to come here. And if they say anything different, I think they’re lying.”

H is for HOURS – Apparently the code word for long hours is, “we are not a lifestyle firm.” Better yet, from one hiring partner: “This is not a friendly place. We work hard. I used to have friends. I haven’t seen a friend since I started working here. I don’t see my family. I don’t spend time with my kids. I cancel vacations, I work weekends, I’m here well into the night. Work comes first.”

I is for IGNORANCE – “Quick – remember! Was this the web site that said summer rotation, or subsidized cafeteria??? Remember!!! Don’t look stupid!!!”

J is for JOKES – One of my less charismatic interviewers said, “I like to joke around at work. I’m one of the more relaxed, fun-loving people here.” This guy seemed about as fun-loving as Robert Blake.

K is for KEEPING THE WEIRD ONES LOCKED UP – At every firm, at least one interviewer admitted that there were some “weird ones” that they don’t let interview people. Specifically, “lice-infested beard guy,” “hunchback,” and “Kobe Bryant.”

L is for LUNCHES – Bad choices when wearing a nice suit: ribs, pasta with red sauce, lobster. Especially still alive and with those sharp claws that can tear fabric.

M is for MISTAKES – Three answers I probably shouldn’t have given: “…I took a seminar in undergrad about children’s privacy on the Internet. We talked about stuff like how one website for teenage girls asks visitors when they first started menstruating;” “Is your training all in one clump at the beginning, or is it spread out over a long time? Actually that’s a pretty stupid question. Let me think of another one;” “Yeah, I have no idea why your firm specifically.”

N is for NAKED – Tip: wear clothes to your callbacks.

O is for OH NO! I FORGOT MY WRITING SAMPLE! – Maybe it’s just the firms I interviewed at, but no one wanted a writing sample. Why did I even bother writing an Ames brief at all?

P is for PART-TIME – According to one interviewer, that means: “9-7 Monday through Thursday, occasionally a little bit on the weekend.” Yeah, I guess that’s part-time. Full-time would be all 168 hours of the week. I sleep part-time too.

Q is for QUESTIONS – “I’m all questioned out” probably wasn’t the best answer to a prompt for questions, was it?

R is for RECREATIONAL DRUGS – Maybe that’s the secret to making the lifestyle tolerable.

S is for SUITS – At least it’s business casual once you start working there.

T is for TAKING VACATIONS – One interviewer told me her firm has a policy that if you work more than 4 hours on a day you’re on vacation it doesn’t count as a vacation day. At first that sounded good. Then I realized the fact they have an actual policy about this…. Uh oh.

U is for UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION – “We’re the friendly firm,” “We’re the laid-back firm,” “We’re the humane firm,” “We’re the heartless firm.” Each firm wants its own uniqueness. But not too unique.

V is for VAULT.COM – I don’t know what the Vault rankings are actually ranking. I can’t find a methodology. Do they matter? Who knows.

W is for WINDOWS – Nice views, out every window, from every firm. They’re all on the 57th floor somewhere, so you see something. Even if it’s smog.

X is for X-PECTATIONS – In some cases, mine were honestly wrong. I was surprised, since Harvard students are never wrong about anything.

Y is for YAWNING – I sometimes couldn’t stop. It’s terrible, I know.

Z is for ZERO – As in the number of people still reading…

Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He posts commentary daily at

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