0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

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Perseus_I
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0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby Perseus_I » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:23 am

What do you do when an interviewer asks what office you want, asks one or two (or 0) questions about your resume, and then asks, "What can I tell you about the firm?" When I ask questions about the firm, the interviewers typically spend a long time answering and then ask for more questions. In the best situations, it's sort of a dialogue. Frequently, it's more like a monologue.

I have heard somewhere that you are supposed to somehow weave in details about how you would be a good fit into this conversation. But, as a somewhat shy person, I have difficulty doing this. I have gone through some interviews where the conversation is 80-90% them talking and almost all the conversation is about the firm rather than me. I am good at giving decent-length, well-thought out answers when they actually ask me questions; I can certainly make decent small talk if an interviewer will take the lead, as happened in a few interviews, but if they barely even give me time to speak, I am probably not going to stand out in any way.

I know this is a bad place to be in, but taking control of a conversation is not something I am really able to do. Even if I were able to do so, it seems like it could easily be awkward/inappropriate. Isn't an interview supposed to involve them asking questions? How are you supposed to do an interview when you really have no space to speak? Dropping out has certainly come to mind recently since this profession is seeming less and less like a good fit. Any more constructive advice?

I actually have one of the more interesting resumes (by law student standards). It's a shame when the interviewer hasn't even looked at it. These are preselects, by the way.

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Re: Lazy Interviewers

Postby bdubs » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:38 am

Every single legal interview I have been in has inevitably turned to this back and forth of questions about the firm.

IMO, the key to this is really to build on what you're given. Have some broad questions in mind and try to know the facts about the firm as well as you can. Ask a follow up question about a part of the answer that you were given that allows you to work in your knowledge of the firm.

It's hard to write out a good example of a back and forth on this (i tried, it was a bad demonstration). I think the key things are 1) not asking questions with clear answers 2) asking questions that show you're interested in the work that the firm/interviewer does 3) ask follow up questions that show you're both listening and informed 4) keeping the interviewer talking as much as possible.

You generally want the interviewer to talk more than you do, but not because they are just filling a void left by your inability to carry on a conversation. Good interviews are like good cocktail party conversations, people want to feel like they are important. Asking good questions will bring that out.

PS - Having this come up early is not a bad sign. Unlike some other industries, I actually think substantive questions in a legal interview can indicate that the interviewer is unsure about something on your resume and wants to test your answers on that topic. If you've jumped the hurdles sufficiently on paper, it seems like going straight to "What can I tell you about the firm?" is the standard response.

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Perseus_I
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Re: Lazy Interviewers

Postby Perseus_I » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:44 am

bdubs wrote:Every single legal interview I have been in has inevitably turned to this back and forth of questions about the firm.

IMO, the key to this is really to build on what you're given. Have some broad questions in mind and try to know the facts about the firm as well as you can. Ask a follow up question about a part of the answer that you were given that allows you to work in your knowledge of the firm.

It's hard to write out a good example of a back and forth on this (i tried, it was a bad demonstration). I think the key things are 1) not asking questions with clear answers 2) asking questions that show you're interested in the work that the firm/interviewer does 3) ask follow up questions that show you're both listening and informed 4) keeping the interviewer talking as much as possible.

You generally want the interviewer to talk more than you do, but not because they are just filling a void left by your inability to carry on a conversation. Good interviews are like good cocktail party conversations, people want to feel like they are important. Asking good questions will bring that out.


This is encouraging. I think it's not that I can't carry the conversation. It's that I am given very little opportunity to do so. I tried to ask broad questions that could not be answered by the firm's website: "So, you have this rotational system like X which is different than firm Y in this way, how does it work in practice"? Or "what was it that drew you to firm X?" These questions draw very long answers.

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thesealocust
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby thesealocust » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:06 am

The cocktail party point is spot on. It's like a game to see if you can get a conversation started -- but if the interview starts with "so what can I tell you about the firm?" it's like 10,000x harder because you have to carry almost all of the water for the first few rounds.

No magic bullet though, just ask about the firm and hope you can riff off of their answers to get a conversation started.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby piccolittle » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:16 am

Hate this. Just reinforces that I'm going to prep my ass off for OCI - luckily all of the firms I'm going to see are ones I'm really interested in, so my questions will actually be genuine instead of desperate time-fillers.

Callback last week, feeling like death with a horrible cold that I couldn't shake. Ate 5 cough drops in the car and blew my nose 10x but still felt like my head had been forcibly stuffed with cotton. Walk into first interview with a partner I'd met socially.

Her: "Well I already like you..."
Me: *AWESOME*
Her: "... so this is mostly an opportunity to ask me anything you'd like to know about the firm."
*CRAP*

Gonna prepare like hell for the next one, I tell ya.
Last edited by piccolittle on Wed Aug 08, 2012 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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drmguy
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby drmguy » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:22 am

I'm tagging pretty much every useful OCI thread. I'll contribute next week when my screeners are done.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:45 am

Yeah, I have no idea how to react either.

keg411
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby keg411 » Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:51 am

Caveat: I wasn't a particularly good interviewer, but I found the best way to handle this question was just to ask the interviewer about himself/herself and how they came to the firm and what their experiences have been like and just hope that the conversation takes you back to stuff about yourself. Plus, people tend to like talking about themselves.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:54 am

piccolittle wrote:Hate this. Just reinforces that I'm going to prep my ass off for OCI - luckily most of the firms I'm going to see are ones I'm really interested in, so my questions will actually be genuine instead of desperate time-fillers.

Callback last week, feeling like death with a horrible cold that I couldn't shake. Ate 5 cough drops in the car and blew my nose 10x but still felt like my head had been forcibly stuffed with cotton. Walk into first interview with a partner I'd met socially.

Her: "Well I already like you..."
Me: *AWESOME*
Her: "... so this is mostly an opportunity to ask me anything you'd like to know about the firm."
*CRAP*


Gonna prepare like hell for the next one, I tell ya.

OMG I had this interview at a callback hahaha. I felt like it was some sort of test: what would you do if you thought you already had someone's recommendation in the bag?

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:05 pm

Do you guys think that if they asked you that question, that means your grades just didn't cut it (so they have no interest in you)?....because you'd think that lazy interviewers are still probably given a list of questions by the hiring committee.

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thesealocust
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby thesealocust » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you guys think that if they asked you that question, that means your grades just didn't cut it (so they have no interest in you)?


Nope. At least sometimes, it's just how some interviewers do things.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you guys think that if they asked you that question, that means your grades just didn't cut it (so they have no interest in you)?....because you'd think that lazy interviewers are still probably given a list of questions by the hiring committee.


Two callbacks -> offers where I was not asked anything more than this by EVERY SINGLE ATTORNEY. It is certainly not a sign that your grades don't cut it.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby TTH » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:32 am

I got that question the very first question of a screener. I thought the guy was disinterested and said to hell with it, so I asked him about origination credits and when associates started getting a budget for business development. Got a callback.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby PennBull » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:39 am

TTH wrote:I got that question the very first question of a screener. I thought the guy was disinterested and said to hell with it, so I asked him about origination credits and when associates started getting a budget for business development. Got a callback.


What are these?

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TTH
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby TTH » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:57 am

PennBull wrote:
TTH wrote:I got that question the very first question of a screener. I thought the guy was disinterested and said to hell with it, so I asked him about origination credits and when associates started getting a budget for business development. Got a callback.


What are these?


Real question?

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PennBull
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby PennBull » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:10 am

TTH wrote:
PennBull wrote:
TTH wrote:I got that question the very first question of a screener. I thought the guy was disinterested and said to hell with it, so I asked him about origination credits and when associates started getting a budget for business development. Got a callback.


What are these?


Real question?


Well now I feel like an idiot for asking, but yeah, I don't know how these things apply to a law firm context.

I'm not one to hide my stupidity behind the anonymous user function.

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sambeber
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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby sambeber » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:13 am

PennBull wrote:
TTH wrote:
PennBull wrote:
TTH wrote:I got that question the very first question of a screener. I thought the guy was disinterested and said to hell with it, so I asked him about origination credits and when associates started getting a budget for business development. Got a callback.


What are these?


Real question?


Well now I feel like an idiot for asking, but yeah, I don't know how these things apply to a law firm context.

I'm not one to hide my stupidity behind the anonymous user function.


http://lmgtfy.com/?q=origination+credits

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=business+development+budget

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby PennBull » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:17 am

sambeber wrote:http://lmgtfy.com/?q=origination+credits

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=business+development+budget


While I appreciate your sarcasm, I did briefly look these things up but it didn't tell me about associates getting a business development budget (it seems ridiculous that they would, so I'm guessing TTH was sarcastic given the tone of the interview...if so, haha), or origination credits for associates.

I should have clarified that I obviously know what a business development budget is, and a rough idea of origination credits. I just don't know how they apply to associates/law firms or if TTH was just being sarcastic.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby TTH » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:23 am

I wasn't being sarcastic in my answer to you or at the interview. Depending on the business model of the firm, the lawyer who brings a client in the door may get a little taste of the revenue generated from that client's billings. Firms vary on whether they do this, how much—as a percentage—the originator gets, whether associates get money for origination, and for how long the originator gets to dip his beak in (i.e. if the client sticks around for fifteen years and the firm does work for the client across its practices, the spigot for the originator may eventually get turned off).

Business development budget is exactly what it sounds like: an expense account for lawyers to spend trying to originate business.

Having been caught flat-footed in the interview with getting the "what I can tell you?" question so early, I thought I'd demonstrate how eager I was to learn how to build a book of business and pitch myself as a one-day rainmaker. I wanted to ask about something that wasn't on their website/NALP form, so that's what I went with.

ETA: "Real question?" wasn't my way of calling you stupid. I thought you may have been making a joke about the absurdity of a law student talking about rainmaking during an OCI.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby PennBull » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:28 am

TTH wrote:I wasn't being sarcastic in my answer to you or at the interview. Depending on the business model of the firm, the lawyer who brings a client in the door may get a little taste of the revenue generated from that client's billings. Firms vary on whether they do this, how much—as a percentage—the originator gets, whether associates get money for origination, and for how long the originator gets to dip his beak in (i.e. if the client sticks around for fifteen years and the firm does work for the client across its practices, the spigot for the originator may eventually get turned off).

Business development budget is exactly what it sounds like: an expense account for lawyers to spend trying to originate business.

Having been caught flat-footed in the interview with getting the "what I can tell you?" question so early, I thought I'd demonstrate how eager I was to learn how to build a book of business and pitch myself as a one-day rainmaker. I wanted to ask about something that wasn't on their website/NALP form, so that's what I went with.

ETA: "Real question?" wasn't my way of calling you stupid. I thought you may have been making a joke about the absurdity of a law student talking about rainmaking during an OCI.


Cool, thanks for the helpful response. Again, obviously knew generally what they were but was curious about the law firm associate context. Wondering if these are actually interesting questions you could ask somebody in an interview without sounding like an asshole.

I have interviews with Wachtell and S&C, etc. that I have the smallest of the smallest outside shots with but they're forced to listen to me for 20 minutes (Penn OCI lottery FTW). I am going in to the interviews with no fucks given but want to be somewhat creative because I have nothing to lose.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby chrisbru » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:47 am

PennBull wrote:Cool, thanks for the helpful response. Again, obviously knew generally what they were but was curious about the law firm associate context. Wondering if these are actually interesting questions you could ask somebody in an interview without sounding like an asshole.

I have interviews with Wachtell and S&C, etc. that I have the smallest of the smallest outside shots with but they're forced to listen to me for 20 minutes (Penn OCI lottery FTW). I am going in to the interviews with no fucks given but want to be somewhat creative because I have nothing to lose.


Also curious - TTH, do you feel like you got the job BECAUSE of that question, or was it just a one-off interviewer that didn't get turned off by it? It seems like it could go either way.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby TTH » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:00 pm

chrisbru wrote:
PennBull wrote:Cool, thanks for the helpful response. Again, obviously knew generally what they were but was curious about the law firm associate context. Wondering if these are actually interesting questions you could ask somebody in an interview without sounding like an asshole.

I have interviews with Wachtell and S&C, etc. that I have the smallest of the smallest outside shots with but they're forced to listen to me for 20 minutes (Penn OCI lottery FTW). I am going in to the interviews with no fucks given but want to be somewhat creative because I have nothing to lose.


Also curious - TTH, do you feel like you got the job BECAUSE of that question, or was it just a one-off interviewer that didn't get turned off by it? It seems like it could go either way.


I got a callback from that screener, not an offer. I hit similar points during my callback at the midlaw firm where I'm working now, and I think it played well. I kind of think the smaller/more regional the firm, the more they are going to value entreprenurial spirit from someone like a law student. Someone from Skadden is probably going to laugh their ass off at the notion of a junior associate developing business.

But in a smaller market, there's a little less stratification in the business world. A lowly associate can hustle up opportunities to meet potential clients. For instance, you serve as the token lawyer on the board of some local non-profit with a few local business owners and get to know them well. Maybe they get served with a complaint or need to paper up a real estate acquisition, and hey . . . you're a lawyer they know and of course your firm does that kind of work.

You could probably modify the tactic a bit for biglaw. Instead of asking directly about originating business, you could ask how soon you might start getting client contact, how and to what extent does the firm support associate's efforts to publish on relevant topics, present CLEs, and otherwise start branding themselves with an eye toward eventually building business.

I don't talk to my classmates about interviews, but judging by TLS, no one ever discusses this stuff during interviews, so at least it might be novel.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby fatduck » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:11 pm

TTH wrote:I got a callback from that screener, not an offer. I hit similar points during my callback at the midlaw firm where I'm working now, and I think it played well. I kind of think the smaller/more regional the firm, the more they are going to value entreprenurial spirit from someone like a law student. Someone from Skadden is probably going to laugh their ass off at the notion of a junior associate developing business.

i think this is more about the realities of large firm conflict space than Skadden being too preftigious for your potential clients.

TTH wrote:You could probably modify the tactic a bit for biglaw. Instead of asking directly about originating business, you could ask how soon you might start getting client contact, how and to what extent does the firm support associate's efforts to publish on relevant topics, present CLEs, and otherwise start branding themselves with an eye toward eventually building business.

this sounds pretty good - i think asking about opportunities for client contact is a pretty normal interview question. it's probably smart to frame it in a "thinking about building a reputation/business" light.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby TTH » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:24 pm

fatduck wrote:
TTH wrote:I got a callback from that screener, not an offer. I hit similar points during my callback at the midlaw firm where I'm working now, and I think it played well. I kind of think the smaller/more regional the firm, the more they are going to value entreprenurial spirit from someone like a law student. Someone from Skadden is probably going to laugh their ass off at the notion of a junior associate developing business.

i think this is more about the realities of large firm conflict space than Skadden being too preftigious for your potential clients.


Agreed. I was also thinking about it in terms of NYC biglaw are never going to let their associates see the sun and wouldn't trust them to have lunch with the janitor, let alone anyone who could possibly hire the firm. But that's just my MIDDLE AMERICA BIAS.

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Re: 0-2 minutes in: "So what can I tell you about the firm?"

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:49 pm

Tell it to them in :30, or less. Trying to impress the evaluator because you know about the firm must be mind-numbing for the interviewer. I thought the strategy was to always bring the conversation back to YOU and the numerous reasons why extending you an offer is beneficial for their firm.




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