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Interviewing for 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls

2l Interviews

Your interviews as a newly minted 2L can significantly shape the beginning of your legal career by bringing your closer to a permanent job offer. Most 2Ls employed as summer associates receive offers to join their respective firms after graduation, and a large number of these offers are accepted. As a 2L, your job is not simply to get a job but also to get to know the employers in order to decide whether you want to work with them after graduation.


The fall of your 2L year is a good time to seriously consider where you want to be for the next few years. Depending on your law school and your GPA, you may have fewer or more choices available. Either way, you need to decide where you can see yourself living, and where you cannot.

Employers can be equally concerned with geography, especially small firms and firms in smaller communities. Because of this, your ties to a certain area (or lack thereof) can make or break your candidacy. If you interview in Seattle because you grew up there and your entire family lives there, you will score major points with your interviewers. Meanwhile, avoid tenuous explanations that offer little or no evidentiary proof of a genuine commitment—for example, you like to hike, you enjoy the weather, or you always wanted to live in the West Coast. What if, after six months of non-stop rain, you decide you have had enough hiking and leave for Southern California? In that case, you may not be a good investment for the firm.

Christian's job search was unsuccessful because he could not explain why he wanted to be in Miami. He grew up and spent most of his life in New Jersey. At some point (likely during a spring break), he discovered Miami and decided he did not want to live anywhere else. As a 2L, he signed up to interview only with Miami firms. He sent out tons of resumes and even landed a few callbacks, but after he was asked “Why Miami?” each time, the interview effectively ended. He had no ties to the area and could not come up with a reason better than he simply loved the city.

You can see why it is important to consider all the reasons you want to be in a particular location. Even if do not have any ties to an area, you can at least tell the interviewer why you like it. Orient your explanation to the future and point out all the reasons why you are likely to stay there. For instance: “I have a family, and I know that San Diego is a very family-friendly city, offers a lot of activities for kids, has great schools, and is on the ocean, which is very important to my family because we sail.” Naturally, your reasons can vary, and family does not have to be one of them. Just make sure your explanation is realistic and genuine and does not suggest you are simply looking for some summer fun.

1L summer job

Another important aspect of your 2L interview is what you did the previous summer. Students often agonize about their efforts to secure a 1L summer job. But the truth is, your employers could probably care less about what you did as a 1L, as long as you had a law-related job and were committed to working hard. During the interviews, explain what your job entailed, what you learned, and why your experience convinced you to interview with this particular employer. Be prepared to explain why you are not going back to your 1L employer. When interviewing with small firms, which seek lawyers who can handle responsibility early on, be sure to emphasize how your 1L job taught you to take initiative and to work under pressure.

Practice areas

The type of law you want to practice after graduation becomes an important interview topic during your 2L year. This is something you must consider in tandem with your geographical preferences and long-term career goals. When you evaluate these factors, ask yourself where your potential clients would be located. The answer to this may be simple if your desired specialty is project finance (New York, D.C., and Houston) or entertainment law (Miami and L.A.). Other specialties may not be as easy to pinpoint geographically. Additionally, know that just because a firm lists a specialty or a practice group on their Website, it does not mean that the firm has significant work in or hires associates for that department.

Look up individual lawyers, research what they do, try to find out which cases they work on. Most importantly, do not limit your options unnecessarily by seeking to interview only with employers in a narrow field. Most law students have preconceived ideas about what they want to do upon graduation, but these ideas often stem from misinformation. Do not think you will join a firm and immediately specialize in international law, construction law, entertainment law, oil and gas, or international arbitrations. Most likely, unless you join a small specialized practice, you will do your share of due diligence or document review and research assignments. What you will end up specializing in a few years down the road will depend in large part on your firm, your mentors, and the clients’ needs, and only in small part on your preferences.

Although it is unnecessary to commit to a narrow specialty during your interviews with larger firms, you will score major points with the employers if you tell them whether you are leaning toward a certain practice area. (See How to Do Your Homework for a discussion of two most common practice areas in larger firms, transactional and litigation.) Your interviews will also be more productive if you offer flexibility to your employers. Instead of insisting on working in some fancy area of law that exists only in law books, you may want to mention your general preferences, indicate interest in more than one area, and emphasize your flexibility.

When interviewing with small firms, discussing practice areas gets trickier. On the one hand, you must convince them in your versatility and ability to work on a variety of cases. On the other hand, you must convey your commitment and strong desire to do precisely the type of work the attorneys handle. You can master this task by telling your interviewers that you have a strong interest in their practice area, and by adding that you are also flexible and eager to meet the firm's needs.

Summer splits

Now is the time to decide whether you want to split your summer between two employers. There are good reasons to consider summer splits. Splitting your summer between different firms or cities will give you a glimpse of what it would be like in two very different places. It may also give your more options to consider. Moreover, you can earn significantly more by splitting the summer because you will probably work longer. Finally, working more during the summer means you will obtain more legal experience and skills.

Just remember not to ask about summer splits during your initial interviews. Generally, summer splits are disfavored (especially at larger firms) because they increase the risk that you will not accept an offer of permanent employment. But a number of legal markets—for example, the South and parts of the Midwest—still allow or even encourage summer splits.

Rely on career counselors

Most law students find something to gripe about with respect to career services. But remember, they are not there to get you a job; they are there to help you get one. Career services can provide you with information, experienced advice, mock interviews, and resume proofreading. Prior to your 2L interviewing season, it is wise to schedule a time to speak with your career counselors. Tell them about your goals, expectations, and academics. Do not expect them to set your world on fire, but take their advice to heart.

The best career services will try to get as many employers on campus as possible and to give you a lot of information about what these employers generally seek. But remember that their ability to attract employers on campus largely depends on your law school's rank. For Harvard, it is not that difficult; for a newly accredited Midwestern school in a smaller legal market, it may be nearly impossible. You should not discredit help from your career counselors because you don't think they are doing enough. It is your job to be proactive.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsInterviewing for 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls - 1l Interviews, 2l Interviews, 3l Interviews