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Interviewing for 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls

3l Interviews

Whether you are interviewing because you did not like your 2L firm, because you want to move, or because you did not get an offer, the process will be very different from last year's. Firms usually treat 3L interviewees as lateral candidates, so be sure to read Lateral Interviews to help you prepare.

Why firms hire 3Ls

Small firms often interview 3Ls shortly before or soon after graduation. Most larger firms interview a small number of 3Ls in the fall. These firms hire 3Ls because (1) they cannot afford to hire through summer programs; (2) they still have a few spots open at a particular practice group; (3) they hope to lure outstanding candidates away from other firms; or (4) they anticipate expanding. If you know why the firm is considering you, you can increase your chances of receiving an offer by emphasizing that reason to your interviewer.

This is how Kendra was able to secure a job in a very competitive legal market. After her 2L summer in New York, she decided to relocate to a small town that only had a few large firms, and even those hired exclusively from their summer programs. Despite sending resumes to every firm in town, she only received one interview. Because this was her only chance to relocate to this town, Kendra did a great deal of homework before her interview. She discovered that the firm recently brought in a securities partner and was looking to expand its securities presence in the area. During the interview, Kendra emphasized her interest in securities litigation, which helped her land the job.

Explain your reasons for interviewing

First and foremost, be prepared to discuss your reasons for interviewing as a 3L. If you did not have a legal job during the summer, come up with a good explanation. Never say you could not get a job or that you wanted a break. Offer good reasons for not having a paying job during your 2L summer (the economic downturn, a sick relative, summer school, and so on) or explain what you did to make up for lack of this experience (an externship or volunteer work, for example).

Only give positive reports about your 2L employer. Never badmouth the old firm in efforts to justify your desire to move or to “flatter” your interviewers by showing you like them more. Stay positive, say a few good things about your old employer, and only then explain your reasons for interviewing. Family needs, a desire to change practice areas or firm size, and a desire for relocation are all good reasons for interviewing as a 3L. You can say something along these lines: “I had a wonderful time at firm X and learned a great deal. I appreciated the mentorship of the attorneys and how approachable they were. Unfortunately, I discovered I was really interested in practice area Y, which firm X doesn't practice. That's why I am particularly interested in your firm.”

Assuming you have an offer from your 2L employer, volunteer that information early in the interview. Although they may not ask you directly whether you have an offer (more likely, they will), it is on their mind. If you did not receive an offer from your 2L employer, you should plan your strategy for interviewing as a 3L very carefully. You must be scrupulously honest with your interviewers; any attempts to mislead them will likely backfire. But do not volunteer negative information unless and until you are asked.

If you are asked, see if you have good explanation for not getting an offer. For example, your firm may hire a large summer associate class every year but make only two offers at the end of the summer. Or your employer may have decided to make fewer offers because it anticipates a slowdown. Or your firm may have felt you would be a flight risk because of your lack of ties to the area. You may be one of many summer associates who did not receive an offer, which means the economy—and not your inappropriate behavior—may be to blame. If your reason is unrelated to a deficient work product or poor behavior, it will be easier to convince your interviewers to hire you. You can also see if any attorneys at your old firm would be willing to serve as a reference and hopefully offer a good explanation to your interviewers as to why you were not given an offer.

Be flexible

Some firms, especially small firms, may be reluctant to hire you without getting to know you first. If you feel that an offer is not forthcoming for that reason, consider letting them know you are flexible. Here are some way you can show your flexibility and let the firm get to know you better. First, you can ask the firm to hire you during the school year to do part-time work for an hourly fee. Second, if you have some time between graduation and studying for the bar, or if you are taking a year off to clerk, ask the firm to hire you for a few weeks as a summer intern after your 3L year. This way, if they really like you, you may have a job lined up at the end of that summer. Offering flexibility is a good way to show your interviewers how determined and interested you are in working for them.

Whether you are interviewing as a 1L, 2L, or 3L, be prepared to explain why you are interested in a particular employer and show that you have ties to a prospective area. Be flexible with regard to job opportunities, location, and practice areas. Finally, remember to sell yourself to your interviewers, share the positive aspects about your former employers, and prepare for your interviews thoroughly.


  • • Emphasize your ties to the geographic area where your employer is located and your desire to stay there long term.
  • • Try not to restrict yourself to a particular practice area, type of employer, or location.
  • • Never criticize a former employer or a law professor who gave you a poor grade.
  • • Do not misrepresent that you have an offer, but do not offer negative information unless you are asked.
  • • Emphasize your skills, experience, and extracurricular activities during the interview to make up for a perceived lack of experience.
  • • Be prepared to explain your reasons for interviewing with a particular employer.
  • • Use mock interviews to prepare.

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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