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Lateral Interviews


Lateral interviewing is a bit different from on-campus and callback interviewing. First and foremost, as you probably realize, there is much more at stake when you interview as a lateral. This is especially true if you practice in a small legal market and have limited lateral opportunities available to you. Because of this, you must take interviewing process even more seriously than you did in law school.

Once you apply for a lateral position and receive an interview, be prepared to have several rounds of interviews. At many firms, you will first undergo a screening interview with one or two attorneys at the firm, usually partners. Think of them as bouncers—they are there to make sure you are not a psycho before they let you in for a full round of fun.

The next step in the lateral interviewing process is similar to a callback interview. You will spend four to six hours meeting anywhere from six to eight attorneys. One thing to remember during this stage is that you should focus most of your energy on the partners. They will be the key decision-makers in this process. If even one of them does not like you, you probably will not get an offer. Meanwhile, your interviews with associates may carry slightly less weight. Nevertheless, be pleasant, deferential, and collegial with everyone. When interviewing with an associate and a partner at the same time, do not disregard the associate in your efforts to focus on the partner, because you may come off as rude.

At most firms, the lateral interviewing process will end after two rounds of interviews. But some employers require as many as three rounds. At small firms, you may have more than three rounds and end up meeting every attorney at the firm. Lateral interviews are long and exhausting, so keep this in mind if you are thinking about interviewing at a large number of firms within a short period of time. Consider starting with your top three firms and scheduling interviews with the remaining firms two to three weeks away. This way, if you have offers from your top-choice firms, you may not have to interview with your “second-tier” employers. On the other hand, if you have very limited interviewing experience, you should always interview with your bottom-choice employers first to help you gain experience before going for your dream job.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsLateral Interviews - Are You Ready?, Logistics, Scrutiny, Checking References, Know Your Reasons For Interviewing, Discussions About Specialty