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New England Law Opportunities

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An Inside Look at the Summer Associate Hiring Process from Application, to Interview, to Offer

By Mo Chanmugham, Esq.

Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what law firms are looking for when they make their summer associate hiring decisions? Earlier this month the CSO held its annual Summer Associate Hiring Information Program and invited recruiters and hiring partners from the Boston offices of three medium to large size firms to discuss everything from what they look for in a strong application, to how to pass the interview process, to how to eventually land an offer at the end of the summer.

Application Process

The application due date varies slightly from year to year; most recently in 2014, applications were due in August. While we know the Summer Associate position is highly sought after and therefore is highly competitive, we learned that these firms receive approximately 750-1000 applications for only 2-10 spots in their programs. In order to cull the large number of applications down to a more manageable group, law firms set an objective cut off point based on a student’s GPA and Class Rank to serve as their first level filter, only selecting students in the top 10% to 30% of the class. From there they take into account participation in law journal, moot court, as well as previous work experience.

Interview Process

Students who are selected for an On Campus Interview (OCI) will be notified within 2-3 weeks of submitting their application. Students should not make any travel plans for the months of August and September so that they can be in Boston for the interviews. In this first round interview a representative from the firm, usually the recruiting manager from the HR department or an associate; will come to the law school to interview the selected students. These interviews are approximately 20 minutes in length and the interviewer will have several scheduled for that day in order to interview all the students. Students should arrive dressed in professional business attire with a copy of their resume and application materials and notepad to take down notes during the interview. As this is an opportunity for the firm to learn more about the student, students should be prepared to do most of the talking and come with a list of questions they have about the firm, the interviewer, and the Summer Associate Program. Common questions students should be prepared to answer are, “Why do you want to work for this firm?”, “What area of law are you interested in?” and “Tell me about yourself.” At the end of the interview the student should thank the interviewer, make it clear they would like to join the firm, and make sure to ask for the interviewer’s business card so that the student can send a thank you note and follow-up email regarding next steps in the process.

Call-back interviews are scheduled within 2 weeks of the On-Campus Interview. In the call-back interview, students are invited to visit the firm where they will meet and interview with several associates and partners. These interviews can range from a one on one meeting to meeting with 2-4 attorneys at a time, and sometimes will include a lunch interview where the student will be taken out to lunch by two recently hired associates.

Prior to the call-back interview students will be given a list of the attorneys that they will be meeting with so that they can prepare questions and do their interview research. At this stage of the process, students have passed the first hurdle of meeting the firm’s academic criteria and the firm is now looking for how well students fit in with the firm culture. Students should prepare for a long day of answering the same questions from the different attorneys that they meet and should be prepared with their own set of questions to ask each attorney as well. Students may find themselves asking the same questions over and over again which is acceptable because the student is learning about each attorney’s experience at the firm. Firms wrap up their interviewing of all students by the end of September and hiring decisions are sent out by the end of November at the latest.

Summer Program

The Summer Associate programs run from 9-11 weeks during which time the Summer Associate will experience a modified schedule of what it is like to work at that particular firm. Summer Associates are given a reasonable workload and are expected to take part in the scheduled social events outside of the office as a way to connect with associates and partners on a more collegial level. Firms pay just as much attention to the Summer Associate’s work product as they do to their social, communication, and relationship building skills as these skills have become even more relevant in this competitive economic climate.

Summer Associates are paired up with an associate mentor and have access to the human resources department to help navigate their time at the firm. Successful Summer Associates are able to manage both the work and social obligations and should not hesitate to ask for help or guidance if they feel overwhelmed or unclear about their assignments.

The Summer Associate Program is essentially one long interview process where should the student perform well the student can expect to receive an offer from the firm. The firm selects their Summer Associate class size with the expectation that they will give each Summer Associate an offer. Offers may be given as soon as the last day of the program or at most a few weeks after the end of the program.

For more questions about the Summer Associate Program please set up a time to meet with one of the CSO advisors.