Interviewing for a legal career is a lot like dating, and with today’s technology, a lot like internet dating. Applicants troll the various websites, find an employer of interest, send in an application or a resume, and hope to hear back from their potential match. To be swayed into contacting the applicant, the employer must be wooed by the applicant’s fine qualities and characteristics. If the applicant has successfully peaked the employer’s interest there may be a first interview. At the interview both parties have expectations and at least one of them is likely nervous.
After this first meeting, the applicant anxiously waits by the phone for the employer to call. A multitude of questions races through the applicant’s mind. Did he/she like me? Did I say the right things? Do I even like him/her? Do we have a future together? In some instances a second interview is set up and the process repeats itself. But in every situation there are three likely outcomes.
1. Both parties like each other and a future relationship is established.
2. Neither party likes the other and the potential relationship is lost.
3. One party likes the other but the feeling is not mutual. Sound familiar?
The desired outcome of interviewing and dating is the same, a long-lasting and happy relationship. In today’s market, outcome number three seems to be the most prominent, with the applicant being the one with unfulfilled desire. Due to the principles of supply and demand, where the demand for associate jobs is high and the supply is substantially below that, employers are the girl that plays hard to get. The contract attorney has become the new associate and interview skills combined with networking and luck have become all the more important. So what is the applicant supposed to do in such a difficult market? My advice? Practice, patience, and an open mind.
Here are some examples that might shed light on what patience (or lack thereof) may bring: A midsize firm in Minneapolis had three contract attorneys with three different approaches to the issue. One had been with the firm as a contract attorney for a year and a half. She went on countless interviews and eventually landed herself a job with a corporation that required a J.D. Although she will not be practicing law per se, her J.D. was a selling point to the corporation. We can liken this to an amicable parting of ways where one party just could not commit to the future so the other moved on. The second contract attorney had clerked for this firm as a law student and had become a contract attorney for them, his tenure lasting a combined three years. This contract attorney interviewed and also received an offer from a corporation but when he told the firm, they made him an offer to stay there as an associate and he accepted. We can compare this scenario to a “put a ring on it” situation where a commitment was made when the firm’s feet were put to the fire. The third contract attorney was not as patient. After countless interviews and letters of rejection, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I worked with the firm so that I am a part-time contract attorney and started up as a solo/small operation. I always envisioned a serious relationship after dating, but this new and inventive “casual” situation has its benefits as well. But more about that next post.
The point is that with patience and perseverance, we can all find our own Mr./Mrs. Right even if we have to go through some Mr./Mrs. Right Nows first. It may take some hard work and you may face many disappointments but my advice is to keep at it and keep an open mind. Although first dates can be exhausting and awkward, the more dates (interviews) you go on the more likely you’ll find your match and the better you will get at it. Remember, you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince.