General Counsel SearchesLateral Partner RecruitingLaw Firm Associate RecruitingIn-House Counsel Recruiting

Candidates seeking new roles within the legal industry have a wealth of opportunities to pursue. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the demand for lawyers is higher than the national average, with the job outlook growing at a rate of 8% over the next decade. 

Despite the high demand for legal talent, navigating the law firm recruitment process can be challenging. Even with proper preparation, the complexity of law firm hiring procedures and the intense competition for roles make it particularly demanding. 

Smoothly navigating the interview process is essential to making a great impression. That’s why, to support you on your journey and to help you strategically prepare for the best hiring experience possible, we’re outlining the roadmap of the law firm hiring process and the inner workings of the interview process.

Understanding the Law Firm Hiring Process

The first step to preparing for a legal job search is learning about the general hiring processes. The timeline and required experience for securing a position vary significantly based on the type of firm or legal employer you aim to join.

Legal Hiring Timelines According to Employer Type

Two of the more common legal industry employer types include large law firms and mid-size or boutique firms.  Although it can differ depending on the employer, the following outlines some standard recruitment timelines:

  • Large Firms – Entry into a large law firm typically begins with a summer associate role. Summer associates are law students working at firms temporarily for a monthly salary during their first or second years of law school. Entry-level attorney positions at large firms often go directly to the summer associate class, with permanent position offers coming in September of the third year of law school.

  • Mid-size or Boutique Firms – The difference for smaller or mid-size firms is that they typically wait until after their summer hires have graduated and passed their bar examinations to make entry-level attorney offers. Summers positions at these small law firms are called “legal clerk” roles and receive hourly pay rather than monthly salary.

How do firms identify the need for new hires in class years that are beyond entry-level out of law school? Usually, new roles open when current personnel can’t meet the regular workload demands and the firm’s productivity declines. However, new legal opportunities can also result from a firm’s plans for growth or the need to address skill gaps within the organization.

The Role of Recruitment Agencies and Legal Recruiters

So, should you use a legal recruiter to help with the hiring process? An experienced legal recruiter’s deep industry knowledge can be a significant advantage in finding the perfect fit. Not only do great recruiters and recruiting agencies often know about fresh openings ahead of the curve, but they can provide additional inside information on the role qualifications and firms to help determine if it’s the right fit for legal candidates. 

To be clear, recruiters are not involved with hiring of entry-level attorneys who recently graduated from law school. They are involved and can be instrumental in the hiring of lawyers who have at least a couple of years or more of experience practicing law.

Qualities Law Firms Look for in Lawyers

Law firms look for a broad range of skills and qualities that distinguish ideal candidate from the rest of the pack. And while it may seem like mastery of the law is the only quality that matters, that’s far from the truth.

A recent market analysis by Harvard Law School notes that people skills are just as critical as technical legal knowledge and expertise. Relationships with clients are a crucial element in any attorney’s day-to-day work, and the ability to inspire confidence and trust in clients is what firms will find highly desirable.

Additionally, demonstrating the following qualities are essential when seeking any new legal opportunity:

  • Strong ethical standards and integrity – When a firm hires a candidate, that candidate effectively represents their values and ethics. Legal organizations want to hire candidates with exceptional character and integrity to represent them in the best light possible at all times.
  • Communication and collaboration skills – Communication skills affect countless functions of an attorney’s work, from client relationships to how well they can collaborate with their legal teams. The interview process is a great place to establish how effectively you can communicate.
  • Legal literacy and any specializations – While it’s not the only important quality to have, basic legal expertise is essential. In particular, specializing in an area can provide an edge over the competition, especially if the hiring firm lacks expertise in that subject matter. Regardless, demonstrating your technical knowledge and legal literacy is vital to inspiring a firm’s confidence in your abilities.
  • Adaptability and problem-solving abilities – Firms often look for legal candidates who can help them diversify their pool of skills and expertise to help them tackle challenges using new, creative approaches. How well a candidate adapts to various and unpredictable situations only adds to their value. A dextrous problem-solver who can overcome any obstacle is more desirable than someone who only thinks one way.
  • Teamwork-oriented – New additions to existing teams with established working routines and rapports may find it difficult to integrate fully. Firms value lawyers who can come in and instantly get along with the rest of the team.

Demystifying the Interview Process

The foremost difficulty in legal interviews is that you can never truly anticipate what questions or personality types you’ll encounter in an interview. As such, you need to be quick on your feet. That said, there are interview strategies that can prime you to field the more common interview questions comfortably.

Successful interview preparation involves becoming a quasi-expert of the firm you are pursuing. Coming in with an understanding of a firm’s clients and researching their recent projects will convince them that you take the opportunity seriously and are hoping to invest in their practice.

Additionally, some interviews may turn to the topic of industry trends. Employers prefer to see candidates aware of the broader developments within the legal industry that may affect their firms in the long or short term. To that end, staying up to date by reading industry publications and following current legal events is crucial to any candidate.

Common Law Firm Interview Questions

Want a closer look at some of the most common law firm interview questions and ways to answer them? The three questions below will likely surface in your interviews for various legal opportunities. 

  • Why did you choose law? – This question helps an interviewer get to know you better outside of your career accomplishments and studies. A unique, authentic answer here can help you make a favorable impression and create opportunities to connect with the person interviewing you. When answering, try to communicate about your personal journey or your mission and how it led you to this moment.

  • Have you published any legal papers? – Expect questions about your resume, transcript, and previous legal experiences. More potential topics in this vein you may discuss are your previous extracurricular activities, thesis, journal articles, and clinical programs. If you haven’t published anything, use this as an opportunity to delve into your career passions and what you aim to accomplish. This could even be spun around to a question back to the interviewer about how the firm can help you in your career ambitions.
  • Why do you want to work at this firm in particular? – This question will allow you to flex your knowledge of the firm and your research skills. To answer this question, discuss why their current projects, clients, or mission interests you. Try to think long-term in your response, why do you want to commit the next 5-7 years at this particular firm?

As part of your preparation process, make sure you prepare questions for your interviewer. This shows your encouragement to learn more about them and their organization and gives you more opportunities to promote your value or establish a connection with your interviewer.

Post-Interview Follow-Up

After your interview, you can continue to make a favorable impression in the follow-up process. The key is to remind firms of your interest and gratitude without coming off as intrusive or desperate.

A digital or hand-written thank-you note is perfectly acceptable to send within 24 hours of your interview. In your note, don’t just thank the interviewer for their time; try to reference a highlight of your conversation or a personal connection you shared to reinforce how much you valued the conversation.

Once you’ve secured one or multiple offers, it’s time to thoroughly analyze the opportunities and determine how much value they will provide to you. Financial compensation aside, carefully weigh factors such as work-life balance standards, potential for career development, and culture to ensure you’re committing to the best fit possible.

Benefits of Working With a Legal Recruiter to Navigate the Process

If you’re curious about utilizing a legal recruiter in your search for your next legal role, that’s perfectly normal. Legal recruiters specialize in placing candidates at firms tailored to their specific interests, strengths, and career goals. 

Additionally, experienced legal recruiters provide the advantage of insider market knowledge. As industry veterans, legal recruiters often have a wealth of connections to help provide access to unadvertised positions, giving you a significant leg up on the competition.

Legal recruiters can also guide you through the offer process. To make the most of your opportunity, you’ll want to ensure you have the knowledgeable resources of a legal recruiter to see you through signing, onboarding, and cementing the right personal and professional fit.

Position Yourself for Success with E.P. Dine

Since 1975, E.P. Dine has a proven track record of helping lawyers advance their careers. For informed guidance through the complex processes and inner workings of law firm recruitment, align yourself with the placement professionals at E.P. Dine to set yourself up for success.

E.P. Dine is your partner in the legal job hunt, providing you with the most relevant and up-to-date information to land your next legal role successfully. 

To start, browse E.P. Dine’s wealth of candidate services and apply now.


 BLS. Lawyers.

NALP. Prelaw - What Is the Timetable for Legal Recruitment?

Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School. Recruiting Market Insights.

Harvard Law School. Interview Questions.

Harvard Law School. Interview Follow-Up: Thank-You Notes.

At E.P. Dine, we are committed to delivering content that is not only relevant and insightful but also rooted in professional integrity and expertise. To achieve this, every article published on the E.P. Dine blog undergoes a meticulous review process by qualified professionals with deep knowledge and experience in the legal field and legal recruitment.

David Walden


As Co-CEO of E.P. Dine and leader of the Law Firm Practice Group, David is a premier legal career strategist and search industry expert to law firm executives and partners throughout the United States. His clients, among the world's finest law firms, engage him when seeking the highest standard of excellence in their search efforts and hiring initiatives.

Sign up for our newsletter

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related Post