Tag Archives: Interviews

The art of professionalism – Four simple steps to help you transition from student to practitioner

Desiree Moore is the president and founder of Greenhorn Legal LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at @greenhornlegal.

Law school is, by definition, a professional school.  Still, if you are like me, you spent much of law school lounging around in sweatpants and socializing with law school classmates (and studying, obviously!).  As you transition from law school into your legal practice, you will be expected to have mastered professionalism and to project professionalism in all instances.  More importantly, your ability to act in a professional manner early in your career will define you – and will define the impressions you leave on the people around you.

Whether you are interviewing for a legal position or you have begun your legal practice, here are four easy things you can do to ensure that you are perceived as a true professional:

1. Dress like a professional.  As simple as it may seem, your attire is an exceedingly important aspect of your professionalism.  This is the very first impression you make, before anything else.  For interviews, without exception, you must wear a suit.  Several days in advance of your interview, be sure your suit is clean and pressed (and that it fits you!).  Likewise, if your workplace observes a “business” dress code, or for any formal business occasions (for example, client meetings, court hearings, depositions, etc.), wear a suit.

If your office observes a “business casual” dress code, this calls for something slightly less formal than a suit.  Still, your attire should be traditional and conservative.  Flashy, quirky or otherwise inappropriate attire is never well received in a professional environment.  Also, wear your clothes well.  Avoid wrinkles and tuck in your shirt.

If you dress the part of a lawyer and a professional, you will make meaningful first impressions and build your credibility from day one.

2. Be mindful of your demeanor. Much like attire, mastering the proper demeanor in a professional environment will be central to your success.  In interviews and in your practice, take care to act in a formal, professional manner.  With this said, you also want to approach your office interactions in a relaxed, natural way.  Your demeanor should reflect that you are serious about your work but that you are also an open, friendly person.  If you can demonstrate by your demeanor that you are both of these things, your colleagues in the legal profession will respect you and want to get to know you.  Finally, as a new lawyer, you will be well served by expressing enthusiasm at the prospect of working on any case, deal or project that comes across your desk.  Enthusiastic lawyers are more pleasant to work with, and in turn get more work!

3. Hone your interpersonal skills. Finding success in a professional environment depends in large part on capitalizing on our own personal strengths and minimizing our weak areas.  In a legal environment, in particular, where you are expected to work closely with colleagues and clients, honing your interpersonal skills is a must.  While not everyone has the same interpersonal qualities, there are a few rules to live by.  In all instances, be reasonable and even.  Do not display extreme emotions and do not take frustrations out on anyone (this includes your administrative assistant – the best way to get in trouble as a new lawyer is to treat staff in a disrespectful manner).  Ask your colleagues about their work and their interests.  Steer clear of office gossip or any office dynamics that you are not comfortable with.  Keep your personal drama out of the workplace, too.

4. Master your practice. Finally, in an effort to demonstrate professionalism in a legal environment, it is important to master your legal practice.  Now, this is not something you can do right away, or all at once, but you should be working toward this every day.  As a recent law school graduate (and after having studied for the bar), your knowledge of the black letter law will never be better.  Capitalize on this and build on it.  Make yourself marketable (if interviewing) or indispensable (if you have already secured a job) in the early years of your practice by staying on top of the technical aspects of your job and showing growth from month to month and year to year.

Follow these guidelines and – even if you have to work at it at first – you will project professionalism to your peers and superiors.  Over time, it will become second nature.  (And don’t worry – those sweatpants can get plenty of use on the weekends.)

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Leveraging Your Reputation: Tips for interviewing a guest on your video or podcast

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

I’ve shared tips for creating videos https://h20cooler.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/leveraging-your-reputation-make-your-videos-better/ and podcasts https://h20cooler.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/leveraging-your-reputation-podcasting-for-publicity/ here before, and hopefully you’ve tried those suggestions. So let’s suppose everything is ready to go: your equipment, plan, and ideas. There might be someone who would make an interesting guest for your video or podcast, which would give you a chance to interview him or her. Interviews not only add variety to what you’re creating, but also help you reach out to different kinds of people, even outside the legal profession, which makes them look good and you, too.

Here are some tips for conducting successful interviews, assuming you’ve already done the research about your guest and topic and have already watched or listened to how the pros do it:

1)      Ask open-ended questions. It is tempting to ask questions such as, “Are you happy this case was successful?” But the answer could be a simple “yes” if the person isn’t naturally talkative or doesn’t know that he or she “has to” talk at length. Many people have never done an interview, so you have to guide them with the questions. A better question would be, “How do  you feel about the results of the case?”

2)      Keep the questions short. Ask a question in the simplest way possible. Even if you already know information about the person or the topic that he or she is talking about, there’s no need to prove what you know before you ask the question. Let the interviewee tell the story and share details instead of you. In other words, don’t “frontload” the question with your own knowledge and experience. After all, what’s the point of the interview if you’re going to do most of the talking?

3)      Keep the prepared questions in your pocket. You might want to go through your list to hit everything you want to get out of the person you’re interviewing, but if he or she says something interesting, ask about it and follow up instead of moving on to the next question. Only refer to your prepared questions if you feel that you haven’t covered everything you want. But usually, with effective questioning, you get what you want out of the interview, and there’s no need to even refer to the questions because it’s a natural progression from one idea to another.

4)      Be quiet. It is irritating to the listener or viewer when the interviewer says, “uh-huh,” or audibly reacts in other ways to what the person is saying. Don’t respond with sounds, but instead nod your head to show that you are listening. If you’re doing an audio interview and the interviewee says something funny, smile instead of laughing. The focus of the interview should be the other person, not you.

5)      It’s not about you. People look at famous interviewers on TV and assume that they have to show as much of their personality and intensity as they can, but that is not a good idea because the star of the interview is the other person, not you. If the interview is effective and good information has been revealed, then that will be a great reflection on you anyway.

Have fun, relax, and make the most of the opportunity and guest because you never know where it might lead in your own publicity efforts.

Good listening skills for great interviews

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Pro Serve PR, a public relations firm serving law and professional service firms. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition based on his experience in legal marketing, public relations, and practice management. Nick shares career growth experience and innovation with legal job seekers.

Good listening skills are a strong asset in an interview. Whether meeting with the hiring partner or arriving at the first meeting with a placement agency, the interviewer will scrutinize your answers. Imagine you are interviewing several candidates to whom you pose the same question, would you notice when the other person is clearly not listening? Certainly.

There are several important benefits to practicing good listening:

(1) Good listeners who directly answer questions seem engaged;

(2) Interviewers will remain engaged with candidates who answer directly;

(3) Effective listeners sense the pattern of questions and spot an opportunity to offer a direct answer with added value;

(4) Effective listening helps both parties avoid assumptions; and

(5) Interviewers appreciate candidates who care enough to listen and offer the best answer.

First, a good listener who answers the question posed appears engaged. Directly answer the question asked or the interviewer could think you: (a) are not paying attention, (b) cannot understand the question, (c) do not really care about the interview. If you relax and directly respond to the posed question you are more likely to appear engaged in the discussion.

Then, once you appear engaged, likely the interviewer will remain engaged in dialogue. Law practice requires effective listening and interviewing, if you cannot listen in an interview, how will you perform with clients? Interviewers who meet with several candidates are likely to continue the process with those who keep them engaged.

Next, when listening to the pattern of questions most people can identify the inquiry sequence. If you sense there is an opportunity to directly answer a question and offer an additional benefit then you can impress an interviewer who might have not learned the additional information. Be certain you fully answered the question before offering an additional response.

After engaging in effective dialogue, both parties likely sense a complete exchange of information. When listening for questions that do not come up, make a mental note of follow up questions that move the parties away from assumptions. It is appropriate to make short notes during an interview. Candidates who ask follow-up questions for certainty appear to show initiative.

Finally, interviewers are often thankful when a candidate waits for the sequence of questions. If you are a witness in court, the instructions are, “Please only answer the question asked,” and this applies to interview settings as well. Remember that you have one chance to make a first impression. Good listeners have great interviews when their responses convey knowledge, skill and confidence.

Say less, let the interviewer ask more questions

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Typical question:  Why are you here today?  Typical response:  “Well, I graduated from…and then I…and then I…” (you see where this goes).  Effective communication in the interview setting can be judged by the likelihood that the interviewer will not only remember you, but also like you.  Assume that the interviewer knows you meet the minimum job criteria or you wouldn’t be meeting.  The interview is your opportunity to express your personality and interest in making a commitment to the position.

Rambling on may distract the interviewer.  It may be really nice that you went to the same college or were in similar organizations; however, the niceties on the side do not highlight why you’re the best candidate for the position.  Instead of talking about the school in common, talk about what you learned there and why it made you a better lawyer.

How you answer questions may be indicative of how you interact at work.  Interviewers may have key positions at their firm and are tracking their billable time.  Getting right to the point first, shows people you can follow direction and produce a result.  If there is time to comment on the side and you keep it light, that is certainly ok.  Just try to keep to polite chit chat and not overwhelm your interviewer.

Let them ask you more questions.  By succinctly responding to your interviewer’s questions you may engage them to ask some follow up questions based on your discussion.  By asking them questions in return you may take the dialogue in new directions an interviewer may appreciate – I think we’ve all been told “That is a good question, and I’m glad you asked that…”  At the end of the conversation you should be the candidate who is qualified, competent, easy to talk to, and likeable.

Think of good follow-up questions – what you really want to know.  An astute candidate can tell when it’s appropriate to ask direct questions of an interviewer.  When responding to a very open-ended question, and if it naturally follows, volley a relevant question back to your interviewer.  If you have a burning question you want to ask and don’t want to be shy.  If the conversation has been friendly and your question seems appropriate (but the subject matter wasn’t covered in what you already discussed) then feel free to ask – these questions can cause the interviewer to remember you.

Have a closing statement prepared for your interview.  Remind the interviewer why you applied for the position.  It’s good to leave behind the impression that you are particularly interested in this specific offer, not just any position.  It is also helpful to identify your skills and identify where they are particularly complimentary to the job.