A look at Early Interview Week: Q&A with 3 alumni interviewers

Hundreds of NYU Law students participate in Early Interview Week at the end of each summer, meeting with attorneys from law firms and select federal agencies in 20-minute interviews in order to land a coveted summer associate position. This year, the Office of Career Services hosted 8,184 scheduled interviews for 414 2Ls and 3Ls over three days. Of the 568 lawyers from 338 firms who interviewed students, 52 percent were alumni. We spoke with three alumni interviewers about why they take part in Early Interview Week, how to handle hard questions, and how NYU Law students performed in interviews.

Elyse Echtman '93
Elyse Echtman ‘93
Partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe

What is it like to interview students at Early Interview Week?

I’m always really impressed by the students. I try to take a spin through their resumes the night before or early that morning for a preview of what’s to come, and every year I just come way thinking, “Wow, everything that these kids have done before they’ve even gone to law school has been amazing.” I’ve also been impressed with how much they’ve made of their law school experience in terms of working with professors and clinics and internships.

It is really a time when I appreciate the depths of the talent that is at NYU, and I find making call back decisions really daunting. Whatever the career office is doing, they’re doing a great job. Year over year, I find the students have sharper interviewing skills and are really engaging and dynamic.

What’s a hard interview question? What’s a good way of handling it?

I think it’s stressful enough to do an interview that I don’t need to make it any more difficult on students than it already is by asking intentionally hard questions. With that said, there are certain things my firm is looking for. I will ask specific questions about teamwork, about their determination, and other traits that we think might be indicators of success. Sometimes folks are very prepared for those general types of questions and sometimes they are not. Some people are able to quickly say, “OK, you want to know how I worked in a team. Well, this is my internship last summer, this was my team, these were the challenges we faced and how we worked through it.” But I find that in this day and age, just about everyone has good teamwork experience. They’re working in teams in law school and in summer jobs and in college, and they have a wealth of experience to draw from.

How can students stand out at Early Interview Week?

They can stand out just by being real and conveying who they are and what motivates them. They all have great stories to tell. They just need to be comfortable telling them and not trying to be someone who they’re not. When I get a real sense of someone and what motivates them and what they’re interested in, that sticks with me. When someone has less focus and they’re looking to please me as opposed to letting me know who they are, it doesn’t come off as genuine.

Katharine Goodloe '11
Kate Goodloe ‘11
Associate, Covington & Burling

What do you like most about interviewing students?

My favorite parts of the interviews are hearing about the legal issues that the students are passionate about and all the interesting legal questions they research. I learn a lot by hearing about how the students approach all these legal questions and what they found. And it’s especially interesting when those question arise in an area that’s not related to my own practice.

What’s a challenging part of the interview?

Sometimes it can be challenging for students to explain why they’re interested in private practice and why they’re interested in relocating to DC. I think they can handle that best by having a thoughtful explanation for why working at a firm like Covington makes sense for them. For example, students are often interested in regulatory practices that are a natural fit for the DC market, or have ties to DC that may not be obvious from their resume and work history. 

What was your Early Interview Week experience like in law school?

Early Interview Week was then at a different hotel downtown by the financial center. It was set up courtyard yard style, so you could look around the hallways and see the other rooms. Two minutes to the hour, I’d look around and see 100 other people raising their hands to knock on the door. That is my main memory of Early Interview Week.

I think Early Interview Week helped me sort out how the firms I was interviewing with were all different. From reading their websites and trying to do my research, it was very hard to tell how one firm was different from another. Early Interview Week was the first experience where I was able to really understand how these firms were different. The people I interviewed with and the subjects I talked to them about helped me to understand what might be a good fit for me.

Peter Morrison '99
Peter Morrison ‘99
Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Why do you participate in Early Interview Week?

NYU Law students offer the rare combination of being highly accomplished early in their careers, while also being very humble and down to earth. This was my experience when I was in law school, and it seems that NYU Law has sustained this culture.

I do everything I can to support NYU Law—I’m on the alumni board of directors and I’m chairing my 20th reunion committee. As an alum, I always like to get back to campus to interview students, as I’m the co-hiring partner for Skadden’s LA office. I love to be able to bring NYU Law students back, and hire them when we’re able to.

What’s a hard interview question? What’s a good way of handling it?

I ask the candidates to tell me something about themselves that’s not on their resume, so I can get a better sense of who they are as people and I can see them think on their feet a little bit. Candidates responding to that type of question who are calm, cool, and collected tend to do particularly well.

I also tend to ask candidates to describe a legal issue they’ve tackled over the summer, so that I can see how articulate a particular candidate can be about the legal issue they worked on and  their approach to tackling that legal issue. The candidates who are clear communicators and comfortable and confident sitting there and answering those types of questions tend to do well with me.

What was your Early Interview Week experience like in law school?

Early Interview Week can be challenging for law students as they try to get as many opportunities as possible, ultimately with an eye toward where they might start their career several years down the road. To get educated about the various firms, and the factors that a student may think they need to focus on to make decisions for the immediate as well as the distant future, can be tough. I think NYU handles it in the best way that it can. I think the process is open, transparent and fair, and certainly strives to maximize the opportunities for students with as many firms and geographies as possible.

Posted September 14, 2018