OK, let’s say that you are a 2L at a third-tier law school, but you aced your first year classes and are proud of your accomplishments and qualifications. You are on Law Review and Moot Court. Let’s also assume that your undergraduate degree was from a solid, if not outstanding, state university. Much to your surprise, you get invited to a callback interview at Super, Duper, Elite, Law & Firm, LLP, a consensus top 5 law firm in the nation. You are super, duper psyched. Naturally.
As you start to look at random biographies on the Firm’s website, you realize that everyone (nearly everyone) there has gone to an Ivy League undergraduate school, a Top 14 law school and, just to ensure that you feel wholly inadequate, received a Masters from Oxford or Sorbonne and speak 17 languages fluently. . . . . and, if you must know, of course they were summa cum laude in college and on Law Review and Moot Court in law school. Yikes.
At that point, you are fully justified if you let out a big sigh and drop your shoulders. You might ask yourself, “How can I possibly compete with these guys. They are not going to hire me.”
Here is the truth. Elite law firms are not into wasting their time. If they felt that your credentials are not going to meet their minimum requirements for new hires, they wouldn’t have invited you to an hours-long callback interview. This is especially true when they literally receive resumes from hundreds of ùber qualified candidates. The attorneys who will be meeting with you all charge hundreds of dollars (or thousands in some cases) per billable hour. For a firm, interviews are a huge investment in opportunity costs. Just do some simple multiplication to figure this out.
A callback means that you have passed (whether with flying colors or by a thread) the “paper” part of the process, and the lawyer doing the screening interview at the on-campus interview didn’t think you were a total tool. Of course, some will “pass” better than others in this paper and screening stage . . . . . By no means you should think that all of the candidates who are invited back are considered equal. Nope. That smug Harvard/Harvard/Oxford guy will be ahead of you no matter what . . . . . at least until the interviews. Breath, you have a chance.
Your takeaway: As Senator Al Franken (D-MN) said many times on national television, “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” Repeat that daily affirmation in front of a mirror. If you got a callback, it means that you are indeed good enough on paper and you passed the screening interview. You’ve got a realistic chance. No super smart lawyers would forgo thousands of dollars in lost opportunity cost if they have no intention of considering you seriously based on the credentials that they have already seen. Don’t compare yourself to other candidates you meet, or attorneys who work there — “Keep your eyes on the road” just like in men’s bathrooms.