I am a former lawyer / law student, and now a consultant and investor. I have been thinking about the role of luck on career success recently and it reminded me of my time going through the law firm recruit process. Since you are entering that chapter soon, I thought I’d share my story and some thoughts.
Having a successful outcome during the law firm recruitment is a function of two things: (1) grades, which determine whether you will be granted interviews at firms, and (2) likability, which determines whether lawyers will want to hire you, train you, and spend time with you.
While you have a large degree of control over your grades and charisma, part of the outcome is out of your hands. For instance, you can’t control whether the lawyer you will be meeting with had to pull an all-nighter and will be exhausted come interview time.
My experience during law firm recruitment was positive. But how much credit can I take for the outcome? Sure, I worked hard and prepared, but I also had some major things in common with my interviewers that were based purely on luck. How much did this contribute to my likability? It is hard to say exactly, but I am positive that it played a significant role.
I also saw classmates who had grades as good as mine, and who were more likable, end up empty-handed. If they had to relive the recruitment process a 1,000 times, would their outcomes be any different? I am positive they would.
Let me emphasize this: skill, effort, intellect, and other positive personality traits matter. But the key is to understand that they are necessary, not sufficient. They do not guarantee success, only increase the probability of success.
So while you are going through the interview cycle, keep this in mind. Be kind and generous to one another. And if you do end up with a positive outcome, pat yourself on the back, but also remember how lucky you are.