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How are in-firms at "small" boutique firms different?

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I have an in-firm with a "small" firm that specializes in a certain area. I am not sure if this is important, but it has a larger office in another city. I am interested in this firm's practice area and quite enjoyed my OCI with this firm, more than my OCIs with any other firm actually. I would like to know what I can do to increase my chances of obtaining an offer at this firm. 

This is a broad question: does anyone have any insight as to how in-firms at "small" firms are different (vs. in-firms at large or mid-sized firms) in terms of what small firms look for in candidates? For example, will it be of particular importance to them that I am able to demonstrate an interest in their practice area or that I express interest in them specifically?

I understand my question is broad and that firms are very different, but any insight would be helpful, as I do not know what to expect or what I should do differently, if i should do anything differently at all. I do like this firm a lot, from what I have seen, so I am a bit nervous about the in-firm.

Thanks in advance.

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1) Have a good answer to why you want to work in that practice area (this will likely be very important to the firm). 

2) Communicate your interest clearly. Often small/boutique firms are hiring less people and so they can be concerned about making offers to people who might take an offer elsewhere. If you are a large firm hiring 20 students you have many people calling students with offers and a deep list of candidates to move down if someone rejects your offer. At a small firm if your top 5 candidates accept offers at other firms you do not have as deep of a list of other candidates you are excited about hiring. Because of this, smaller firms will often choose a safe bet (someone who communicated they REALLY REALLY want to work there) over a stellar candidate who seems to be torn between them and a full service firm. 

 

Good luck!!

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I agree with @admitme. Also have a good reason for why you're interested in the practice area and what attracts you to a boutique over a bigger firm. 

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Perhaps reach out to summer students from previous years to gleam more info about the process, as I imagine it varies drastically depending on the small firm in question, the practice area, etc.

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It definitely varies depending on the type of firm. Make sure you understand their practice area and the type of matters they handle (and don't handle). You could also look for any recent cases, which could also give you insight into the type of matters they handle beyond what is posted on their website. You definitely want to convey why you want to work for that firm, rather than the firm just being a stepping stone to something you're more interested in if the larger full-service firms didn't work out for you.    

"Fit" is very important at smaller firms. They will mostly want to know if they can or want to work with you since you will spend more time in close quarters with everyone. You will likely have more direct client interactions at smaller firms, so professionalism and a level of maturity/common sense are also important. This is especially true if you are helping with intake calls and you are the first point of contact a potential client has with the firm before scheduling a consultation.

I can only speak for my firm, but these are the top few things we look for:

  • strong research and writing (we need help with written submissions, appeals, etc.);
  • relevant courses/knowledge of our practice areas (if you have no concept of the legal issues or type of matters we handle, we're not going to be a good fit);
  • personality/fit since we are a small outfit (we are a quirky bunch); 
  • common sense/maturity (don't tell clients how intimidating the hearing was while you're on a break or forget to ask basic intake questions while on a call

I also think that smaller firms want you to interview well. They may not be interviewing as many students and have less time to spare on the process. We would typically receive 50+ applications, do phone interviews for the top 8-10 and then only do in-person interviews for the top 4 or 5. Relax knowing that they probably think you're capable of doing the job and that it's just a matter of whether you're the right fit for them or whether they have questions about your application that they want clarification on. 

If you want to share the practice area without identifying the firm (or yourself) you may get better insight.

Good luck!!!

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