Attorneys are generally risk-averse. Because of this tendency, in interviews, we want to manage the expectations of whoever might hire us so that they are not disappointed once they figure out we are not fluent in all aspects of our practice. Therefore, often, attorneys lead by talking about what we can’t do, rather than what we can do. This is a mistake, and it is also completely unnecessary.
I spend a decent amount of my time talking to my candidates about selling themselves effectively during an interview. Some people do this well naturally, some even need to be toned down a little. But in most cases, attorneys have a tendency to undersell themselves during an interview. This is especially true of junior-level attorneys who lack confidence in their overall abilities. I have also seen it in attorneys who have taken a career break, are trying to expand a very specialized skill set, or are trying to transition to a different area of the law.
Instead, always lead with your strengths. The direction of this discussion, in an interview setting, is often up to you, because the interviewer will ask something open-ended like, “Tell me about your experience.” You can start by talking about the area in which you have the most expertise, or the area in which you have the most interest, describing your relevant experience. Let your enthusiasm come through during this discussion- this is another great tool in selling yourself effectively. If you have experience that is not exactly on point but translates well to the job you are targeting, be sure to discuss that experience and point out that it is similar to whatever duties you may be asked to perform. While I am not suggesting that you should ever represent that your experience is greater or different from what it actually is, you can do yourself a lot of favors by emphasizing the positive in this manner.
Let your interviewers follow up on areas of experience that you may not have mentioned. If you do not possess the experience they are asking for, again, talk about similar work that you have done in another area of the law, and point out in detail how it might translate to their practice. If you really feel that you have no skills to offer to a certain part of the set required, you can simply say so, or point out that you are willing to learn.
If you are interviewing, it is because someone at the firm saw something on your resume that they thought they could use. Emphasize that thing, whatever it is. Don’t spend time telling them about everything that won’t help them. They probably want you for what you can already do, so focus on that and don’t worry about the rest.