As Fordham Law students begin their remote internships, clerkships, and fellowships this summer, five recruiters convened with Jayne Schreiber, assistant dean of career planning, and Deborah Dempster, associate director of the Career Planning Center (CPC), on June 4 to share their best practices for video interviews and working remotely.
“It’s great to see people grow through all of this and figure out—as firms, individuals, students, and practitioners—what can we all do to really create the best experience for people in these circumstances?” said Donna Manion, director of legal recruiting at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, towards the end of the third week of the firm’s summer program.
Other panelists included: Lillian Evans, deputy director of legal recruiting for the New York City Law Department; Maja Hazell, global head of diversity and inclusion at White & Case; Michele Moorman, director of people and recruiting at Chaffetz Lindsey LLP; and Nancy Parker, director of attorney recruitment at Fried, Frank (which has hired six Fordham Law summer associates this summer).
Be prepared for distractions: “You can control what you can control, but there are things that will be out of your control,” Parker said. “Maybe you’re living with roommates, family members, siblings, or pets. I think we’re all understanding of that, as long as we’re each doing our best. But roll with the punches and be fluid.”
Practice, practice, practice: “What’s most important is the substance coming out of your mouth, and what you’re conveying about who you are; why you are passionate about the law, about this particular firm; your direction; all of the skills in terms of knowing yourself, knowing your resume; and demonstrating that you’re client-ready through the video medium,” Hazell said.
Maintain eye contact with the camera, not the screen: “Really get used to looking at the camera instead of looking down … because that doesn’t come naturally, especially when your images are below the camera, talking. You’re almost like a moth to a flame looking down,” Evans said.
Be proactive and outgoing: “It’s really important in this remote summer that you need to be yourself—but I think you need to be your most outgoing self and to do things that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable doing in a ‘normal’ year,” Evans suggested. “For example, after meeting your fellow interns via a Zoom orientation, reach out to a few of them and say, ‘Hey, can we do a Zoom lunch hour or coffee break together?’”
Put your best foot forward: “It’s very likely that interactions with your summer colleagues this year will be relatively limited as compared to other years, so make the most of each conversation, meeting, and exchange,” said Schreiber. “Always be enthusiastic and curious about the work and your assignments. Make sure your work product is as good as it can be. You may only have a brief moment to make a great impression!”
Stay in touch with your assigned attorney: “What you’re in high danger of when you can’t just stop by somebody’s office to check in with them is getting an assignment, thinking you understand the assignment, going off and doing your work and producing something that is not what the attorneys want. You need to prevent that from happening,” Evans warned. “In the initial assignment meeting, ensure that you fully understand the assignment and then follow up consistently.”
Reach out for help: “Figure out who’s responsible for what in the firm and access them as you need to, rather than just completely trying to rely on your own resources to get things done,” Moorman said. “Take in the information, know your resources and access them, and don’t be concerned or embarrassed to ask about that.”
“Use your mentors,” Parker added. “You might not have easily accessible support in your immediate surroundings, but there are people here who are going to help you, so just ask for help. No one will ever say you’re asking too much.”
Don’t shield yourself in video calls: “People need to see your face, they need to connect with you—and if you need support and getting comfortable around that, participate in smaller, more informal get-togethers with mentoring audiences to practice,” Hazell said. “For example, you shouldn’t be off-camera for a networking affinity group event.”
Communicate and engage: “Establish and figure out what works well for you and what works well for that person you’re working with. Understand that it might not be Zoom—it might be a regular phone call,” Manion said. “The different people you work with will have different styles, so you can’t assume that what worked in the first instance is exactly what is going to work best in the next one. Be nimble, flexible, communicate, and figure out how to move forward.”
Check in with your supervisors: “If you work at an employer that has an assignment coordinator, make sure that person is aware of your availability and willingness to take on new assignments,” Schreiber recommended. “If there are types of assignments you would like to receive, make sure the assignment coordinator is aware of your interests so he or she can assist you with getting those types of projects to the extent possible.”
Take responsibility when making a mistake: “Everyone you work with has made a meaningful mistake in their workplace. Recovering from it and reacting to it is key, whether it’s virtual or in person,” Moorman said. “If it happens, I think you have to quickly assess what happened and speak to someone about what happened … take responsibility for it and people will work with you to get it resolved.”
Speak to a CPC counselor about how to handle a mistake you’ve made, or a negative review/feedback you may receive at any time during your summer job.
Remain professional: “Professionalism is something that we’re all always conscious of and working on throughout our careers. I think that it’s very important to think before you act and to take that time and that step,” Manion said. “A lot of us are using Zoom as social platforms with our friends, but it is different when you’re engaging professionally because it’s part of the work environment. It’s important to be mindful of how everyone is treating one another, and it’s important to be mindful of how you engage.”
Manage your voicemail accordingly: “Respond promptly to phone calls and emails. Make sure your voicemail on your cell phone is professional and that the mailbox for messages is not full,” Schreiber suggested. “The message on your voicemail should include your name, not just your phone number, so that callers can be certain that they reached the right party.”
Determine your role prior to meetings/calls: “I think it’s important to talk about ‘Am I presenting this? Are you presenting this? Do you need me to contribute? Should I take notes?’ It’s an opportunity for you to learn and to show leadership. Show up as your best self and be prepared, and be particularly mindful of your setting and your attire,” Moorman suggested. “I would get clarification from whoever you’re working with to see who’s going to be on the call, so that you’re ready to go in that context as well.”
Read in your spare time: “Downtime reading that you do should include professional readings on the practice area you’re interested in and in also being a good first year [associate],” Hazell said, recommending An Associate’s First Year: A Guide to Thriving at a Law Firm by Jennifer Bluestein.
If Fordham Law students have any questions or concerns about navigating work opportunities, CPC counselors are available for assistance and advice.