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Should Firms Test Lawyers' Substantive Knowledge in Interviews?

When is the last time that you interviewed for a position with a law firm and the hiring attorney grilled you on the finer points of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 or asked you to draft a short memo resolving a hypothetical legal problem or even required you to explain how you might go about researching a particular issue?  Truth is, legal employers rarely ask substantive questions of prospective candidates or require them to demonstrate competencies like research and writing or thinking-on-one's feet. 

Contrast that with the hiring practices that are common to the IT industry, and what an anonymous reader gripes about at Slashdot:

After having my university degrees, a couple of IT certifications, and over ten years of work experience in the industry, with 2-4 years of verifiable employment with each employer, working with a wide range of technologies, is it reasonable to ask me to take some test on a job interview? The same companies don't ask other professionals (lawyer, accountant, sales, HR, etc.) to submit to any kind of in-house tests when they are hired. Why are IT professionals treated differently and in such a paternalistic way?

While the commenter urges his colleagues to refuse to subject themselves to this insulting treatment, my own feeling is that law firms should consider actually testing lawyers' skills before hiring them.  Though summer associate programs give firms some opportunity to evaluate a prospective attorney's skills, firms often hire graduates and laterals who haven't come up through a summer program and whose skills are untested.  So I throw this question out to you: Would a substantive interview process result in better-quality hires, and would lawyers object to substantive testing during hiring?  And if your firm has used this kind of process, how has it worked for you?  Post your comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 15, 2008 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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