Callback Interviews

Callbacks Guide

Offers Guide (includes advice on how to decline an offer)

The Effective Interviewing section of the Career Development and Job Search skills webpage (click here) contains links to webcasts on the subject of callback interviews and contains additional useful information.

We also suggest you review the legal employers’ Open Letter to Law Students (click here) for important callback advice.


Purpose and Format

Travel Arrangements and Expenses

1. Purpose and Format of Callbacks

Congratulations! Your on-campus interviews have led to one or more callbacks. This means that the employer is interested in you and wants to get to know you better. They also want you to have the opportunity to get to know them, and for both of you to determine whether you would be a good match with the firm.

Scheduling Callbacks

You must promptly acknowledge every callback invitation (within a day or two) — even if you are not yet sure whether you are going to take it — and accept or reject it as soon as possible. Given current market conditions, you should not wait too long to decide and, if you decide to accept the callback, try to schedule it to take place as soon as you possibly can.  Failing to timely respond to each invitation in some way (yes, no, or you need some additional time to think about it) will put your developing professional reputation (and the reputation of the Law School) at risk.

If your early results indicate that you are likely to get a large number of call-back invitations, it is completely appropriate to respond to a callback invitation in the following manner: thank them for the invitation, indicate that you are in the process of determining your call-back schedule, and promise to contact them as soon as you can to apprise them of whether you will be accepting the callback. Do not delay turning down a call-back because you think it is impolite; it may open an opportunity for a classmate.

NALP rules  governing the length of time offers are held open have change over the past few years.  The current rules foster a “rolling offer” period among large firms, pursuant to which firms must leave offers open for at least 28 days from the date of the offer letter or until December 30th, whichever comes first.  Employers may retract any offer that is not reaffirmed by a student within a 14-day period.  These rules may affect employers’ callback patterns – while some firms may extend callback invitations to some candidates within a few days of the screening interview, other firms may not make callback decisions right away and may delay their callback process by one or two weeks, even longer. The rolling deadline suggests that, if you are particularly interested in a firm, you should likely schedule the callback for that firm as soon as you are practically able. For more information about the rules governing accepting or declining offers, talk to one of the CDO’s Attorney-Counselors.

To schedule the callback, follow the instructions of the person who extended the invitation. This usually means calling the recruiting coordinator at the firm (if you are in doubt, the recruiting coordinator is the person to call.) Ask what the format of your interview will be, and let him or her know if you have any particular interests or concerns. If you have physical disabilities which require some accommodation, you should mention it at this stage so that the recruiting coordinator can plan accordingly. (The Americans With Disabilities Act applies to interviewing and other recruitment activities.) Firms will often ask if you would like to meet with attorneys in a particular practice area. They will also usually accommodate other kinds of requests, such as interviews with women attorneys and attorneys of color, but keep your requests moderate, and express your concern for the firm’s desires and convenience as well.

Callbacks are very tiring, and you should take this into account when scheduling multiple callbacks. One per day is optimal. Callbacks with two different employers in a single day is usually possible if they are located near each other, but you will likely not be at your best by the time the final interviews of the day take place. In the event you encounter difficulties with scheduling or at the callback itself, remain polite, and let the CDO know about the problem.

Declining Callbacks

You may realize during the course of the fall recruiting season that you are not interested in certain callbacks. You are also likely to have periods where you are not sure whether you want to attend a certain callback or not. You need not attend every callback to which you are invited. The important thing in responding to invitations is to be very prompt and to express your appreciation, even if you are only calling to say that you are in the process of working out your schedule and will get back to them at a given date in the very near future. You should, of course, be as scrupulously courteous and professional about declining callbacks as you are throughout the recruiting process.  Remember that delaying– or worse, failing altogether — to get back to an employer adversely affects both the firm’s recruiting efforts and your classmates who might want the slot you are holding.

There is no need to give detailed or deeply apologetic reasons for declining a callback. It is sufficient to state simply, and very politely, that you really appreciate their interest in you, that it was great to meet the interviewer and learn more about the firm, but that you will be unable to schedule a callback with them.  Close by thanking them for taking the time to talk with you about the firm.  Firm recruiters and lawyers are “adults” and understand how the process works and that you likely have a range of options.  Their reaction is usually to wish you well.

What to Expect

Callback interviews usually consist of a series of interviews with three to six attorneys (five is typical for large firms) individually in their offices or a conference room, and often a restaurant meal with other attorneys. The same basic rules apply to callbacks as to screening interviews: arrive on time, dress professionally, and bring extra copies of your resume, transcript and writing sample. Firms will be looking for the same qualities as they did during the screening interviews: smarts, motivation, professionalism, collegiality, etc. (See the CDO Effective Interviewing Guide for more details). The interview lasts from the moment you arrive at the firm until you exit several hours later. Keep in mind that the lawyers you meet will be evaluating you, and they will notice your interaction with everyone you encounter, including their support staff and servers at restaurants. When you arrive, you will meet briefly with either an administrative staff person or an attorney before the formal interview schedule begins. You will be given a list of the people with whom you will be meeting. Make an effort to remember their names, which can be difficult when you are meeting so many new people. Remember that you are also there to learn about the firm, so you can make an informed decision should you receive an offer. Get as much information as you can during the callback, and observe the atmosphere and the people there as well. Would you like to spend the summer (or your professional life) here?

Large firms prefer to include a meal as part of the callback because their representatives want the chance to observe you in a less formal setting. Often, the attorneys who will accompany you are closer in age to you and the meal is billed as “your opportunity to ask more junior-level attorneys whatever you want.” In reality, however, they will be interviewing you and likely submitting written evaluations just as the attorneys with whom you more formally interviewed will. You should resist the temptation to “let down your guard” with these younger attorneys. At the same time, you do not want to appear like someone who cannot relax in a less formal business setting. Your challenge, therefore, is to find a balance between keeping your mind alert and “in interview mode” and not appearing like a “stuffed-shirt.”  For more information about appropriate behavior and etiquette at callback lunches or dinners, you may want to listen to CDO’s Etiquette presentation from a few years ago.

Thank You Notes

Thank you notes, whether by email or traditional mail, should be sent within 24 hours of an interview. The consensus is that email is now the appropriate format in which to thank an employer for an interview opportunity.  Be extra careful with email; your message is still a business communication, which means it should be appropriately formal (including appropriate salutation and closing) and error-free. In addition, take into account the ease with which email can be forwarded (intentionally or not), and make sure your note contains nothing that unintended recipients might find objectionable. It may be tempting to send a single email to the several people you interviewed with, but it is far preferable to write individualized messages to each. You might also send a message to the recruitment coordinator or staff person who handled the administrative aspects of scheduling the interview. Always keep in mind, though, that your multiple messages may be assembled in your file, so make sure they are individualized . If you do use conventional mail, use a standard business format, and again, make sure your presentation is perfect.

Thank yous should be short and to the point. You should thank the interviewer for his or her time and reiterate your interest in the position for which you are interviewing. Try to recall something specific about your interview experience so that the letter does not look like a generic mail-merged document. It should be carefully proofread and you should make sure you have the interviewer’s name exactly right.

As a rule, do not follow up interviews with a telephone call unless you have been explicitly invited to do so, or if you have specific questions to ask or information to convey that was not covered during the interview.

Some additional information about thank you notes can be found in the CDO’s Thank You Note Guide.

2. Travel Arrangements and Expenses

Making Arrangements

Bay Area firms generally do not cover costs related to callback interviews for Berkeley Law students; government and public interest employers do not usually pay any interview expenses. Private firms outside the Bay Area will usually pay round trip air fare (special fares or coach), hotel room, meal, and ground transportation costs directly associated with the callback. If the employer offering you a callback is out of town, you will need to arrange your travel and for reimbursement of your expenses. (If you visit a firm because you happen to be in town, without making prior arrangements for them to contribute to your travel expenses, you should not expect the firm to do so.

Many firms prefer to make your travel arrangements in order to control costs and avoid the paperwork of reimbursement. Discuss reimbursement issues when you schedule the interview and follow all procedures and guidelines very carefully. If you do not understand a firm’s reimbursement policy, ask for clarification. Firms take notice when students take advantage of the reimbursement process; student abuse of the callback reimbursement process can also reflect poorly on the Law School.

If you are making your own arrangements, ask for suggestions as to price range and ask what hotels the firm prefers you use. Many have commercial rate agreements with nearby hotels and prefer that you stay at one of them. If you do not have a credit card, it is probably time to get one; they are often required in order to check into hotels, even when the firm will be paying the hotel directly. Credit cards are also generally useful for reimbursable expenses because you can defer costs until after the firm has reimbursed you.

Collecting Reimbursement from the Employer(s)

Keep receipts for all expenses relating to your callback. NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals has a standard form for requesting reimbursement for travel costs (also available in the CDO). Instructions for how to use this form can be found here.  Use this, or an alternate if the firm provides one, to summarize your expenses. As soon as possible, send the receipts with the form and a brief cover letter (which can also explain anything about your request that is not apparent from the form) to the recruiting coordinator at the firm.

NALP employer members prepared an Open Letter to Law Students that contains lots of helpful advice on preparing for, scheduling, an obtaining reimbursement for callbacks.  It is well worth your time to review it.

Splitting Expenses Among Employers

When you see two or more employers for callbacks on a single trip, the cost of your trip is typically split among them, with one, the host firm, making most of the arrangements.

You should disclose the fact that you are seeing additional employers in the area for callbacks to the law firm paying for the trip. They do not find these disclosures odd or indicative of your level of interest in their firm. They expect qualified candidates to be interviewing with multiple employers and it is common industry practice to share expenses in these situations. If they learn of your other interviews from a source other than you, they may question your integrity.

Provide the names of all the additional firms you will be interviewing with to the firm(s) paying for your trip. They seldom have a problem with arrangements of this kind, but they may ask any other firms you are seeing to contribute to the cost of your travel. Large firms which are paying for your travel directly may also prepare any paperwork necessary to divide the costs of your trip among other employers you visited on the same trip. The host firm will reimburse you for any out-of-pocket expenses and later settle accounts with the other firms you visited. If you are splitting expenses among several employers and they do not offer to do the paperwork for you, prorate your expenses and send a letter to each employer listing its share. The NALP form addresses expense-splitting among multiple firms.

Combining an Employer-Paid Interview Trip with Personal Travel

This is not a problem, but you may only ask the employer to cover expenses they would pay if you were not spending additional time in the area.

Paying for Spouse or Significant Other Travel

We advise that you do not ask potential employers to pay for this; while it is sometimes done in recruiting practicing attorneys, employers do not usually pay travel costs for students’ spouses or significant others.

You are, of course, responsible for making travel and reimbursement arrangements for your callback interviews. However, if you have difficulty getting reimbursed, or other issues arise, contact the CDO; we may be able to help you communicate more effectively with the firm, or provide other guidance.