Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

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AnonPoaster

Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by AnonPoaster » Thu May 20, 2021 1:57 pm

I have been very lucky (not even being humble here) to have landed a handful of inhouse interviews at various large companies. At each interview, I was asked generally why I was leaving biglaw and why I was applying to the inhouse role at their company.

This question really always tripped me up because I just can't think of a good, insightful answer that isn't a complete lie: I want to leave biglaw because... who wants that life long term? I don't want that life, never wanted to be a partner, and it was nothing more than just a stepping stone to get the maximum pay for a short period of time to have a better exit opportunity. And I am applying to your company because you're hiring and my experiences are loosely relevant. I feel like a high school student applying for a retail position not knowing anything.

Any advice on how to phrase things so that I don't sound like a colossal idiot?

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Danger Zone
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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Danger Zone » Thu May 20, 2021 2:01 pm

Feel free to directly blame the work life balance, especially if your interviewer worked at a big law firm, it won’t be a surprise. Everyone in house knows that working at a big law firm is brutal. I’ve done literally dozens of interviews where I’ve used that exact answer and can usually get a laugh out of it with the right smile wink wink sorta face. It’s important to be genuine in these types of interviews because personality fit is always a big concern, so you don’t want to make up an answer that sounds robotic or rehearsed.

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Nony
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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Nony » Thu May 20, 2021 2:14 pm

I totally defer to DZ because he's done this and I haven't (wrt inhouse at least). But I think it's also completely fair to say something about this kind of work having been your goal from the start, and you went to biglaw because it provided the training and experience to make you a competitive candidate now. Certainly there aren't a lot of entry level fedgov positions you can go to out of law school (and my understanding is that's the same for inhouse, too). Again, especially if your interviewer came out of biglaw (and especially if they came out of a T14 that funnels almost everyone into biglaw), they'll understand that answer. It doesn't make you sound like an idiot, you were just being strategic.

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Jubo
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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Jubo » Thu May 20, 2021 2:26 pm

I mean hopefully you can think of one or two things that excite you about the company that you can say "I wanna do work related to X specifically and build a career around that" or something.

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Danger Zone
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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Danger Zone » Thu May 20, 2021 2:40 pm

Also I should add, you can still show them that you’re a hard worker and you’re not afraid of a late night or two, while at the same time wanting a change from the pace of big law. It is a bit of a tight rope but you can get the hang of it.

Story
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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Story » Thu May 20, 2021 3:40 pm

For government, talk about public service, the agency’s mission, etc.

AnonPoaster

Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by AnonPoaster » Thu May 20, 2021 3:49 pm

OP here. Thank you all. I guess transparency is the best.

Are there any general tips or guide as to how to succeed with inhouse/government interviews? I seem to look good on paper but constantly strike out during interviews. I don't have some weird personality flaw, I think I just get nervous a lot and think too much about what the employer wants instead of being myself.

Story
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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Story » Fri May 21, 2021 1:22 pm

This is probably Interviewing 101, but try to make each answer have something that shows what you can contribute to the employer. You can talk about your own professional and personal development, but that should not be the focus. Keep trying to show the interviewer what you would do for the company.

For gov, I would focus on devotion to public service. Try to show that you genuinely want to serve the people. Try to tie your answers to how you can fulfill the agency’s stated mission. Don’t give any hint that you’re looking for a cushy gov job; for whatever reason, some gov lawyers get defensive when you imply they have a cushy job.

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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri May 21, 2021 1:25 pm

Story wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 1:22 pm
This is probably Interviewing 101, but try to make each answer have something that shows what you can contribute to the employer. You can talk about your own professional and personal development, but that should not be the focus. Keep trying to show the interviewer what you would do for the company.

For gov, I would focus on devotion to public service. Try to show that you genuinely want to serve the people. Try to tie your answers to how you can fulfill the agency’s stated mission. Don’t give any hint that you’re looking for a cushy gov job; for whatever reason, some gov lawyers get defensive when you imply they have a cushy job.
yeah...I'd be more sensitive about this with gov than inhouse (though I wouldn't get too carried away with it for inhouse either). I think for inhouse your answer should include something about how you want to be closer to the business side, more involved in strategic decision making, etc (assuming it makes sense in the specific context).

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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by Story » Fri May 21, 2021 2:39 pm

Unlike with gov, I should clarify in full disclosure that I have never worked at a private company as in-house counsel. So take my comments for what they’re worth.

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Re: Biglaw to Inouse/Government Exit Interview Question - Why are you leaving your job?

Post by JusticeHarlan » Mon May 24, 2021 12:18 am

BlendedUnicorn wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 1:25 pm
Story wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 1:22 pm
This is probably Interviewing 101, but try to make each answer have something that shows what you can contribute to the employer. You can talk about your own professional and personal development, but that should not be the focus. Keep trying to show the interviewer what you would do for the company.

For gov, I would focus on devotion to public service. Try to show that you genuinely want to serve the people. Try to tie your answers to how you can fulfill the agency’s stated mission. Don’t give any hint that you’re looking for a cushy gov job; for whatever reason, some gov lawyers get defensive when you imply they have a cushy job.
yeah...I'd be more sensitive about this with gov than inhouse (though I wouldn't get too carried away with it for inhouse either). I think for inhouse your answer should include something about how you want to be closer to the business side, more involved in strategic decision making, etc (assuming it makes sense in the specific context).
For in-house would definitely focus on both aspects, how you’re a good fit for doing the work they need, and how in-house will be a more fulfilling role for you (so you can really know the business, know the people and be part of the team, rather than just be the outside help, etc.).

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