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Cocktails During Law Firm Callback Interviews?

Is it okay to drink during law firm callback interviews?

Once students pass their first round of on-campus interviews (“OCI”), they anxiously await to hear whether they will receive a second interview or–as it is generally called in the industry–a callback interview.

Callback interviews typically entail visiting the firm and interviewing with a number of partners and associates. At some point during the callback, interviewees will also be invited to attend lunch, dinner, or a networking event. Along with the flurry of questions that preparing for the callback interview brings, students often wonder whether it is acceptable to drink during the law firm callback interview.

The safest answer is no. Just don’t drink, and you have nothing to worry about.

But the honest answer is… it really depends.

Countless hiring partners and recruiters have stories about the kid who ordered a Jager Bomb at lunch. He didn’t get the summer associate offer because he showed an incredible lapse of judgment by thinking it was okay to do shots during an interview.

But what about something seemingly more innocuous? Is it okay to have–say–a beer, if everyone else at the table is having one? The answer: probably.

Exercising Good Judgment During Law Firm Callback Interviews

One of the goals of the on-campus interview and hiring process is to assess whether a candidate has good judgment. Interviewers assess this through common OCI questions, but they also interact with the candidate to establish the candidate’s skills, competency, and judgment.

Over imbibing or ordering strong drinks is a surefire way to show the interviewer that you lack professional judgment and to lose the job offer. On the other hand, a drink can be appropriate, but keep the following in mind:

  • You should generally only have one drink. This rule might change if you are at a networking event that lasts for hours. However, if you are having lunch or dinner during the callback interview, don’t have more than one drink.
  • Stick to beer or wine. Beer and wine are safe choices because most people perceive them to have less alcohol than hard liquor, so they are more appropriate for a professional setting.
  • What is everyone else drinking? This goes without saying, but it is never appropriate to order a drink if no one else is having one. If the interviewers are drinking non-alcoholic beverages, stick to water, soft drinks, or coffee.
  • Who else is drinking? It is generally okay to order a drink if the most senior person at the table orders a drink.
  • When in doubt, don’t imbibe. Again, the safest thing to do is to refrain from drinking, so if you have any doubts about whether it is appropriate, choose a non-alcoholic beverage.
Image of cups of coffee instead of cocktail during law firm callback interviews

What if I don’t Drink or don’t want to Drink?

If you don’t want to drink, for whatever reason, you don’t have to! I’ve never heard of a firm holding it against a candidate for staying sober during the interview. If anything, sobriety is a positive quality because lawyers have alarmingly high rates of substance abuse issues, and these issues can affect their work.

If you are in recovery, I suggest keeping that to yourself. It is nobody’s business, and a professional should never encourage you to drink after you decline. Nor should she inquire why you declined.

Whatever your reason for not drinking, it won’t be held against you, and it is okay to say no.

Conclusion to Cocktails During Law Firm Callback Interviews

Like so many things in law, the answer to whether it’s okay to drink during a callback is: it depends…

It’s never okay to drink if no one else is drinking, and it is always okay to say no. If you elect to have a drink, stick with beer or wine, and you should limit it to one drink in most cases.

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