« on: March 29, 2008, 06:42:28 AM »
I'd say there's little difference between your type of hiring situation and that faced by interviewees at a top big firm, at least insofar as how you handle yourself. Small, medium or big, firms look to your grades and resume (this firm liked yours) to determine whether to give you a screening interview, then they determine at the screening interview whether you seem personable and as bright as your grades/resume indicate (the person(s) who initially interviewed liked you), then they have you in for a callback to allow more people at the firm (most importantly, partners) to determine whether you are bright, motivated and friendly. If this is for a summer position, the summer then serves as an extended callback of sorts, allowing an even greater range of people to check you out and for the firm to confirm its feelings about you (and it's also a chance for you to check out the firm, insofar seeing an accurate picture of a firm is possible as a summer). If it's for an associate position, everything is on the line.
Plenty of firms give screening interviews (on campus) just to get/keep their name out there, i.e., with no intention of even extending callbacks to most of those interviewed (at least at non-elite schools). Big firms try to be conservative about who gets a callback, given the expenses and time, especially this past and this coming fall. Small to midsize firms are no different.
One difference in your case, however, is that you had your screening at its office, which I would argue tends to show that the firm was already sincerely interested in you. That it's going to take up the time of the rest of the partners to meet with you is further indication of its interest.
If you're sure that they know about your other offer, I'm not sure whether (or even how) you should raise it. If they ask, of course, by all means tell them. If you're really itching to share it with them in the hopes of leveraging it, you might want to use it as an opportunity to show why you prefer the interviewing firm over any other (e.g., "well, I have an offer from firm X, which I feel is an excellent firm, but given my interest in blah, blah, blah practice areas, and your firm's reputation in those areas, I feel that your firm would be the superior setting for me to develop a practice and thrive as a lawyer," or some such), or perhaps in response to their inevitable question "why our firm?"
Lastly, given the firm size, it's important that you exhibit - by your compusure, statements and the questions you ask - a potential for client development, i.e., that you will be able to make rain in a few years. At a large firm, for the most part, it's all about meeting the needs of and not disappointing big, institutional clients, which were clients of the firm long before an associate starts and will likely remain clients long after that associate is gone. The small percentage of associates who become partners at a big firm have tuffed it out at 2,000+ a year for anywhere between 6-9 years, and in the year in which they are "up for partner," the question is basically "do the in-house lawyers or other execs at corporations X, Y, and Z feel comfortable dealing directly with this senior associate, with no partner involvement, on an ongoing basis?" At a smaller firm, the partners will expect you - based on the reputation you develop, client/lawyer referrals, networking, etc. - to bring new clients to the firm. Mid-size insurance defense sweatshops are an exception to this, but in light of your strong desire to work at that firm, it doesn't sound like it's a dead-end sweatshop.
Remember, your callback is simply a meeting for the partners to confirm for themselves that you are bright, motivated, friendly, and interested (at least one of whom already said as much). Confidence enhances all four of those attributes - so be confident (but not cocky).