Prospective employers expect you to do your homework before you set foot in their offices for your first interview. If you ask or answer questions in such a way as to reveal a lack of easily acquired information about prospective employers, they will react negatively. With the Internet, there is no excuse, since there is a plethora of information at your fingertips.
Virtually all major law firms and corporations have websites. Read not only the home page, but also any information regarding the background and history of the organization, practice profiles, attorney and/or executive biographies (especially those of anyone you know or suspect you will be meeting), press releases, recruitment information, and any information regarding recent deals, cases, or products.
For publicly traded corporations, annual reports and information required in securities filings can be found on EDGAR Online at www.edgar-online.com. With a little research you can determine the past, present, and forecasted financial status of the company, the value of any stock options, the identities and backgrounds of the key players, and even their compensation. Also, Hoover's Business Directory Online at www.hoovers.com will give you capsules of information about a large number of companies for free, with the option of a paid subscription to get a more detailed analysis.
Vault at www.vault.com is an excellent source of "inside information" on the law firms and corporations they have profiled, but they do not cover every possible prospective employer. Similarly, you may want to look at Chambers and Partners’ "The Student’s Guide to Law Firms" which can be accessed through www.chambers-associate.com. You can also search the NALP (National Association of Law Placement) law firm employer forms at www.nalp.org. Those forms contain charts with valuable information such as the numbers of attorneys in the firm, their ethnic and gender make-up, billable hours requirements, the numbers of partners and associates in various areas of practice, and so forth.
The NALP site also gives you access to a variety of legal market research such as employment rates by type of employer and city as well as salary surveys. Law.com at www.law.com, features links to an annual survey of mid-level associates at major law firms about their quality of life and practice, as well as an associate salary survey. To calculate the salary you would need in a new location to maintain current purchasing power whether you own a home or rent, see Homefair.com's salary calculator at www.homefair.com/calc/salcalc.html.
Results from a general web search may give you some idea of seminars in which firm members have presented, newsworthy events including major deals or trials or acquisitions, organizations to which the firm or company belongs, and the like. A quick run on Nexis at www.lexis-nexis.com, which contains many nationwide newspapers, also is a good idea if it is available to you, but it is a subscription-only service and does not include all legal periodicals.
With all of this information available, there is no excuse for arriving at an interview unprepared. Furthermore, going beyond the obvious information sources to demonstrate more in-depth knowledge of your prospective employer's business can only serve to make you a stronger candidate.