Law School Admissions Interviews
In law school admissions, interviews are not common. Many schools do not interview at all, and most only offer interviews on a limited basis. If you are offered an interview, take it. It usually means that you are in the discretionary review group, and the committee is looking for ways to distinguish the applicants. The majority of applicants are admitted or denied on their application alone. If you know that you will fall into a school’s discretionary pile, you should request an interview. Schools that use the interview make them an important part of the admissions decision.
How You are Judged
The interview is an opportunity for the school to ask you about your application, background, or any issues it identified in your transcripts or LSAT score. Believe it or not, the committee is generally not interested in further exploring your academic ability during an interview. Rather, they are trying to determine whether you have the temperament and psychological strengths to be a successful attorney. The interview is used to predict which applicants would be best suited to handle the rigors of law school on a personal, academic, physical, and psychological basis.
To this end, committees look to identify your strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:
• Professional experience – law schools are looking for students who have been exposed to the real world and understand the dedication that is needed to succeed in law school. Committees love to see work in a professional or managerial position, and want an idea of whether you have a realistic view of the legal system.
• Knowledge of the field – the committees will explore your understanding of the different fields of legal specialization, and current issues as they relate to the law.
• Personality – the committee is looking to see that you can communicate clearly, handle difficult issues, manage stress, and interact with different types of people. Committees love to see that you are a well-adjusted, happy person with interests other than yourself.
• Motivation – law schools want to identify students that are trying to attend school for the wrong reasons. These students are not typically happy, and have a higher dropout rate. Two motivations that are bound to sink your candidacy are that you want to make the big money, or your parents are pushing you to go. Be ready to show that you are truly interested in becoming a lawyer.
• Balance – the committee is looking for well-rounded people. Applicants who can’t talk about anything other than their grades or the LSAT don’t fare well in an interview. The committee wants to see that the candidate is full of life, with enthusiasm for their family, friends, and the world around them. The committees look for these traits through knowledge of current events, sustained interest in hobbies, and your volunteer experience.
The Committee is looking to identify the following additional traits:
• High Energy Level
• Communication Skills
• Listening Ability
• Sense of Humor
• Leadership Potential
How to Prepare for the Interview
If possible, try to schedule your interview in person at the school. A school visit is a great opportunity to visit the facility (hopefully again), interact with the faculty and students, and impress multiple members of the admissions committee. Once you are offered an interview, here’s how to prepare:
1. Confirm your interview by telephone. Ensure that you know exactly where the interview is and how to get there.
2. Request the identity of your interviewers and their titles. Use this information to do research on the interviewers so that you can get an idea of their backgrounds and interests.
3. About a week prior to the interview, send a copy of your resume to the interviewers. You should also bring copies of your resume to the interview.
4. Arrive to the interview 5 minutes early dressed in a professional suit. Project a conservative appearance.
5. Review your law school application prior to the interview. Be familiar with your grades, essays, and research topics. Be ready to discuss your most significant accomplishments, attributes that you are proud of, and your leadership ability.
6. Learn as much as possible about the particular law school and its programs. Be ready to explain why you want to attend that school with specific examples that illustrate the fact that you have researched the school.
What You will be Asked
The committees are exploring your candidacy to determine whether you have the characteristics that make for a successful law student. You should expect them to explore the following areas:
• College Life
• Current Events
• Pop Culture
• Outside Interests
• Professional Experience
• Motivation for Law
• Career Goals
• Political Views
• Breadth of Legal Knowledge
Be prepared to hear a wide range of questions of various depths, from where you grew up to your opinions on ethical/legal issues like abortion or capital punishment. And, more importantly, be ready to talk about your strengths as well as your weaknesses in a positive way.
How to Give Effective Answers
1. Make sure you understand the question you were asked. If necessary, repeat, or have the question repeated, so that you are clear on what is being asked.
2. Give a short, informative, answer to the question that you were asked. Avoid a simple yes or no. Show your interest in the questions and sincerity in your responses.
3. Avoid sounding self-centered or arrogant. Highlight your achievements, but show an appropriate amount of humility. When discussing your accomplishments, acknowledge the roles in your success that others such as coaches and teammates played.
4. Accentuate the positives in your background, but remain candid. If there are weaknesses, give your spin about why they are not going to hurt your ability to be a good student or lawyer. Do not give excuses.
5. Watch your tone. In fact, try and give a sincere smile at the beginning of any contentious question. The interviewers are asking you these questions to test your ability to handle the conflict. Don’t be defensive.
Questions to Ask at the Interview
Your questions will reveal valuable information about your candidacy to the committee. Questions will highlight qualities such as your real level of interest in the school, your expectations about the school, how much research you conducted, your common sense, and your maturity level. Here are a few tips:
• Only ask about topics that you are really interested in. Never give the impression that you are just trying to fill dead space.
• Be prepared to fully discuss the topic of any question you pose.
• Make sure the answer is not easily available to you through basic research.
• Ask the appropriate person. Don’t ask students for specific program details, or faculty about social life on campus.
• Watch your tone and body language. When asking questions some people assume an aggressive posture, which comes across as rude.
• During your research, write down some questions that naturally come to you as you review the material.
• Let your questions illustrate your level of research. For instance begin a question with “When I toured the law school last month, I noticed that…”
Avoid these 5 Common Interview Mistakes
1. Arriving late. If you don’t have enough respect to show up on time, you come across as unprofessional and uninterested.
2. Dressing inappropriately. Dress conservatively. Men should wear no jewelry other than a watch and wedding ring. Women should wear panty hose and close-toed shoes. No visible tattoos or exotic piercings.
3. Being unprepared. The committee is looking at this interview as an indicator of how you will prepare for real life meetings of consequence. Not researching the school or showing that you are unfamiliar with your application will not reflect well.
4. Getting flustered or defensive in your answers. The committee may push you a little bit to see how you react to conflict.
5. Failing to answer the question asked. Not answering the question shows that you were either not listening or that you are an ineffective communicator.