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Questions from the Interviewer

published May 16, 2013

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Every interviewer has his or her own style. Nonetheless, there are a series of questions which seem to be asked by every interviewer. Among the first questions you should expect relate to grades. If you have not disclosed your grades on your resume, be prepared to answer questions about them early in the interview. Even if you have disclosed your grades, you will probably be asked what they mean. That is, the interviewer will be interested in knowing whether or not you are in the top quarter of your class or the bottom quarter. Many law schools provide interviewers with rankings, but some law schools continue to avoid any semblance of class ranking. If you have an idea of your place in your class, you should disclose it if asked with whatever caveat you wish to include such as, "Our law school does not provide student rankings, but I have a sense that I am in the top third of my class. Beyond that I am simply unsure of my class ranking."

Expect questions about the meaning of various honors received. For example, some law schools have created a system in which there are several journals edited by law students. This is an obvious attempt to provide a law review experience for a greater number of students. These journals may be selected on the basis of grades, writing competition, or both, or merely on the basis of interest. Employers are bound to be interested in knowing whether you were selected on the basis of performance or on the basis of interest. If selected on the basis of interest, do not be embarrassed; your effort to improve yourself will or at least should be noticed.

Many interviewers will ask why you are interested in their particular law firm. This is, of course, one of the opportunities for which you have been waiting. Responding to this question will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the firm, corporation, or governmental agency conducting the interview and thereby demonstrate through that knowledge an interest that is bound to be considered more genuine than a simple superficial response such as, "I have always been interested in working for a large corporation in the widget business."

Another frequently asked question which provides an opportunity for you to change the momentum of the interview is "What can I tell you about our firm or corporation or agency?" This question provides another opportunity to ask questions which in themselves indicate to the interviewer that you are interested in his or her particular institution. One obvious line of questioning is that you ask the status of that particular major piece of litigation which you know exists as a result of your prior investigation. In that same vein, you could also ask questions about how that particular case, transaction or matter was staffed and what particular and specific roles various lawyers of different seniorities played in its progress. One caveat: do not use the entire interview for this line of discussion. If necessary, change the direction of the interview with a question, e.g., "What more can I tell you about why you should hire me?"

Every interviewer is suspicious of those interviewees who have been born, raised and educated in a particular section of the country and have expressed a willingness or even a strong desire to relocate across the United States. Consequently, if you are a born, bred and educated New Yorker interviewing for a job in Los Angeles, you may anticipate questions about why the Los Angeles practice is one in which you are interested to an extent that would cause you to uproot yourself and perhaps your family. In fact, interviewers from any area are always interested in why someone may be willing to move to Cleveland or Chicago or Atlanta or Des Moines or Anchorage or Wenatchee, Washington. Your geographical preference, particularly if different from the situs of your legal education, will have to be addressed sooner or later.

Another area that is often pursued is what areas of practice interest you and why. Most law students can honestly say they don't know or express their tentative decisions. In most in-stances, the interviewer does not expect you to have made a decision; in fact, the question is generally asked to see how and whether you have thought about which area of law most appeals to you from the point of view of long-term practice goals. The fact that you have not made a decision is unimportant.

Regardless of the specific nature of the questions just discussed, the interviewer's basic mission is to see whether or not you have that extra dimension or quality which will result in a decision to interview you more extensively at the law firm, corporation, or agency. Every institution interviewing for prospective employees in the United States would like to hire the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review so long as that person is also number one in the class and a former NCAA singles tennis champion. Fortunately for all of us "middlies", there are only so many students in the top ten percent of their classes, and as we all know, substantially more than the top ten percent of each law school class finds satisfactory, rewarding and exciting professional opportunities. Consequently, the important thing for us to remember is that although law firms, corporations, and agencies are indeed recruiting us, we have to give them a reason for distinguishing us from other prospective applicants; we have to provide an extra dimension. Thus, every facet of the interviewing process should be considered as an opportunity to show your prospective employer that your potential is greater than that of other people similarly situated.

See the following articles for more information:

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