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Everything about Informational Interviews

published September 26, 2013

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You should seek an informational interview with law school officials if your status as an applicant is unusual, if you require some special consideration, or if you need to have the law school waive some part of its application procedure. I've identified a number of special circumstances in earlier chapters. Applicants who need special consideration include older nontraditional applicants whose undergraduate work was done many years ago, and who want success in the business world to be considered a qualification for law school; applicants who were educated entirely or partly at foreign universities where curriculums are different from those of American universities or records are difficult to understand or unobtainable; handicapped applicants who want some part of the application procedure waived and/or who will need some special accommodations in order to attend law school; impoverished applicants seeking a waiver of the application fee; and applicants with felony convictions or other black marks on their records, who need to determine whether they will be allowed to practice law.

These informational interviews aren't formally part of the application process. They don't count the way the old formal interviews did. You won't be compared with other interviewees or rated on your performance. But informational interviews can be extremely important in determining how the formal parts of your application will be viewed. Moreover, the interviewer's impression of you will always be recorded, and it may carry great weight when the admissions committee decides whether to provide the special treatment you are requesting.

If you think you will need some modification of the application procedure, you should request an interview well before you apply. If you have a handicap such that the LSAT may not be a true test of your abilities, you should seek an informational interview before you register to take the LSAT. If you are not seeking special consideration but simply need to clarify how some aspect of your record will be viewed-for example, if you have a felony conviction on your record-you can wait until after you apply to seek the informational interview.

You can request an informational interview by explaining your circumstances to the law school representative you talk to when you visit, or simply by calling the law school admission office for an appointment. (Some law schools still have a box on their application forms that you can check for this purpose. An official will then call you to set up an appointment. However, you can't use this method if you need the interview before you begin the application process.) It may take several phone calls before the informational interview can be scheduled because the representative you speak to may have to arrange for the presence of a higher-ranking official.

In my experience, law schools are usually very sympathetic to applicants with special needs. They can be surprisingly flexible. (Remember, they want students with unusual backgrounds.) But they'll make special arrangements only for candidates whom they perceive as honest and sincere. For this reason, the impression you make is vitally important. Approach the informational interview with the same careful preparation you would bring to a formal interview that counts. It is important for you to demonstrate that you've done your homework. If you are handicapped, it is especially important that you appear energetic and cheerful.

You can expect to be asked some of the questions that I've discussed earlier in this chapter, so you should plan for them. But to a large extent you yourself will set the agenda for an informational inter-view; it will focus on your handicap, problem, or special circumstance. You'll need to describe it fully. Be sure to bring with you whatever records you will need. Handicapped persons should submit appropriate medical documentation. If you can't obtain a transcript from the registrar of a foreign university, you should bring your own copy to show the interviewer, including a prepared translation if necessary.

Some law schools will ask you to put any request for special treatment in writing, in the form of a letter addressed to the dean. Even if a written petition isn't required, preparing one will help you clarify your thinking. Make sure you know exactly what you are asking for and what you will settle for before the interview. Bring the petition to the interview. And be sure to bring a notebook for taking notes.

If you ask the law school to waive some part of the application process, you will have to convince the interviewer that this particular part-the LSAT, say-cannot dependably measure your qualifications for law school. Your argument will be much stronger if you can suggest some other way that your likelihood of success in law school can be predicted. Alternative evaluation techniques include statements of knowledgeable professionals, reports of success on standardized tests other than the LSAT, superb undergraduate grades, or successful dealings in the legal world. Each individual case is unique. Older non-traditionals should be prepared to document their business careers. Handicapped applicants are usually viewed favorably if they have been able to perform well in appropriate undergraduate programs; for them, grades are even more important.

Before you leave the interview room, be sure you understand exactly what has been decided. Some law schools, for example, will offer only provisional or probationary admission to students for whom they have waived some aspect of the application procedure; others may offer admission only if you satisfy some additional condition. If you're asked to provide more information, write down what is needed and where it should be sent. If a decision on your request will be made at a later date, write down that date, the names of the authorities who will make the decision, the date by which you can expect to be notified, and the name of a person to contact if you have any questions. If a decision is made on the spot, write down exactly what has been decided. Ask the interviewer to write you a letter confirming the decision-for example, that your admission fee, or LSAT, or foreign transcript has been waived-and to put a copy of the letter in your file.

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