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Summary: Although these may seem like old-world old-school suggestions regarding law school admissions interviews, as well as admissions in general, they still are tried and true actions
The law school interview can be one of the most important aspects of your legal education.
This is why during the interview you have to be direct and serious, as well as charming and eloquent.
These qualities in your personae can go a long way toward you being admitted into the law school of your choice, or possibly an even better law school you may not have considered.
The fact is, interviewing is not easy. Sure, anyone can sit down in front of a recruiter and bloviate ad nauseam about themselves. But what law school admissions and recruiters really look out for are those who separate themselves from the fray. Those hopeful law school attendees who do so, suddenly become more attractive to interviewers.
In fact, the three dominating traits law school admissions like to see when they interview potential candidates have:
An agreeable personality
An eloquence to how one speaks and presents themselves
An ability to tackle the task of law school.
In most cases, the third trait is rarely as important as the first two because having an agreeable personality and eloquence almost always leads to an ability to tackle the task of law school, an at that, successfully tackle legal cases.
According to U.S. News and World Report, a strong but positive personality is sorely needed during a prospective law student’s law school interviews. These students need to (and do) stand out from the fray from other candidates.
Mark Hill, senior director of admissions at Duke Law School, says one mistake applicants tend to make during admissions interviews is giving answers that are too brief and/or matter-of-fact.
"There are people who will just answer the very direct question that they're asked and stop," Hill says.
Hill states that the applicants who impress him most are those who not only fully answer his questions but who also offer insight on their undergraduate school experience (and earlier) as well as any real life experience they’ve had outside of their education.
Hill goes on to say that it's also essential for applicants to clearly articulate why they want a law degree.
"The baseline is a sense that it is a reasonably well-informed decision to go to law school because something about the work appeals to you," he says.
At the same time, Harvard Law School has a similar approach to law school admissions interviews which the school was considerate and thoughtful enough to post online.
Take time to anticipate the types of questions likely to be asked in your interviews, the school suggests. Think through what your answers would be without “scripting” them or making them sound too rehearsed. The interviewer may pose hypotheticals or questions about substantive areas of law. By asking these types of questions, interviewers are trying to evaluate how well you reason and analyze and how clearly you think and speak. Your ability to articulate your response is often more important than coming up with the right answer or being an expert on the relevant case law.
Harvard suggests that you should be prepared to address weak areas of your resume, such as gaps between jobs or schooling, sudden changes in career direction or poor grades. Don’t come off as apologetic, defensive or insecure. Instead, one should be willing to openly talk about these areas.
Some of the questions Harvard asks during their candidate interviews are:
How would your friends describe you?
How would you describe yourself as a person?
Why this particular geographic area?
What is the latest non-legal book you’ve read?
What are your outside interests and hobbies?
Who is your hero/heroine?
Why did you choose law?
What is your biggest accomplishment?
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
What would make you a good trial advocate?
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
How would you go about building a trusting relationship with a client?
What is something interesting that’s not on your resume?
What one thing have you done that you’re proudest of?
What is the most difficult/rewarding thing you’ve ever accomplished?
How do you work under pressure?
What type of people do you work with best or would have trouble working with?
Are you a team player or do you prefer to work on your own?
Answer this brace of questions passionately, yet with honesty, and it will be difficult for any law school to turn you down based on your eloquence and eagerness to start law school.
How to Prepare for Your Interview
While it is true that many law schools have eliminated the face-to-face interview, many major institutions such as the University of Chicago, Harvard and Northwestern have decided to stick with this type of old school interview – well, at least as old school as an interview via Skype can be considered.
So with that, as with nearly every aspect of applying to law school, you will have to prepare yourself for what will not only be asked of you, but revealed in through your presence.
1. If your interview via Skype, find a suitable environment
If you’re speaking with an admissions representative on Skype, they’ll be able to see (and hear) where you’re interviewing from. Make sure to choose a quiet location indoors with a plain background – that way the focus will be on you, not on your Chihuahua’s barks from the kitchen or on a blaring television set. The place should also allow you to speak up, clearly and loudly, so the main hall of the library is probably not your best bet.
2. Dress professionally
Just because admissions officers can only see you from your shoulders up doesn’t give you leeway to wear a Halloween costume to your interview. Dress for success – even if interviewers can’t see your slacks, you’ll take your own interview more seriously if you feel appropriately dressed.
3. Brainstorm responses
Prepare responses to some of the most common questions – questions like “Why Northwestern?” or “What interests you about law?” or “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.” However, don’t memorize notes from your brainstorming session. You should be able to adapt to any question an interviewer throws at you, so memorizing a strictly formulaic response can backfire.
4. Review your application materials
It doesn’t work in your favor when an admissions officer asks you about your involvement in fantasy football and you draw a blank before realizing that’s a whole section on your resume. Know your application materials well and review your resume to ensure you can speak to each bullet.
5. Prepare questions
Toward the end of the interview, the admissions representative will likely ask whether you have any questions that he or she can help answer for you. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know the school and its culture better. Prepare a list of smart questions – ones that you can’t find answers for readily online. If you have nothing to ask at the end of the interview, you might appear to be disinterested, or like you didn’t think too much about the interview beforehand.
6. Be specific
If you give vague answers, don’t be surprised if admissions officers walk away with only a vague idea of who you are as a candidate. Be as detailed as you can when giving your responses. For example, if asked about how you demonstrated leadership, don’t just respond that you exhibited this quality through clubs. Exactly how did you motivate and lead your fellow students?
Consider these tips
Who doesn’t enjoy tips, particularly when they are provided to someone who is about to embark on a harrowing post-graduate program such as law school?
Of course tips are as common as fish in the sea, and as far as anything law-related, law school included, all tips should be taken with a so-called grain of salt. In other words, consider whatever you’re given as a tip or idea very carefully before employing it toward your law school admissions interview.
Noodle.com provides scholastic guidance to students depending upon their collegiate and career interests. Their website provides the following general (but well received) advice for post-undergrads who are considering one or more law school programs.
If you call a law school admissions office to ask a question, behave in a professional, respectful manner. If you have just spent 10 minutes working your way through an annoying phone tree before you connected with a live person, remember that the person who answers the phone probably did not decide to set up that cumbersome phone tree; be courteous and patient.
If you take a student-guided tour, turn off your cell phone. Do not answer email or text messages during the tour; show your tour guide the respect that you would want to be shown if you were leading the tour.
If you are able to meet with the admissions officer during a law school visit, be mindful of that person’s busy schedule. Think about the questions you will ask ahead of time. Be prepared to express your interest in the school and to articulate why you believe that the school is a good fit for you (and vice versa). Do not sit in the office of a dean or director with wandering eyes trying to come up with questions; do not ask the dean or director to tell you about the school or to lead the conversation.
If you receive a phone message or email from a current student or alum offering to share information, respond to it. Return the call or reply to the message, and take the opportunity to ask good questions and to make a connection with that person.
If you attend a law school fair or forum, bring copies of your resume and offer it to law school representatives. Some may accept your resume, while others may not. If law school representatives have their business cards available, take them. Send emails after the events thanking them for taking the time to speak with you. When you have questions down the road, these are the people you’ll turn to for guidance.
Always greet those you meet with a firm handshake. Look people in the eye when you are engaged in conversation. A good rule of thumb is to treat everyone affiliated in any way with a law school with impeccable manners and with the respect with which you would like to be treated.
Although these may seem like old-world old-school suggestions regarding law school admissions interviews, as well as admissions in general, they still are tried and true actions that can be taken for the better of assuring you will be admitted into the law school of your choosing.
Strong handshakes, thoughtful questions and answers and continuous eye contact with the person(s) interviewing you will pay off hugely when it comes time to select the law school of your choice.
That’s right, choice. Because once you’ve employed these suggestions, tactics and tips with charm and eloquence that are outlined in this article, there’s a very good chance not one or two law schools will want your attendance, but several.
And several law schools wanting your presence isn’t a bad thing at all. It instead is a rather good problem to have.
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