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Interviewing Tips for Law Students

published May 12, 2021

( 11 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Types of Interviews

Screening interview. This is the term used for your first interview with the prospective employer. Most screening interviews are 25 minutes in length. However, in other settings, they may last as long as an hour.

Callback interview. This interview is usually scheduled only after you have survived a screening process. Typical callback interviews last for half of a day and involve you meeting individually for 20-30 minutes with four or more attorneys from the employer. The interview may include a meal.

Employment Sector Differences

Law firms. Law firm interviews are not known for being particularly rigorous. The interviews are a conversation, with the interviewers using your resume to ask questions to see if you have a sincere interest in their practice and if you would be a good fit with their firm. Substantive legal questions are rarely asked. Academic achievement is often essential.
Public interest organizations. Interviews for summer positions are usually less formal than those for permanent positions and may involve only a few minutes of chatting on the phone. Some public interest employers hire summer interns based on a resume and cover letter alone. Public interest employers seek students with a commitment to service and will ask questions to gauge their commitment. Some government employers, including district attorneys and public defenders, ask hypothetical questions to see how well you think on your feet.
Management consulting firms. In consulting firm interviews, you will be asked a hypothetical business question and analyze the problem during the interview. These interviews are known as "case studies."
Investment banks. Following their often aggressive work atmosphere, bank interviewers will question your analytical skills and interest in banking. Using a robust, "hard sell" approach can be preferred in these interviews.


Know yourself. The underlying question in the interviewer's mind is, "why should we hire you?" List the three or four things you most want an employer to know about you, and make sure to bring these qualities up during your interviews. These qualities may include writing, research, problem-solving, leadership, oral advocacy, attention to detail, and dedication/enthusiasm, to name a few. Reread your resume and writing sample, and be prepared to answer questions about them.
Know the employer. Read their website, talk to students who have worked for the employer. Research online to find out something about the
lawyer interviewing you. Know why you want to work for the employer.
Know the city. Be able to articulate your interest in and connection to the town in which you are interviewing.
Be prepared to ask and answer questions. Review sample questions, so you are not caught off guard. Prepare answers to your most difficult questions. Think in advance about what questions you wish to ask. Ask questions that reflect your interests and research.

What to Wear

Your attire should contribute to your professionalism. Although employers may have different dress codes, err on the conservative side when interviewing.
  • Skirt suits are still considered the most conservative, although women are wearing pants suits as well.
  • Black, navy, and gray are the most traditional colors, but tans and other subtle shades are also acceptable. Solids are preferable to patterns.
  • The skirt should be no more than two inches above the knee.
  • Wear a white or cream blouse (sometimes called a "shell") with either short or long sleeves. Tank tops and camisoles are too casual. The blouse should either have a collar or a round neck. Avoid low-cut shirts.
  • Shoes should be simple pumps in a dark color with a medium-sized (11/2" -2") heel. Stay away from high heels, ankle boots, elaborate bows, buckles, etc.
  • Pantyhose should not have any runs or snags and should be a neutral tone. Keep away from striking designs and textures.
  • Simple earrings, necklace, bracelet, and basic watch are appropriate. Don't wear hoop or dangling earrings, nose rings, or multiple rings or bracelets.
  • Long hair/curly hair does not have to be pulled back, but if it otherwise will be in your face or distract you, then pull it up.
  • Go easy on the makeup and use a light hand in applying perfume. Don't forget your deodorant.
  • Nails should not be too long and, if polished, should be in a neutral shade.
  • Carry a briefcase or folder that contains your interview materials. If you carry a briefcase, don't carry a purse.
  • The suit should be a well-tailored pin-striped or plain wool single-breasted suit in navy or gray.
  • The pant cuff should fall lightly over your shoes—no "high waters" that show off your socks.
  • Select a tasteful tie made of silk. Do not wear large prints, cartoon characters, or anything else that is flashy or vulgar. The width of your tie should be between 2 3/4" and 3 1/2" and should extend to your trouser belt. Don't wear a bow tie.
  • Wear a plain, light-colored long-sleeved shirt. White or light blue are acceptable. The shirt should not have french cuffs.
  • Shoes should be polished with socks that complement the suit. Shoes should match your belt.
  • For jewelry, don't wear anything more than a simple watch and wedding band. Leave your earring/nose ring at home.
  • Hair should be neatly cut and professionally styled. Although it is not recommended, if you have long hair, pull it back into a neat ponytail. Beards and mustaches should be trimmed.
  • Use a good deodorant and go light on any cologne or aftershave.
  • Carry a briefcase or folder that contains your interview materials.

What to Bring

Although you may not be asked, bring:
  • A copy of your resume
  • An unofficial transcript
  • A writing sample
  • A list of references

Making a Great Impression

  • Start with a firm handshake
  • Make good eye contact
  • Treat the interview like a conversation, not an interrogation. Don't just respond to questions; ask good questions too.
  • Be enthusiastic. Use your voice, your body language, your smile, and your hand gestures to demonstrate your excitement for the position.
  • Be positive. Avoid negative comments about prior employers, law school, etc.
  • Take opportunities to get your 2-3 best qualities across to the interviewer.
  • Be confident, not arrogant.
  • Don't be too terse or long-winded. One-word answers don't help the interviewer get to know you.
  • Long, rambling answers will make you appear unfocused.
Sample Evaluation Form
Rate the candidate from 1—5 on the following characteristics:
  • Achievement
    • (1) excelled — (5) seems limited
  • Intellectual ability
    • (1) reasons well, creative, thoughtful, insightful — (5) unfocused
  • Work experience
    • (1) useful, relevant — (5) not useful
  • Verbal expression
    • (1) articulate, logical — (5) inarticulate
  • Personality
    • (1) personable, outgoing — (5) arrogant, withdrawn
  • Maturity
    • (1) confident, balanced — (5) immature
  • Presence
    • (1) focused, at ease — (5) nervous, uneasy
  • Interest in firm and practice areas
    • (1) keen — (5) shopping
Thank You Letters
Thank you letters are generally not encouraged because they are not known to help and can hurt if not perfect. You may, however, want to send a follow-up letter or email to express your strong interest in the position. It should be sent to an attorney with whom you interviewed and had a good rapport. Send it promptly after your interview, and be sure it is error-free.

published May 12, 2021

( 11 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.