You’ve aced the LSAT, written a strong personal statement, collected sparkling recommendations, and finally hit “submit” on LSAC. But, you might not yet be done with the law school application process.
Many top schools, including Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago interview select candidates before making an admissions decision. The interview can seem daunting, like a new source of stress heaped onto an already challenging process. However, in practice, the interview is a source of upside. It’s a forum that helps candidates bring their application on paper to life and stand out from the crowd of fellow high-performers. Armed with the right knowledge, candidates should be excited to knock the interview out of the park.
Law schools rarely ask trick questions. For the most part, you can expect open-ended inquiries about your profile so make sure to review your essays and resume in-depth. Common questions include:
- Why law school?
- Why now?
- Why [our school] specifically?
- How will a law school education be additive to your existing experience?
- How will you fit into [our school’s] community? What do you want to be involved in?
- What is an issue that you’re especially passionate about?
- What did you learn from [X] experience? (For example, Schwarzman Scholars are almost always asked “Why did you go to China? What have you learned?”)
The following five guidelines offer flexible guidance that will establish you as a highly desirable candidate. After all, communication is one of the most fundamental skills that law schools are looking to build among their students. Proving you’re already on strong footing will encourage top schools to invest in you.
law schools routinely receive tens of thousands of applications. Even those that only choose to interview a handful of candidates are still holding hundreds, if not thousands, of interview sessions in a given cycle. The result is 15-30 minute blocks, back-to-back, that fill admissions directors’ days. In order to use the time most effectively, it is critical to be succinct. You want to effectively answer as many questions as possible (without trading quality for quantity) in the time provided. A great interviewee typically takes no more than two or three minutes to answer each question.
A great method for keeping yourself on-track (an interviewee’s worst enemy is rambling) is maintaining coherent structures in all of your responses. If you’re asked, “Why Harvard?” — list the three reasons that define your response up-front, then methodically move through them with about 45 seconds allotted to each point
Back up your answers with detailed examples where possible. For example, the answer to a classic “why law school?” prompt should go beyond broad statements about upholding justice, developing a problem-solving toolkit, or a desire to shape policy. These are all valid reasons, but a great answer will frame them within the context of specific events in your life that have prompted you to be 100% confident that a career in law is right for you. To lean on my own example again, I answered with a detailed story about a time my impact was limited with a consulting client because I was not sufficiently familiar with the law (nor licensed to actually practice)
The United States is home to more than 200 accredited law schools, and the top institutions are often grouped into the top 14 or “T-14.” With so many choices, why do you think the institution that you’re interviewing for is the perfect match for you?
Successful candidates often mention key characteristics that make the school unique, such as its:
- Geography: Spending three years in one place is a significant amount of time — consider why a law school’s location in a given city or on a given coast is the right environment.
- Faculty: Law schools shell out big bucks to attract and retain top legal scholars. Many professors also lead clinics, research teams, or other initiatives that attract students. Nodding to those whose work you admire or want to contribute to resonates with admissions staff — and shows you’ve done your homework.
- Placement: One of the defining elements of a law school’s identity is what its graduates go on to do in their careers. Most law school websites will include a breakdown of employment for recent graduating classes (and you can also browse LinkedIn to get a sense of what alumni are up to). This will help you understand if a school is comparatively successful in placing students in prestigious clerkships, top corporate law firms, or high-impact public interest roles. If a school is well-proven in creating opportunities in a specific type of law, you may point out that you’re drawn to that strength.
- Student Body: The law school experience will be influenced as much by your peers as your professors. Similar to employment, most law schools will also publish key demographic statistics on their most recent admitted class or student bodies. This data can help you understand which communities are stronger or weaker at a given school. For example, Harvard was an attractive option to me because it is the largest of the top three schools and boasts a significant international student population. After spending time studying in Spain and China, and working in Portugal, it was important for me to continue to have plenty of outlets for engaging with international communities
Here's another article to help you figure out which program is right for you: How to Choose a Law School: An Essential Guide for Prospective Students.
Do your research before the interview so that you can demonstrate a good understanding of what the law school experience is like. It is NOT necessary to actually know the law — that’s what you’ll learn once you’re in — but you should have read forums, talked to admits and current students, and potentially even connected with faculty to understand the good, bad, and ugly. You may be asked what you’re most excited for, but you may also be asked what you’re most nervous or concerned about — familiarity with the rigor, trajectory of the course load, and emphasis on extracurricular activities will help to answer this and similar questions
These five guidelines are a simple way to ensure you are ready to impress on interview day. While preparing, ask yourself or your mock interviewers if you are being succinct, structured, specific, discerning, and knowledgeable. Where you are comparatively weak, return to this article to game-plan how you can improve — or reach out to me for tailored strategies. I'd love to help you put together your law school application.
One last piece of advice: remember that the interview is a formal evaluation. In addition to these five points, keep in mind standard best-practice for a professional interview: sharp dress, eye contact, and clear speech. You will likely have the opportunity to ask your interviewer questions of your own, so make sure to come prepared with at least two.
In sum, receiving an invitation to interview is a positive sign that a school is interested in hearing more about your candidacy. Take advantage of the time to be authentic and enthusiastic. You’ve already taken one of the world’s most difficult standardized tests, written and re-written essays, and called in recommendations from your most trusted mentors — be sure to approach the final step in the process with a clear view of what will ensure all of that hard work pays off. Following these five key guidelines, will position you to bring home the admissions offer that you deserve.
Applying to law school? Here are a couple of other resources:
- Acceptance Rates & Class Profiles of the T14 Law Schools
- How to Get Into Law School: Advice From an Expert
- Everything You Need to Know About LSAC and the CAS Report for Law School
- How to Write a Compelling Law School Personal Statement
- LSAT vs GRE for Law School - Which to Take and How to Ace Both
- JD Application Deadlines of the T14 and Other Top Law Schools
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