Decades ago, interviews were a central part of the law admissions process. Applicants would arrive at the law school in person, impeccably dressed in suits, and chat about their pedigree and career aspirations. If they came well-regarded from elite schools and seemed to have the “right character,” they would be accepted on the spot.
In the 1970’s, as the law school admissions process aimed for more rigor and meritocracy, interviews were almost universally phased out as discriminatory relics of the gatekeepers of the old elites. Admissions offices turned to depersonalized metrics like transcripts and LSAT scores meant to give applicants from varying backgrounds a fairer shot. However, in the 1990s, the impartiality of these metrics came under fire, prompting admissions offices to take a more holistic approach.
Recently, some law schools have reembraced interviews, arguing that even a brief conversation provides admissions officers an irreplicable vantage point to see applicants as whole persons. Unsaid is that they also help weed out applicants who look good on paper but present themselves so unprofessionally that they are detrimental to a classroom environment.
To make the process fairer, law school interviews tend to be virtual and fairly standardized within each admissions office. Each school might conduct group interviews or individual interviews, have recorded or live questions and be highly structured or more free-flowing in style.
Generally, applicants should be prepared to answer questions about their resume, transcript, interests and career goals, along with job interview-style questions about personal strengths and weaknesses and challenges faced. Interviewers might ask questions about how you would approach a particular situation or hypothetical problem. They may toss in a few harder curveballs, as well.
Typically, interviewers leave time at the end for applicants to ask questions of their own. Applicants should prepare at least three to five questions in advance, of which they might have time to ask two or three. Such questions may also be useful for online information sessions or informational interviews.
Here are some types of questions to ask law school admissions officers:
— Questions about the law school’s specific strengths and offerings.
— Positive, open-ended questions about the law school.
— Questions that show serious intent to attend.
— Questions about the admissions process.
Questions About the Law School’s Specific Strengths and Offerings
Before your interview, do your homework. Read the law school website thoroughly and learn about how the school presents itself and the programs and activities it offers. Ask questions about law school offerings that match your interests, like specializations, clinics, programs and campus activities.
Not only do such questions provide helpful information and give the interviewer a chance to brag about the law school’s selling points, but they show genuine interest.
Learn from the mistake of a candidate with whom I recently conducted a practice interview. Having worked on sexual discrimination issues in college, she expressed interest in setting up a student group on this topic and asked about the process for establishing a new campus organization.
This might have been a good question — except the school already had related campus resources highlighted on its website. Even if her proposal would be unique, I advised her to rephrase her question to show familiarity with those offerings. She then sheepishly admitted she had asked a similar question at another law school interview without first exploring its resources online.
Positive, Open-Ended Questions About the Law School
There is no need to flatter a school by asking about how great it is, but it can be revealing to ask interviewers to talk about their school in their own words. Use a question word like “why,” “what” or “how” to keep the question open-ended.
For example: What sets the school apart from its peers? How does the school support students seeking jobs or clerkships? What are the most common career paths followed by your graduates?
Questions That Show Serious Intent to Attend
If you learned that in six months you would have to move to Antarctica, you would likely have many questions. Where would you live? What would you do? How would you adjust?
Likewise, if you are taking the possibility of attending a certain law school seriously, you surely have concrete questions about spending three years there. Without needing to work out all the details in advance, you might like to ask questions like: What student housing arrangements are available and what are they like? How would you describe the campus culture or environment? What resources are available to help first-year students succeed?
Questions About the Admissions Process
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask more questions about the process, especially for an informational interview. Admissions officers should be able to answer questions like: How do you evaluate candidates? How can I best position myself as a candidate? What is the usual timeline for admissions decisions?
Coming up with good questions can be challenging, but it is also a key legal skill. The practice you get as an applicant might serve you well throughout your career, from law firm interviews to witness depositions. As most lawyers would agree, knowledge comes from asking the right questions.
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What to Ask Law School Admissions Officers During Interviews originally appeared on usnews.com