Practicing for a Legal Job Interview

Young Asian businesswoman conducting interviews at job fair
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Congratulations, you’ve secured a legal job interview! You’re not planning to show up unprepared, are you? It’s common knowledge that you need to research the organization and the job and be ready to talk about what you can offer, but it’s also important – for a real edge – to actually practice interviewing. Here are a few suggestions to set you on the right path.

Practice Interviewing With a Friend or Family Member

The bare minimum amount of preparation should be going over commonly asked questions, out loud, with a friend or family member.

It’s ideal if this person is a lawyer or other professional, but that’s not an absolute requirement. If they’re less experienced in this area, you can tell them what questions to ask. You want to cover all the basics from your application materials and be sure to have them inquire about any weak spots (a bad grade, etc.) so you get used to answering challenging questions directly, but calmly.

Consider Videotaping Yourself During the Practice Interview

Today, it’s very easy to make videos – you can probably even do it on your phone! Videotaping yourself during a mock interview can be an extremely effective, if sometimes painful, way to improve. Look at your body language first. Are you open and receptive? Are you making eye contact with the interviewer? What are you doing with your hands? Are they distracting? Then, listen to your voice. Are there places where you stumble or are obviously stressed out?

Practice smoothing out these answers until you can answer challenging questions (“So, what happened in Torts?”) calmly and directly. Finally, listen to your answers. Are you answering questions directly? Are your answers convincing? Are you rambling or being concise? Listen for places where you could streamline your answers, make them more direct, or make them more convincing.

Try to Find a Lawyer to Help With Your Interview Practice

The best practice is going to be with someone in the legal profession who understands the mores of the profession and, preferably, has conducted legal job interviews personally. Consider whether you have old classmates, former co-workers, or even people in the alumni office at your law school who might be willing to help with a quick mock interview. Lawyers are used to practicing, so the request is unlikely to seem that odd. Georgetown even has a model Supreme Court room on campus, used specifically by attorneys preparing to present arguments in the Supreme Court. Even half an hour with a practicing attorney can pay great rewards in making you more confident and prepared.

Interview Yourself

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of really thinking through what you’re likely to be asked about and preparing answers in advance. You know your background better than anyone else. While you don’t want to be paranoid, you know where your weak areas are. Is there one bad grade on your transcript? Have an explanation ready for it: “Yes, that class was really challenging, but I learned a lot. I’ve actually used what I learned regularly in my current job doing [whatever].” Your actual answers matter less than the way you deliver them (confidently and directly), so be sure to practice so you’re not blindsided.

Similarly, if you have an unusual background, be prepared to talk about how it all fits together and leads naturally to the position you’re applying for now. Make it easy for your interviewer to put the pieces together! Do the work for them, and you’re much more likely to get the job.

Remember that the interviewer wants to like you! If they’re hiring, it’s because they need good people. Show them you’re that person and you make their lives much easier. It’s a win-win, really!