Employment Sector Differences
Law firm interviews are usually structured as a conversation, with your resume used as the tool to ask questions and learn about your interest in the practice and your fit with the firm. Academic achievement is often important, although substantive legal questions are rarely asked. A few law firms include situational-based “behavioral interviewing” questions which focus on your past performance and achievements. A typical question may be “tell me about a time when you needed to work under pressure.” General, vague, or hypothetical answers will not suffice; instead, provide specific examples of how you successfully dealt with a particular experience or assignment. Review the Sample Interview Questions for more examples.
Law firm interviews are often a two-step process, with a screening interview followed by a callback interview. Screening interviews may be conducted by video conference, by telephone, or at the employer’s office; others often take place during an interview program sponsored by CDO. If the screening interview is positive, the usual next step is to invite a candidate for a callback interview.
Typical callback interviews last for half of a day and involve meeting individually with four or more attorneys. Some callback interviews take place in the employer’s office while others are conducted via video conference. For in-person callbacks, most law firms will make the travel arrangements for candidates and will also reimburse reasonable travel expenses. For additional callback information, click the Callback Interview link from this page.
Public Interest Employers
Although some public interest employers participate in structured interview programs such as the Virtual Interview Program (VIP), the Equal Justice Works Annual Conference and Career Fair, or the Public Interest Legal Career Fair, for the most part interviews for summer positions with public interest organizations are usually less formal than those for permanent positions. Often interviews for summer positions may involve only a brief telephone or video interview. In fact, some public interest employers hire summer interns on the basis of a resume and cover letter alone.
Public interest employers seek students with a commitment to service and the mission of their organizations. Many of the interview questions will be structured to gauge your commitment. Some government employers, including district attorneys and public defenders, ask hypothetical questions to see how well you think on your feet. For example, interviewers at public defenders offices may ask: “If your client were charged with the crime of molesting small children, how would you react? Could you defend your client?” Other government employers, such as the U.S. Department of Justice, have unique interview processes that vary depending on the particular division or field office.
Public interest employers typically do not reimburse travel expenses for interviews. If you cannot afford to travel to an interview, ask for a telephone or video interview. If you are a 2L, 3L, or LLM, CDO’s Travel Reimbursement for Interviews in the Public Interest (TRI PI) program provides some reimbursement for public interest interview expenses.
The type of interview you have in a judge’s chambers depends on the type of job for which you are applying. For summer or term-time internships, the judge may delegate some or all the interviewing duties to their law clerks because law clerks often directly supervise interns. (A law clerk is a full-time employee who assists the judge in researching and writing judicial opinions. Law clerks may be either permanent employees, called career clerks, or employees who are clerking for the judge for a one- or two-year term.) In addition to preparing for questions about your resume, law school experience, and career aspirations, be prepared to answer questions about why you want to serve as a judicial intern, what you find interesting about this court’s docket, and why you would like to intern with this particular judge.
While interviews for law clerk positions are similar to those for judicial internships, there are some differences. For in-depth guidance regarding clerkship interviews, visit the “Get Ready for Interview” section of the YLS Clerkship Sharepoint site.