The Interview Skills Overview provides tips on interview preparation and following up with employers after the interview.
What type of interview are you preparing for?
Law Firm Interviews
Law firm interviews for summer associate and post-graduate entry level positions typically consist of a screening and call-back.
Screening – Screening interviews are generally brief 20-30 minute interviews that allow the employer to get a better sense of your skills, experiences, and level of interest in the position. Screening interviews are usually held on or near campus, at an employer’s office, or over the phone.
Call-back – Call-back interviews tend to be longer and you may meet with multiple attorneys in a series of back-to-back 20-30 minute-interviews, usually in the employer’s office. In addition to letting the employer learn more about your skills, experiences and level of interest, call-back interviews provide an opportunity to assess how well your personality and demeanor “fit” with the others in the office and with the organizational culture and values. Sometimes these interviews include lunch, coffee, or some other type of social interaction.
Public Sector Interviews
Employers interviewing students for public sector internship often conduct only one round of interviews, and they will be interested in assessing whether you have a demonstrated commitment to the organization’s mission and to public service, more generally. Since you may have only one interview, be aware that it may be your only chance to meet with the employer before they decide whether to hire you.
In the case of public sector interviews for permanent employment, organizations typically conduct both screening and call-back interviews. Public defender and prosecutor interviews are an exception, as most entail three rounds of interviews (screening, panel, and meeting with the chief defender/prosecutor).
Questions to Prepare for a Public Interest Interview
In addition to the standard interview questions that you should anticipate and prepare for, consider how you would respond to specific questions about the employer’s mission, their clients, and your commitment to public service.
- Questions to Prepare for a Public Interest Interview
- Resources for Public Interest Interviewing and Networking (PSJD)
Resources for Prosecutor/Public Defender Interviews
Interviews for public defender and prosecutor positions typically occur over three rounds, including an initial screening, a panel interview with several attorneys, and then a final interview with the chief of the office. Applicants may be asked hypothetical questions at any round dealing with topics including investigation and police procedure, client counseling, interaction with opposing counsel, and ethical issues. These questions are typically designed to explore the depth and thoughtfulness of the applicant’s commitment to prosecution or criminal defense, as well as the applicant’s reasoning and professional judgment.
- Sample Prosecutor and PD questions in the Interview Skills Overview
- The Criminal Hypothetical and Other Unique Aspects of the Criminal Law Interview Process
- Guide to Careers in Indigent Defense
- How to Get a Job in a Prosecutor's Office
Do your research
Try to learn as much as possible about the organization, its attorneys, and its clients. You will want to be current on high-profile cases, major transactions, or other noteworthy events. If you have the names of the interviewers, find out about their backgrounds, the nature of their practices and any recent matters. Remember that attorneys are busy and schedules change, so it is important to be prepared and flexible. For resources on researching employers, see Practice Areas and Settings.
Review our page on Professionalism & Business Etiquette for tips on interview attire and how to navigate business meals.
Have a plan and focus on the positive
Prepare your responses to the most commonly asked questions. In preparing responses to the most commonly asked interview questions, go to your interview with an agenda. Carefully consider the main points you would like to convey, and have concrete examples of your work experience as evidence of your skills. Use the STAR method (see the Interview Skills Overview for details on the STAR method) and focus on your strengths. Be confident and enthusiastic, regardless of your GPA or level of experience.
Prepare your questions for the employer. Remember that the interview is also your chance to learn about the employer. Ask questions that are meaningful to you. While you may ask about the interviewers’ own experiences, their answers may not give much insight into whether the employer is a good fit for you. Instead, you might consider asking what is the most challenging or rewarding aspect of working at the specific organization. Students who have multiple interviews may find it useful to ask some of the same questions to all employers. Of course, avoid questions about salary, benefits, or work hours; those questions will have to wait until after an offer is made.
Practice, practice, practice
Schedule a mock interview with the Career Center. This is the single best thing you can do to prepare for your interview. Even if you’ve interviewed well in the past, interviewing is a skill that can continually be refined and improved. It is imperative that you practice articulating your responses in real time, rather than simply thinking through what you will say.