An Inside Look at Interviewing During Law School

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I’m sure most of you have prepared for job interviews some time in your life. For the vast majority of people, job interviews are a little nerve-wracking and stressful. Now, rather than preparing for one or two job interviews in a week, imagine preparing for twenty to thirty interviews that will take place over the course of four days.

We are in the midst of our law school recruiting period here at Columbia Law. Virtually the entire class of rising second-year students descends on a hotel in Times Square to interview with law firms from around the country. This post is dedicated to giving you an inside look at the process that law students go through to find a job.

Apart from the sheer quantity of interviews, the process is not all that different from interviewing for a job in any other field. With that said, the interviews only take around twenty-minutes, so the whole process is accelerated, and it is vitally important that the interviewee make a good first impression. Interviewers ask us about our resume and our interest in the particular job, and, on some occasions, they ask behavioral questions that are meant to demonstrate critical thinking and the ability to analyze issues under pressure. The last few minutes of the interview are usually dedicated to any questions that the student may have about the interviewer or the particular firm.

Now, you may be wondering what role a student’s GPA plays in this whole process. As noted above, the interviews are very short, so they don’t give the interviewer a great deal of perspective on the candidate. Consequently, a student’s GPA often plays a large role in the process, as a marker of the student’s ability to analyze legal issues. With that said, GPA is more of a factor with some firms than it is with others. In certain instances, there is a hard cut-off, and students below that cut-off are ruled out. In other cases, the GPA cut-off is less rigid, and a student can overcome any deficiencies by demonstrating particular aptitude or intelligence, or by showing that they will fit in particularly well with the firm’s culture. It is somewhat difficult to generalize about the importance of GPA, but it is most certainly something that the interviewer will take some note of. As a further note, GPA can become more or less important depending on a particular school’s rank. For example, if you go to Yale (the hands-down #1 school in the country), you could have performed worse in your classes and still get an offer from a firm than if you performed the same at a lower ranked school.

Given that law school is extremely expensive, the recruiting period is a stressful time for students. The vast majority of students that get J.D.-required jobs (ones that you have to have a law degree to get) are hired through the school’s interview program. If you’re considering law school, I would highly recommend looking at employment statistics and making an informed decision before you decide where to attend. With that, I am going to go prepare for the twelve interviews I have tomorrow!

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