January 8, 2019
Gearing up for an interview with Harvard Law School? We hope you are excited! And we definitely suggest reviewing our high-level advice in the Acing Your Interview post.
As you’ll see in that post, each interview is bespoke to the candidate – your interviewer will have read your entire application and will have prepared questions specific to you. That said, we each have a go-to question or two. To get a sense of the topics we might cover with you, read on to learn each of our favorite questions.
Courtney McMann (Admissions Officer)
“Why did you pursue “x” experience?”
A resume will tell us about your work experiences and the skills you gained along the way, but we don’t always know what led you to a particular role. When I ask this in an interview, I get to hear what excited you about the position and what you were hoping to get out of it. Maybe the job or internship was an opportunity to explore a dormant passion or a chance to try out a new type of professional experience.
Whatever the reason, I hope to discover that you were thoughtful about the choice, just as I hope you have been thoughtful about your decision to pursue law school.
Nefyn Meissner (Senior Assistant Director)
“It goes without saying that legal issues are nuanced and often contentious – solving them requires the ability to navigate difficult conversations. Can you give an example of a time you navigated a difficult conversation in an academic or professional setting?”
We are not looking to see if you’ve navigated a hostage release or a multi-million dollar deal (if you have, though, that’s fine!). What we are looking for is an indication that you can engage in conversations with folks who hold opinions and beliefs that differ from your own. Whether working on a case team in law school or clashing with opposing counsel in the courtroom, you’ll be called upon to exercise this skill again and again during your legal career. We realize that difficult conversations are, well, difficult, so you don’t have to have an example of perfectly handling a tough situation. We just hope to see that you’ve begun to exercise this skill a bit in preparation for law school.
Kristi Jobson ’12 (Assistant Dean)
“Tell me about your senior thesis.”
Did you write a senior thesis? Brush up on your conclusions and analyses, because I will almost certainly ask you about it. I find that asking candidates about a major piece of writing allows them to showcase their intellectual interests, approaches, and aptitude. As an added bonus, your thesis topics are incredibly interesting.
Didn’t write a senior thesis? Don’t worry, plenty of people don’t! I might ask you to tell me about a research project or paper that makes you proud.
Alex Feinson (Assistant Director)
“Looking forward to starting law school this fall, you will be making a transition to a new setting. What are some things you value in a community as you think about making a home for yourself over the next three years?”
When you apply to graduate school, there is a lot of talk about “fit.” You’ve probably done a fair amount of thinking about what you hope to get out of a law school, and what type of program is going to feel right for you. On our end, we are also trying to build a community of people who will thrive in this environment. I like to ask this question because it inspires me to think about your values and what aspects of our program appeal to you. That can help me see you here at HLS.
Odeviz Soto (Associate Director)
“This is a two-part question: What are you afraid of? What are you motivated by?”
I like asking this question to learn about what really drives you, whether in the context of pursuing a legal career or a broader sense as you construct your personal narrative. Sometimes the fear and motivation stem from the same source and sometimes they do not, so I appreciate listening as you tease out the answers to both questions. I am also intrigued to learn about the external and/or internal factors that drive your decision-making and how you think they might be tested or strengthened during law school and beyond.
Tina Lagerstedt (Admissions Officer)
“Do you have any questions for me?”
We always leave time at the end of an interview to ask you this, so we recommend that you spend some time prepping a couple of questions regarding things you want to learn about HLS. We know you’ve spent time on our website, learning through our blog about student experiences and the resources available here, so use this time to ask your burning questions. Are there clinics you really want to work with? Are you curious about the transition from the workforce back to law school? Do you wonder about what life outside of the classroom is like? We encourage you to be thoughtful about what you ask.
Filed in: Inside the Black Box