Law Student Interview Guide

Before the screening interview

Think about your career path. Work with career services to identify firms that match your goals and values. Aspects to consider include practice areas offered, firm size and location, commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, how work is assigned, mentoring, and professional development programs.

Do your research. Once you’ve narrowed down what firms you’ll be screening with, get to know each of the firms by reviewing their websites, reading their NALP pages (if available), and utilizing resources such as Chambers Associate and others. If you have several interviews in one day, a “cheat sheet” might be helpful for pre-interview prep and as a quick reference between meetings.

Know why you’re interested in the firm. In doing your research, identify what draws you most to the firm and be prepared to talk about your interests with the interviewer.

Know your interviewer. You’ll find yourself much more relaxed if you know a little bit about the person across the table or on screen. With that said, last-minute interviewer substitutions can happen, so don’t be alarmed if you have a different interviewer than anticipated.

Know your résumé. Interviewers will review your résumé beforehand, and everything listed on it is fair game, including the thesis you wrote five years ago. Your résumé should be pristine. Proofread it for formatting errors and typos, skip the fancy font, and aim to fit everything on one page. It’s always a good idea to have a few people review your résumé to get fresh eyes on the content.

Be proactive. Most firms welcome and encourage write-in applications if they’re not scheduled to participate in your school’s interview program.

Cooley tip

Sign up with career services for the next mock interview program. You might be matched up with a Cooley lawyer for a practice run!

The on-campus/screening interview

Stay calm. Don’t worry if your interview runs long or is cut short. There are many reasons schedules get off track, most of which have nothing to do with you.

Ask candid questions about what is important to you. Use the interview to gather information about each firm, so you can evaluate whether it’s the right fit for you.

Show enthusiasm. Firms are interested in people who demonstrate initiative and a positive attitude. Actively participate in the interview – it should be a conversation, not an interrogation.

Cooley tip

If you have multiple screening interviews in a short period of time, they might be a blur. After each interview, make notes to help you distinguish the firms. This will be helpful as you receive callback invitations and, ultimately, as you consider where to accept an offer.

Virtual interview setup

While many firms are back to doing in-person interviews, there’s still a possibility you’ll have at least some virtual interviews. If so, this guidance may be helpful.

Equipment: Make sure your computer/webcam is working correctly. Test your connection and schedule a practice run with a friend or family member before interviewing to ensure your audio and video quality is adequate.

Background and environment: Be sure to tidy up the space that will be seen on camera, especially if a virtual background is not an option. Try to minimize noise and distractions during your interview.

Lighting: The best lighting setup is natural light coming from in front of you. Make sure to check your lighting so that your face is not partially obscured by shadows or backlighting.

Camera angle: Placing the camera at or slightly above your eye level will feel most natural to viewers and make you look your best.

Eye contact: Keeping your eyes on the camera will ensure eye contact with your audience. Try putting a sticky note with a smiley face, a picture of your pet or something fun near the camera to remind you to look up.

Control what you can control: We understand that remote work conditions can be less than ideal – if a dog barks or a child or parent accidentally walks behind you on camera, that’s life, and it’ll make the interview more interesting.

Scheduling callback interviews

Timing is important. Acknowledge or decline callback invitations as quickly as possible. If you receive a callback from a firm you’re interested in pursuing, respond to the invitation right away. If you’re not interested in a firm, politely decline the callback invitation. Many firms need to manage their numbers carefully. If you decline the callback invitation in a timely manner, that could mean an opportunity for another student.

Be flexible. Give firms a couple of date and time options for your callback interviews.

Be considerate. Try to give as much notice as possible if you’re running late or need to cancel a callback interview.

Before the callback interview

Know the firm and the office in which you’re interviewing. Identify what draws you most to the firm and be prepared to talk about your interests. If available, request a copy of your schedule the day before the interview and research your interviewers on the firm’s website or on LinkedIn. Other helpful online resources include and

Be prepared for behavioral interview questions, as many firms asked these competency-based questions. Prepare your answers in advance and be ready to discuss your:

  • Personal background, including your previous employment history, notable accomplishments and why you decided to attend law school.
  • Educational history, such as the courses you have enjoyed most and least and why, how those courses led to your interest in the firm, your participation in journals or organizations, and how your education has prepared you to work in a law firm.
  • Career objectives, including the most important factors to you while evaluating firms, and why you have chosen private practice or a specific type of law.

Weighing your options

Be transparent. If you receive an offer, let the recruiting team or the lawyers who follow up with you know which factors are playing into your decision so they can offer assistance as you weigh your options. If you didn’t have a chance to meet with someone you were hoping to – for example, a junior lawyer or someone in a particular practice group – ask if you can schedule a follow-up meeting or call.

Connect with former summer associates and alums. Get to know students who recently summered at the firm. The recruiting department can help initiate that contact, if you ask. Law school alumni are another great resource when you’re deciding between firms.

Write it down. Just as you did when deciding where to initially interview, determine what is important to you and make a list noting how each firm fares in each area. Things to consider include practice area offerings, industry expertise, firm culture, training, pro bono opportunities, commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, affinity groups, summer program experience, and how assignments are distributed.

Keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes, firms encounter administrative delays that in no way reflect their enthusiasm for a candidate. If you’re waiting to hear from a firm and you have another offer that’s time sensitive, make sure the firm knows that. We always appreciate it when candidates keep us apprised. Also, don’t let your offer expire without informing the firm of your decision.