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Back in my day, if you had to interview when applying to a law school, it was usually with an admissions officer or one of the school's alumni. Today, it's with a webcam. Well, sometimes. Video interviews are still rare, but they are becoming increasingly common. Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago allow students to skype into live interviews, for example, while St. John's University and Northwestern have started to use prerecorded video interviews.
So, what should you do if you're faced with a law school admissions video interview? Here are a few tips.
Know What You're Getting Into
Law school video interviews come in two stripes: live and prerecorded. A live interview, like the kind used by Columbia Law School, takes place via an internet video streaming program (Columbia uses Skype) and, aside from the fact that you're not face to face, is quite similar to an in-person interview. Since you'll be able to see your interviewer, you'll have a chance to monitor their reactions, adjust your answers, and deal with follow-up questions, just as if you were speaking face to face.
Recorded video interviews are a bit different. In these, there's no face on the other side of the screen. You'll be presented with a question, you might have a minute or two to prepare your response, and then your answer (which must be completed in a designated time) will be recorded and sent to admissions to be reviewed later.
Treat It Like a Normal Interview
Preparing for a video interview is a lot like preparing for a normal interview. Law school interviews, whether in person or online, tend to tread upon familiar ground. (US News has a good law school interview FAQ.) You should practice your answers to such questions beforehand, but you don't need to memorize them. You want to sound natural, not like you're reading an essay. Having a few key points in mind is a good way to make sure you stay on track while not being too robotic.
You'll also want to think about presentation. Dress well, as you would for a job interview. Since a video interview will give the school a literal view into your life, you'll want to make sure you're providing a nice backdrop. Choose a quiet, private spot to film the interview. Make sure there aren't piles of dirty clothes in the background, parents waiting nervously in the wings, or kids running around. If you're in a public space, say a conference room at your work or undergrad school, put up a "do not disturb" sign before you start.
But Take Advantage of the Format
One of the benefits of a video interview, like a phone interview, is that you can keep information nearby but off screen. For example, if you want to make sure to mention that you visited the law school in the fall and fell in love with Professor X's Crim Law class, you can jot a note down on a post it and stick it behind your video camera. (Or, better yet, keep your notes open in a Word document that you can see on your screen.)
Just make sure that you only glance at these aids. Interviewers will be able to see if you're looking away from the camera too often and they'll probably ding you if it seems like you're just regurgitating prewritten answers.
Finally, make sure you relax! Interviews are just one part of the process. They can give you a boost, but they won't guarantee your admission if you nail them, nor will they ruin you if you give an awkward answer or two.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.