August 18, 2006
Interview Questions for Law Professors
Posted by Gordon Smith

The faculty recruiting season has begun. Some schools are already on the prowl for laterals, and many entry-level candidates have submitted their resumes to the AALS Faculty Appointments Register. I am not on the Appointments Committee this year, but I will take an active role interviewing candiates who visit on call-backs, so Paul Kedrosky's post on interview questions caught my eye: "If you were conducting a job interview for a [new law professor colleague] and could only ask one question, what would it be?"

Paul gives an example from an article entitled "The Best Interview Question of All Time." The question: "Please think about your most significant accomplishment. Now, could you tell me all about it?" As Paul notes, this is an obvious question for a business executive, and thus, perhaps too easily anticipated if you are looking for "candid" rather than "canned."

I don't remember ever hearing that question in an interview with a professor candidate. In the professor context, the best questions are tailored to the candidate, inquiring about specific aspects of the candidate's research. But law professor interviewers typically have a supply of stock questions, too, which tend to be prospective: "What's your research agenda?" "What classes would you like to teach?" And, of course, "Why do you want to be a professor?" (That one would please Paul.) You will occasionally run into someone who forgot to consult the list of stupid interview questions, and asks, "What is your biggest weakness?"

Here is a question that I like: "Can you tell me about any law professors who serve as models for your career?" Most candidates find it easier to talk about their professors than about themselves, and the answers can be quite revealing of the candidate's priorities.

Do you have any favorite interview questions?

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Comments (11)

1. Posted by Dave! on August 18, 2006 @ 19:57 | Permalink

My favorite is "Do you have any questions for me?" I ask it near the beginning of the interview, not as a closer.

It give great insight as to what the candidate thinks are important aspects of the job/company, it shows how well someone has prepared for the interview, and it provides a simple way to separate those with initiative from the "worker bee" types very efficiently.

2. Posted by William Henderson on August 18, 2006 @ 20:07 | Permalink


In my experience, the interviews that have gone the best are those in which the interviewer get hooked on an interviewee's research topic. There is lively and engaged dialogue, and the interview flies by and runs late. It is clear that your tailored, which I like, would give an interviewee a couple of swings to hit one out of the park.

Unfortunately, not all interviewers are so generous. Thus, interviewees have to know when and how to pitch their research. Research is usually the only clear consensus criteria for appointments committees.

In contrast, it is almost always a bad sign when an interviewer asks, "So what questions do you have about our law school?" We could save a lot of time by just using a gong.

3. Posted by Jim Chen on August 18, 2006 @ 20:46 | Permalink

The role model question is superb. It gets to the heart of the matter, in a very nonthreatening way.

One question I like to ask is this, "Is there a book or law review article you wish you had written? Do explain why." A shocking number of candidates have no meaningful response. Those who do respond in a nondisqualifying way reveal useful information.

4. Posted by Scott Moss on August 19, 2006 @ 14:05 | Permalink

When I ran interviews at my old law firm, I sometimes started with: "Tell me about yourself." At best, that can serve as an unstressful icebreaker but also, because it is so open-ended, can be surprisingly informative. Do candidates start by telling you about their current article? Do they tell you about their practice? If they don't tell you anything about their 2-5 years in practice, does that itslef say something? Do they find it difficult to carry on a conversation in response to even a softball like that? Do they tell you something interesting about themselves that wouldn't come up in response to a string of specific, pointed questions (analogous to ending a client intake interview with "is there anything else I should know?" or starting it with "what happened"?)

5. Posted by Gordon Smith on August 19, 2006 @ 19:51 | Permalink

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I really like Jim's question. It's something you wouldn't expect, but one that you should be able to answer. I notice that Scott's question is #1 on this recent list of 50 interview questions.

And Bill, that last bit about the gong made me laugh. Wisconsin usually asks that question, but the timing can be important. If you get the question at the beginning, as Dave suggests, you may as well pack it in.

6. Posted by Suz on August 31, 2006 @ 7:31 | Permalink

I have a question relating to company law in Australia under The Corporations Act 2001, specifically in regards to proprietry companies.

I am wondering if directors of a proprietry company can remove other directors. This is prohibited for public companies but allowed for proprietry companies if they mention it in their constitution.

However, what if a proprietry company does not have a constitution and decides to follow the Replacable Rules in The Corporations Act 2001.

The Act does not have a Replacable Rule saying if proprietry company directors can remove other directors.

So can company directors can remove other directors in this instance if the Act is silent in the issue??

7. Posted by viagra online on November 18, 2011 @ 9:02 | Permalink

we want to know their opinion. what it is that make law the things that we want to study.

8. Posted by pharmacy reviews on November 22, 2011 @ 6:42 | Permalink

Unfortunately, not all interviewers are so generous. Thus, interviewees have to know when and how to pitch their research. Research is usually the only clear consensus criteria for appointments committees.

9. Posted by interview preparation on February 5, 2012 @ 8:49 | Permalink

Job interviewing never seems to get any easier - even when you have gone on more interviews than you can count. You are meeting new people, selling yourself and your skills, and often getting the third degree about what you know or don't know.

10. Posted by Bourbon Reviews on February 21, 2012 @ 19:46 | Permalink

Intelligent post with some awesome details. Just a week back I found a similar blog but the posts were not so deeply researched. thanks so much

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