Updated on July 8, 2015
Our office prepares hundreds of students (and a number of alumni) each year for interviews with legal employers. During this interview prep, which often includes the review of a videotaped mock interview, we talk about strategies to enhance responses to common interview questions.
Often our advice boils down to this: Tell a better story!
Employers ask questions to evaluate an applicant’s potential for success. Sometimes an employer’s questions, while direct, don’t seem to lend themselves to effective storytelling. For example, “Who’s your favorite law school professor?” or “Why did you pursue a legal education?” are relatively easy to answer; but a short, obvious answer won’t help the interviewee’s cause.
In other instances, an employer may rely on a more probing “behavioral interviewing” type question. These tend to follow a “Tell me about a time when…” or “Please describe a situation in which…” format. Questions of this type beg for an interesting story in response, but they often tie interviewees in knots.
When responding to either type of interview inquiry, it’s important for the interviewee to capture and hold the interviewer’s attention by weaving a coherent story of accomplishment. Anecdotes that relate past accomplishments to the potential for future success with that employer are the secret to effective interviewing.
For several years now we’ve been suggesting the STAR method of responding to interviewing questions. The method is recommended by this article and is a powerful way to connect with an interviewer through an “accomplishment story.”
The STAR method is simple. In response to a question, walk an interviewer through these steps:
- Situation or Task: Describe the situation you were in or the task you needed to accomplish. Don’t rely on a general description of a past event; be specific. Pepper your description with memorable details.
- Action(s) you took: What steps did you take to address the situation? What tasks were necessary?
- Results you achieved: How was the issue resolved? What happened and what did you learn?
An effective “accomplishment story” holds the interviewer’s attention and keeps the focus on you, the interviewee. It also provides an interviewee a memorable way to organize and deliver his or her thoughts.
The STAR method resonates particularly well with attorney interviewers. Our theory is that attorneys, who after all are in a customer service driven industry, like to hear about situations in which issues were resolved through concrete actions.
Resolved issues = happy clients.
An interviewee with the potential to make clients happy = a new employee.
Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services
Posted on March 3, 2010
I remember when I was a prospective law student visiting various law schools, a major concern of mine was whether law students had time to do anything fun. I had heard the one-liners from all of my friends and family sarcastically telling me, “Have fun at the library … we’ll see you in three years!” Then there were all the law school prep books that I had consulted. They meticulously structured the ideal daily schedule for a first-year law student, which, of course, involved countless hours at the library in order to review prior class discussions and prepare for future ones. Finally, the dozens of Hollywood portrayals of life as a law student that I saw did little to calm my nerves. I’m thinking specifically about “The Paper Chase.”
So as I entered law school, I pretty much had resigned myself to the fact that my life would be spent in a sea of books for the next three years.
While spending quality time in the library is part of the deal when someone decides to go to law school, it’s not the end of the world that I had envisioned when I signed up for a legal education. In fact, finding fun-filled outlets was a necessity for me in order to escape from the daily grind of reading appellate cases, writing memos and worrying about falling victim to the Socratic method. Some people work out at the rec center, others spend time with family, but for me, the key to success in law school was college football.
I made a goal to see a KU game played in every stadium of the Big 12 Conference, and after three years I made it to all but one: Baylor in Waco, Texas. I would find law school friends to join in on my adventures, and often times I would travel with people who had graduated from the school KU was playing that week. My trips to Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas State were like this. For my friends, it was an opportunity to see their old friends and experience the nostalgia of their undergraduate life. For me, it was more of an opportunity to experience a new college town and try out the local flavor. For instance, no trip to Ames, Iowa is complete without a stop at Hickory Park BBQ for ribs and an ice cream sundae. And when cruising through Stillwater, Okla., a detour ought to be made at Eskimo Joes for some cheese fries.
Other times, a group of students just wanted a getaway, like when four guys piled into a two-door sedan for the eight-hour trek to Boulder, Colo. We toured the Coors Brewery, checked out Pearl Street Mall and enjoyed the nightlife in downtown Denver. In November this past year, a group of 14 law students rented a condo along Sixth Street in Austin, Texas for an extended weekend to watch the Jayhawks and the No. 2 ranked Longhorns. It was there that I learned that a hotdog topped with pulled pork is the next big thing.
It pains me a bit to know that I will graduate this May just one Big 12 school short of the mark I set out to reach. But I place most of the blame on Big 12 scheduling more than anything. At any rate, it will provide a great excuse for all of my friends to take time off of work next fall for an extended weekend in Waco to remember all the good times we had back in law school.
Rock chalk, Jayhawk!
Chris Kaufman, 3L
Posted on February 26, 2010
The Student Bar Association has had a very busy spring semester and doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. SBA organized a blanket drive for the Lawrence Humane Society and collected two boxes full of donations for the animals from students and faculty. In addition, students met at Wayne & Larry’s, and the business donated a portion of its proceeds from the night to the Lawrence Humane Society.
Everyone is looking forward to the annual Barristers’ Ball to be held March 6 at the new Oread hotel in Lawrence, KS. This semi-formal event gives students a chance to get away from the law books and have a nice night out with friends.
Race Ipsa, the SBA’s annual 5k for charity, is planned for April 10. Be sure to look for more information on Race Ipsa in the coming weeks so you can sign up to run or walk for a good cause.
Posted on February 24, 2010
The KU Law Office of Career Services does an absolutely phenomenal job of arranging and hosting on-campus interviews here at the law school. Todd Rogers, Karen Hester and LaVerta Logan of Career Services put enormous amounts of time and energy into bringing both local and national firms, agencies and other employers to Green Hall to meet with and interview our students. In these distressed economic times, we cannot thank Career Services enough for their efforts. And we also thank the employers for their willingness to travel and invest time and attention in KU Law.
Participating in OCI for the last two years has been a very helpful and rewarding experience. Not only is it beneficial to gain interview experience, but it is a great opportunity to get to know the participants in the legal community. The wide range of employers really helped to broaden my perspective of what kind of summer position I wanted to pursue.
I found that one of the best ways to prepare for OCI was to participate in the mock interview program established by Career Services and local employers. It was helpful to select for the mock interview the type of employer I thought I would like to meet during OCI. The feedback and encouragement is truly invaluable! Even if a summer offer does not come from OCI, the contacts made and experience gained from the experience will develop your interviewing skills for the future.
The OCI process for the 1L class has been a dominant feature of the beginning of this spring semester. While the 2L and 3L class encountered the bulk of their interviews last fall, this is the first real opportunity for 1Ls to have first-hand encounters with employers. This is a time of great excitement for the newest class at KU Law, and they are anxious to begin to find out where in the legal community each of them belongs. We welcome all interviewers to KU, and wish all interviewees the best of luck throughout the OCI process!
Kristen Koenen, 2L
Posted on February 23, 2010
The federal courts have always been up on technology. The administrative office of the United States Courts established Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), a one-stop shop for uploading and downloading court documents for federal cases. The courts themselves are relatively high-tech, containing such items as Smart Screens, document cameras and various display devices.
So it’s no surprise to find out that in December 2009, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management added to its Proposed Model Jury Instructions rules on social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. The proposed rules basically add e-mail, text messaging and the use of the sites mentioned above as forms of communication under the basic “no talking about this case” rule.
Although these rules are simply proposed, it probably would not be a bad idea to include such rules when you are drawing up your jury instructions. Never assume that jury members would come to the conclusion that they should not tweet, “OMG, just saw the grossest crime scene ever!”
W. Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian
Posted on February 19, 2010
On this gloomy winter Friday in Lawrence, let’s brighten things up by highlighting the job hunting successes of three current students and one very determined recent grad.
Often a law student will tell us that he or she landed a job by being “at the right place at the right time.” Statements like this suggest that serendipity is to thank, when in fact the vast majority of successful job hunters make their own luck.
What appears on the surface to be a fortunate and unconnected series of events leading to a job is almost always a planned and cultivated strategy. While organized job seekers may not always be able to predict the end result of their searches with perfect clarity, through diligence and determination they increase their odds of ultimately being hired.
For example, I recently spoke to a 1L who landed a position with a highly respected mid-sized litigation firm in Topeka. The firm didn’t interview on campus, so how did he do it?
He met two attorneys from the firm at Legal Career Options Day in November. Neither attorney indicated that the firm had a summer law clerk position available, but the attorneys and student had a pleasant conversation. The student followed up with a thank-you note a few days later.
After the New Year, he sent one of the attorneys a cover letter and resume to inquire about summer opportunities. He was the first 1L to approach the firm after it had made the decision to hire a summer clerk. A couple of weeks later, the attorney contacted the student to set up an interview, which resulted in a job offer on the spot.
Or consider the case of a 2L who, after being rejected last spring for a number of paid positions for which she was well-qualified, finally took an unpaid summer position with a federal district court.
She parlayed this experience, and the recommendations she garnered from it, into a part-time, paid summer position with a small law firm, which undoubtedly helped her secure on-campus interview invitations. She prepared for these interviews carefully and eventually accepted an offer for paid summer employment with a large law firm in Kansas City.
Then there’s the 3L who knew that he eventually wanted to work out of state, but for a variety of reasons choose to work during his first two summers in Kansas. He spent his 1L summer as a volunteer clerk with a state court judge. During his second summer, he worked for a small law firm as a paid law clerk. He met several times with our office beginning in the fall of his 2L year to discuss how to best narrow down his geographic targets for full-time employment.
Armed with comprehensive lists of KU Law alumni, he made specific inquires about the job markets in a number of cities. Eventually, he narrowed his choices down to one city each in the two states with which he had the deepest connections.
A number of applications resulted in one job offer in each state, and he will proudly walk across the stage in May as an employed grad, without ever accepting a position from an on-campus interview.
Our final story of grit and determination comes from a recent grad who did well in law school but couldn’t quite decide where he wanted to practice. On-campus interviews didn’t pan out for him in either the spring of his first year or the fall of his second.
As a 1L he enrolled in the Judicial Clerkship Clinic. He secured a summer job offer as a 2L through a position advertised on Symplicity.
He initially hoped to land a post-grad federal clerkship, and got close on several occasions. When clerkship season ended he decided to take the Missouri bar, but not before submitting applications to firms in a number of other states. He soon received invitations to interview from firms that shared one thing in common — they weren’t in Missouri.
The interviews didn’t pan out, and no firms in Missouri were biting. By the time he graduated in May 2009, he was back to square one, questioning his Missouri bar plans and wondering how to restart his job search.
He took and passed the bar exam and eventually began working part-time reviewing legal documents in order to pay the bills. One of his co-workers, a recent grad from another law school, told him about an interview she had lined up with a local law firm with offices at a well-known Johnson County intersection. When he inquired about the firm’s name, she begged off.
Undeterred, our student drove to the intersection, wrote down the names of all the firms with offices there, and contacted each one by letter and resume. He secured an interview with the one firm that was hiring, impressed the partners with his attitude and preparation, and landed the job. He’ll sit for the Kansas bar next week and soon will be an employed member of the bar in Missouri and Kansas.
Right place, right time? Sure. Serendipity? No way. The moment these grads stumbled on something fortunate was the culmination of months, and sometimes years, of carefully crafted effort.
Todd Rogers, assistant dean for career services
Posted on February 17, 2010
I am enrolled in Trial Advocacy this semester, which consists of a classroom lecture component once a week and an in-class performance component once a week. The class is broken up into small groups of eight students, and each group is assigned an attorney/judge to serve as the judge for the class. Every week, we conduct a direct examination, a cross-examination and serve as a witness for one of our classmates.
My first week I could not believe how nervous I was! I was even nervous to be a witness. I survived but vowed not to let my nerves get the best of me the following week. It seems as though the whole class felt the way I did because the second week went much more smoothly. Sure we all made mistakes, but everyone seemed to be breathing during their examinations. This was a big change because the first week it seemed like we were all holding our breath to see who would be called to go next.
Even though it is an intense experience, a little comedy has managed its way into our courtroom. We had some flimsy poster board exhibits that just did not want to stay upright on the easel. One classmate accidentally suggested the answer sought from the witness by shaking her head “yes,” which prompted an objection from defense counsel. By the end of the second class, I decided class was much more enjoyable and successful when I relaxed a little bit. The other thing that helped was treating the examination exercises more like a competition.
It may sound a little strange to think of Thursdays as game days – but that is exactly what I do now. I played sports all through high school and even in college, so hopefully this mindset will prove to be just as successful with oral arguments as it was with basketball. It is nice to have a class where I get to apply some of the information I have learned in law school. In all of my other classes, I sit in my seat and the professor asks me questions, but in trial advocacy we get to be the ones doing the questioning!
Chelsea Barnett, 2L
Posted on February 16, 2010
THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress. The leadership of the 104th Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time, THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.
- Bills, resolutions
- Activity in Congress
- Congressional record
- Schedules, calendars
- Committee information
- Presidential nominations
- Government resources
Several changes have been made to THOMAS for the second session of the 111th Congress. Below is what THOMAS has to say about what’s new.
Bookmarking and Sharing Widget
This new toolbar, found near the top of most THOMAS pages, allows users to save or share a permanent link via bookmarks, e-mail or social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. The toolbar also includes quick links to subscribe to THOMAS Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and to print.
Top Five Bills
The five most-searched-for bills from the past week are listed in the center box on the right side of the home page. Hover the mouse over a bill number to display the title of the bill. Click on the bill number to view the bill summary and status page for the selected bill.
New RSS feed: Bills Presented to the President
This new RSS feed lists bills that have passed both the House and Senate and have been sent to the White House for the president’s signature. If no bills are currently awaiting signature, a list of all bills signed into law thus far during the current Congress is displayed.
To see a complete list of RSS feeds and e-mail updates available through the Library of Congress, please visit Library of Congress RSS Feeds and Email Subscriptions.
Contacting Members of Congress
It’s now easier to contact your members of Congress. A link to tips about how to contact your representative or senator is included on the THOMAS home page.
Tip of the Week
Each week, a new tip about using THOMAS is displayed on the right-hand side of the THOMAS home page, below the “Top Five” list. Each tip contains a link to in-depth information on the covered topic.
Bill Text PDFs
To increase visibility and accessibility of the Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of bill text, we have added PDF links on the bill version listing page. Click on these links to view the official Government Printing Office (GPO) PDF for a specific version of a bill.
Increased Timeout Interval
Search results within THOMAS are displayed on temporary pages. In response to your feedback, we have increased the timeout interval for these pages from five minutes to 30 minutes.
All of these additions make it easier for you to keep up-to-date on developing news and legislation! And, as always, if you would like a tutorial on THOMAS or any other resource, feel free to contact me and we can arrange a meeting!
W. Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian
Posted on February 12, 2010
This semester, Women in Law is continuing to support and promote women law students and attorneys. In February, we’re partnering with the Public Interest Law Society to raise money for Habitat for Humanity in Haiti by selling and delivering Valentine’s and candy to the student body.
Also this month, Women in Law is hosting the second annual Judicial Speakers Panel, featuring Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Standridge. Judge Standridge will speak to our members at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, about her experience as a woman in law and as a judge. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Our main event of the semester, Pub Night, is scheduled for April 9. This year’s theme is “A Day at the Races.” Your fellow students will amaze you in the 1L skit and the talent show. The faculty band the Moody Blue Books return with old favorites and new hits. This year, our auction features a professional auctioneer and generous donations from faculty members. We’re introducing a new game, Spin to Win, where you can win amazing prizes, like polish sausage and strudel, for only 50 cents. Bring quarters! We are also working on a Kentucky Derby-themed drink special. All proceeds go to area women’s shelters, such as Women’s Transitional Care Services, and student summer stipends.
President, KU Women in Law
Posted on February 11, 2010
February in Lawrence means two things: School is back in full swing, and the Jayhawks are in the middle of some intense Big 12 conference basketball games!
One of the challenges of being a law student at a school where basketball is more of a religion than a sport is figuring out how to balance your time so that you can take in the games without falling behind on your studies. As hard is it may be to believe, I think I have more time for basketball games now than I did when I was an undergrad here at KU. I am going to attribute most of this to the fact that I am much more conscientious of how I allocate my time in law school than during my undergrad days, but it also helps that I joined a camping group and spend at least five hours a week sitting at Allen Fieldhouse with not much else to do but study. (That’s me on the far right in front of Allen Fieldhouse in the photo!)
One might think that joining a camping group would be counterproductive to studying, but I have found the opposite to be true. Since the Fieldhouse is conveniently located across the street from the law school, it is easy to sign up to camp before or after class or during a time when you have a couple of hours between classes. There is also no excuse not to stop in the law building and grab a book from your locker because there really isn’t a whole lot to do when you are sitting in the concourse of the Fieldhouse. Sure you could always take a nap, watch a movie on your laptop or get caught up on TV shows that you’ve missed on Hulu, but if you don’t want to feel guilty about spending four hours on a Monday night at the game, my advice is to study!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with how the camping works for KU basketball games, here is my unofficial guide:
- A camping group may have a maximum of 30 members.
- A lottery is held at the Fieldhouse the morning after home games. During the week, the lottery is at 6 a.m., and on the weekends it’s at 8 a.m. The lottery determines the order of camping groups for the next game. At least five people from your group must show up to participate in the lottery.
- Camping occurs between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hours for weekend camping are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Groups may vote to suspend camping at any time while camping.
- Camping will always be suspended three hours prior to a women’s basketball home game and two hours before a men’s basketball away game.
- While camping, any group may call a roll call at any time. The group who calls roll reads the group names off the list and if a member from a group is not present when the group name is called, their group is crossed off. The group is free to sign up again at the bottom of the list.
- Approximately three hours before the game, a final roll call is taken and the groups receive their final group number and line up in numerical order outside. Doors open two hours before tipoff.
The camping process starts in early November and repeats itself until early March. For more information on KU basketball, the official camping rules and more KU traditions, visit the KU Athletics camping page and the KUpedia camping page.