Screening Interviews

Once you are granted a screening interview, the process of landing a job remains the same whether you went through AALS Faculty Recruitment Services or contacted the school directly. Screening interviews on campus or via video conference will be conducted in much the same way.

On average, hiring committees send 5 members to interview candidates at the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference. Sometimes law school deans will also attend. Interviews are usually scheduled every 30 minutes; thus, with time for travel between interviews, the actual time is usually about 20 to 25 minutes. The main purpose is to determine whether you and the law school are a good fit for each other. 

In this simulation of a typical 20-30 minute screening interview, the participants address some of the most common interview questions and offer tips on the best ways to answer tough questions from law faculty hiring teams.
In this simulation, the participants demonstrate more difficult questions and topics that may arise in a law faculty screening interview.

Sample Interview Questions

Q: Why do you want to be a law professor?

A: Your answer should include references to writing (if the position is tenure-track), teaching, and programmatic design.

Q: Are you interested in teaching courses other than legal research and writing, either skills courses or substantive courses?

A: The ability to teach courses other than legal research and writing will vary depending on the school. If permitted, you should be prepared with a short list of courses you would be interested in teaching, but understand that if you show more enthusiasm for the other courses, the team may doubt your commitment to legal writing.

Q: Please briefly tell us about your job talk paper or topic, the lesson you would teach, or your teaching philosophy.

A: Though you will not be required to give any of these presentations until your callback interview, you will likely be asked about one of them during your screening interview. If the school has unitary or programmatic tenure, you will likely need to give a traditional job talk. If the school uses a different model, then the requirement of scholarly production will vary, and you may be asked to give a practical teaching demonstration or explanation of your teaching philosophy. 

Ask each school which type of presentation you will be required to make during a potential callback interview. For the screening interview, prepare a short, concise statement (i.e., around 2-3 minutes long) about your presentation that you have rehearsed. 

Q: Please tell us about current or future research projects listed in your research plan. 

A: If you are interviewing for a position in which you will be required to produce scholarship, you should be ready with a short, concise statement that you have rehearsed. Be prepared for substantive questions about any of your published papers. 

Q: What interests you in our law school?

A: Be sure to have reviewed the law school’s website, including its mission statement, information about the legal writing program (number of required semesters, number of credits, course descriptions), and legal writing faculty. If you have a particular interest in this school, be sure to convey it. Note: you may want to avoid saying “you are my top choice!”

You should be prepared for questions about your interest in and knowledge of the town or city in which the school is located. You should be prepared to address any questions about relocation, particularly if you are would be moving from urban to rural, changing regions, or changing climates. 

Q: What can we tell you about our law school? Do you have any questions for us? 

A: Interpret this as a prompt to explore the specific law school and its fit with you and what you are seeking in an employer. You always want to have questions ready to ask each hiring committee. This is an opportunity not just to ask questions but to make comments revealing your depth of understanding about their school. 

There is certain information that any LRW faculty member should to know prior to accepting an offer, and some of it may be politically sensitive. You may want to wait until your callback to probe more deeply, particularly about status issues. Use your discretion and consult with your faculty mentor about the best way to manage some of these questions:

  1. What is the average size of the legal writing classes?
  2. What is the nature of the legal writing team (e.g. is it led by a director; are assignments coordinated, or is each faculty member responsible for designing their own projects)?
  3. Do legal writing faculty teach both writing and research or do they collaborate with library faculty to teach the research component?
  4. Is the course taught in one semester or over the course of a year?
  5. Do legal writing faculty have teaching assistants?
  6. What is the process following the screening interview and when can you anticipate hearing back from the school?
  7. How would the committee members describe the culture of their school, and the integration of LRW faculty?

Do legal writing faculty have voting rights and do they participate on law school committees?

This webinar is designed as a primer on initial interviews with law school hiring teams, whether conducted in person, virtually, or at the AALS faculty recruitment conference. We assembled a group of faculty, both subject-matter and clinical, ready to share their experiences and advice about these screening interviews.

Tips for a Successful Interview

  1. Be sure to review the law school website and the faculty profiles of your interviewers.
    • Familiarize yourself with the scholarship of your interviewers, particularly in your field of scholarly interest.
  2. Pay careful attention to your time management at FRC.
    • Arrive early enough to familiarize yourself with the layout of the hotel well before your interviews start.
    • If you have multiple interviews, try to avoid scheduling them back-to-back. The hotel is sprawling; you need to give yourself sufficient time to get from one part of the hotel to another. Ideally, leave yourself at least 20 – 30 minutes between interviews.
    • If you do have back-to-back interviews, you should notify the interviewing committee when you arrive that you have another interview immediately following and that you may have to leave 5 minutes early to get there. If the first interview is running long, you should feel free to let the committee know that you have to end the interview to avoid being late to the next one. Don’t worry about offending any law schools. Institutions understand that candidates are doing back-to-back-interviews.
    • Wear professional, but comfortable, shoes!
  3. Prepare a short, concise statement (2-3 minutes) of your scholarly agenda and the topic of your job talk paper.
  4. Moot as much as you can: the interview, the job talk, the elevator pitch.
  5. Maintain professionalism throughout the conference, including those times when you are not in an actual interview.
  6. Send thank you emails to the committee chairs of each school with whom you interview.
Professor Deborah Epstein offers advice regarding time management during the interview.

Attending FRC Events

AALS offers a variety of events during FRC, which provide an opportunity to network with future colleagues and with recruiting teams. While these are social events, it is important to maintain your professionalism throughout the conference.

Events include:

  • A roundtable preparatory session for candidates
  • Receptions for candidates 
  • Receptions sponsored by various AALS sections including the Sections on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research and on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, plus a Reception for Religiously Affiliated Law Schools.
  • Question and answer sessions and hospitality suites sponsored by the Sections on Minority Groups and Women in Legal Education

The suites can be good places to go for encouragement and advice. They also can be a good place for feedback in real time on questions you are uncertain about or to get advice before another interview. You also may make further contacts who can help you in future searches. 

Attending FRC Without Any Scheduled Interviews

Advice on whether to attend FRC if you do not have any interviews scheduled in advance varies widely. The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research welcomes candidates to its reception even if you do not have any scheduled interviews. Attending the reception may provide you with an opportunity to network and make connections that will assist you in your job search. However, it is rare that a law school will have open space to interview unscheduled candidates. Thus, it is an expensive gamble for a candidate to incur the travel and hotel expense of attending the conference without any scheduled interviews.

There have been a few candidates, though exceedingly rare, who came to the conference despite not having an interview and obtained a law teaching job. 

If you submitted your information to the FAR and did not receive any invitations for an interview, one suggestion is to have a law faculty mentor review your materials before incurring the expense of attending the conference. The mentor may provide some insight into the process and help advise as to whether to attend or wait to apply next year. Additionally, you may want to consider applying for a fellowship before participating in the FRC again. Finally, anecdotally, a significant amount of hiring of legal writing faculty occurs outside of the FRC. You may consider looking at alternate sites such as that hosted by the Legal Writing Institute.