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The Harvard Law School Interview: Questions & How to Prepare

January 3, 2024
8 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 09/08/23

If you’re preparing for your Harvard Law Interview, read on to learn how to create effective answers to wow the admissions committee.

Harvard law school

An invitation to interview with Harvard in and of itself is a major milestone. Less than 1,000 candidates are interviewed each year out of a pool of around 10,000 students. 

Fortunately, your Harvard interview will be more casual than most. It will be conducted virtually and last about 15 minutes. The tone will be friendly and conversational but still formal, hopefully easing some of your interview anxiety. 

Harvard Law suggests you reflect on three main questions when brainstorming responses to their interview questions: Why you? Why Harvard?, and why now? While these questions are a good place to start, you should also prepare for more specific Harvard Law interview questions, which this guide will cover!

Harvard Law Interview Questions and Answers

Two people shaking hands after an interview

Considering your interview will only last about 15 minutes, you’ll only be asked a handful of questions.

There are obviously your typical interview questions that you should prepare for, such as the classic “Tell us about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” but Harvard has some more unique questions they like to ask their candidates. 

Here are some of their favorite interview questions:

1. Why Did You Pursue “X” Experience?

You’ll be required to submit a resume with your Harvard application, which will highlight various meaningful experiences and projects. At least one will stand out to the admissions committee and will likely be brought up during your interview. 

The main traits you want to demonstrate when answering this question are thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. The committee wants to know that you put thought into your extracurriculars and didn’t just pursue them to build your resume. 

You should also demonstrate a clear passion for the experience and state your reasons for pursuing it. Some questions to consider when you brainstorm your answer are:

  • What passion motivated you to pursue this experience?
  • What did you hope to learn or gain through it?
  • Did you achieve what you wanted?
  • How will this experience help you in your legal journey?
  • Will you continue this pursuit in law school or after?

The admissions committee will likely single out an experience that is seemingly unrelated to law or involves unique legal experience, such as working with underserved populations. 

"I pursued an internship with "GreenEarth Advocates," a local environmental non-profit, because of my passion for sustainability and belief in grassroots impact. This internship offered a chance to advocate for responsible policies and community engagement. 
One project involved implementing a successful recycling program in local schools, significantly reducing waste. This experience strengthened my commitment to environmental law, showing me the potential for legal expertise to create real change in environmental conservation."

2. Can You Give an Example of a Time You Navigated a Difficult Conversation in an Academic or Professional Setting?

As a law student and a future lawyer, you’ll encounter different opinions and views. The admissions committee wants to know that you can handle these opposing perspectives in a respectful and productive way. 

Your answer to this question does not have to involve a major ethical dilemma you faced; it can be as simple as disagreeing with a peer during a group project or a time you addressed constant tardiness with a trainee. The focus shouldn’t be on the seriousness of the issue but on how you engaged in meaningful discussion to resolve it.

Here’s how you should set up your answer:

  • Step One: Clearly explain the situation—no need for extensive detail, just stick to the main facts
  • Step Two: Reiterate the differing views or opinions involved and acknowledge the validity of both sides
  • Step Three: Explain the outcome and what you learned through it

Ultimately, you should prove you could understand either the situation from the other party’s point of view or you helped them see it from your perspective. The main takeaway the admissions committee should have from your response is you’ve already begun developing the skills needed to handle tough conversations and situations.

"During a group project for a law course, we had differing opinions on approaching a complex case analysis. I led a conversation where we shared our views openly. When tensions rose, I suggested a balanced strategy that combined strong and cautious elements, addressing everyone's concerns. 
By focusing on common goals, I helped us reach an agreement, showing the importance of working together and communicating well when faced with challenges."

3. What Are You Afraid of? What Are You Motivated by?

This is a two-part question that some admissions committee members prefer to ask together because the responses tend to be very similar—your fears typically drive your motivations.

Law school is difficult to get into but even harder to stay and thrive in. To prove you are truly dedicated to pursuing a career in law, you should demonstrate clear drive and motivation in this question. The committee will not be interested in your fear of spiders or the dark.

Think more philosophically. Are you afraid of being 70 years old and looking back on your life with regret? Are you afraid of self-sabotage or holding yourself back? Are you afraid of disappointing your young, bright-eyed and ambitious self who always dreamed of achieving greatness? 

Perhaps there are certain words a parent or teacher said to you that always ring in your ears that you fear you will or will not live up to. Regardless of your fear, ensure it relates to your motivation to succeed in this field and remember the following pointers:

Avoid Clichés

Simply stating you’re motivated by a passion for law and a fear of settling for less is not specific enough to tell the committee more about your values. The committee wants to learn what really drives you, not just in your legal journey but also in your larger personal narrative. Provide specific answers that tell your story!

Answer Honestly

Do not provide the committee with an answer you think they want to hear; share your actual fears and motivations even if they seem unconventional—unconventional answers are likely to be more memorable. 

Think about what your original motivations to pursue law were and how they’ve developed or changed. 

Focus on You

It’s easy to Google generic answers to the question “What motivates you?” The Harvard interview committee knows this. While these searches can inspire you or help you come up with your own ideas, you mustn’t simply pick out an answer that sounds the best and roll with it. 

If you simply use an answer off Google, you’ll struggle to keep up with the inevitable follow-up questions you’ll receive after your answer since this is such a complex question. 

"I have a strong passion for environmental conservation. The idea of environmental degradation and its lasting consequences worries me deeply. However, on the flip side, the opportunity to contribute to this cause excites me greatly. 
The thought of protecting ecosystems biodiversity, and combating climate change motivates me profoundly. Pursuing a legal education at Harvard Law School provides a pathway to use the law as a tool for positive environmental impact, and that's what fuels my determination."

4. What Are Some Things You Value in a Community as You Think About Making a Home for Yourself Over the Next Three Years?

Harvard has its own goals and values to uphold, and when considering you for their program, they want to know that you will contribute to these goals if you’re granted admission. Prove that your aspirations and principles align with Harvard’s and that you will thrive in their community. 

Harvard is known for its collaborative, diverse, and dynamic community, so you may want to mention that you value environments where people with differing perspectives but similar goals can work together to create real change. Do your research, see what draws you to Harvard, and prove you’ll fit in!

“As I consider my next three years and finding my place within a community, I hold certain values close, particularly in environmentalism. I value diversity and inclusivity, as addressing environmental challenges requires a global perspective. 
Collaboration and support are essential, as environmental issues demand collective efforts and learning from one another. Safety and a nurturing environment matter, allowing for open discussions on ecological solutions. Intellectual exchange is key too, fostering conversations on sustainability and conservation. 
Lastly, a commitment to environmental stewardship aligns with my values, and I look for a community that shares this dedication.
In essence, I aim to find a community at Harvard Law School that embodies diversity, collaboration, safety, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to environmentalism. These values shape not only my academic journey but also my role in promoting environmental awareness and action.”

5. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

At the end of your interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. As eager as you might be to simply say no and end the Zoom call as soon as possible, you should seize this opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the school and your eagerness to join it. 

Prepare a few questions about what you want to learn about Harvard Law and pick whichever seems most fitting on interview day. Use student blogs, Harvard’s website, and previous students’ opinions on the school to learn more about its resources and accomplishments. 

If there’s a clinic of particular interest to you, ask more about it. If there is a professor you’re eager to work with, explain why and ask about the courses and projects they’re planning for the upcoming year. 

The committee will spend the better part of your interview getting to know you, so now it’s time to learn more about them. Ask a genuine and insightful question that proves your excitement to join Harvard Law.

“Yes, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a few questions. Could you please provide more insight into the ways in which Harvard Law School supports students' engagement with environmental law and advocacy?
I'm also curious about the opportunities for collaboration with local environmental organizations or initiatives. Finally, I'd like to know more about the extracurricular activities or student groups focused on environmental issues within the law school community.”

Words of Wisdom

While we’ve suggested several tips and considerations to keep in mind as you prepare for your interview, we discourage you from formulating full responses to memorize and reiterate on interview day. Instead, create jot notes for each question so there is natural flow in your response, and you do not sound robotic. 

Harvard Law emphasizes that the way you speak is as important as what you say. Try to be relaxed and enjoy the conversation. 

You should know what points you’d like to highlight and the information you’d like to share with the committee without tailoring them to one or two specific questions. By having more general jot notes that can be applied to various questions, you will feel more comfortable during the interview and will not feel caught off guard. 

Tips How to Prepare for Harvard Law School Interview

There are a number of things you can do to set yourself up for success for your Harvard Law School interview. Keep reading for some helpful tips. 

Researching the Employer

Before your Harvard Law School interview, do your homework about the organization or office where the interview will happen. Check their website, recent news, and learn about your interviewer if you can.

Talk to OPIA advisers, alumni, professors, or classmates who know about the place. This will help you understand their goals and what they do. With this knowledge, you can confidently demonstrate your understanding during the interview.

Crafting Your Story

Think of the interview as a chance to talk about yourself and how you fit with the organization. Use what you learned to show you're a good match and excited about the job. 

Make a list of things you want to say during the interview. These can include why you want the job, your experiences that connect with the job, your skills, and what you're good at.

Mock Interviews

Practice is important, so try a practice interview with an adviser or a friend. This helps you get used to answering questions and getting feedback on your work. Make a list of things you want to talk about and practice using them in your answers. This makes you more confident for the real interview.

Understanding the Interview Format

Know what kind of interview you'll have. Will it be on the phone, on Zoom, or in person? Also, consider if it's for an internship or a job after graduation. Internship interviews are usually short and might be on the phone or online. Post-graduate interviews are longer and might have different rounds, like talking on the phone, online, or in person.

Telephone Interviews

For phone interviews, talk clearly and show you're excited. Prepare for it like a regular interview. Don't rely too much on notes. Use a good phone and pick a quiet place for the call. Make sure you know who will call whom and when.

Zoom or Virtual Interviews

Use a professional username and picture if you're doing a Zoom interview. Dress well and find a clean, quiet place with good light. Test your equipment before the interview and make sure your internet works well. Remember, they can see you, so stay focused.

Materials to Bring

For in-person interviews, bring extra copies of your resume and a list of people who can say good things about you. You might also want to bring other things you sent with your application, like your grades or writing samples. During the interview, don't look at notes too much.

By doing these things, you set yourself up for success for your Harvard Law School interview. If you need any extra support, our expert Harvard admissions team can help you prep. 

Other Harvard Law School Interview Questions

We’ve provided you with some of the more unique questions you can expect to answer during your Harvard Law interview. But there’s ultimately no telling which types of questions you’ll be asked! To limit the chances of you being asked a question you’re not prepared for, here are 15 other potential questions.

1. How would your friends/colleagues describe you?
2. What is your advocacy style?
3. Tell me about your senior thesis.
4. Why do you want to become a lawyer?
5. What kind of law are you interested in practicing?
6. What is your dream career?
7. What is your greatest achievement?
8. Tell me about a time you failed. 
9. What book are you reading at the moment? 
10. What is your favorite book and why?
11. Who is your role model, or who do you look up to?
12. What are your hobbies, or what do you do in your free time?
13. What academic accomplishments are you most proud of?
14. What makes a good lawyer?
15. Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle.

Each answer should provide the admissions committee with more insight into who you are and how prepared you are to join Harvard Law. Think deeply and carefully about your experiences, goals, and aspirations when answering these questions.

FAQs: Harvard Law Interview

For any remaining questions on how to ace your Harvard Law interview, read on to find your answers.

1. Does Harvard Law Interview All Applicants?

No, Harvard Law only interviews a small percentage of their applicants. They interview candidates on a rolling basis, meaning they send interview invites out as they review applications. 

If your application stands out and the committee is intrigued to learn more, you will be asked to interview.

2. How Many People Get Interviews at Harvard Law?

Less than 1,000 applicants in the 2021 admissions cycle were invited to interview. 

3. Is it Rare to Get an Interview With Harvard?

Considering less than 10% of applicants are extended interview invitations, it is rare to be interviewed. However, if you submit a memorable personal statement, a stellar resume, and have high scores, it’s likely you will be asked to interview.

4. How Do I Prepare for My Harvard Law Interview?

Go over the most common interview questions and the ones listed in this guide. Abide by the suggestions we’ve made and avoid memorizing full responses. Think of the main points you want to bring up so that you can incorporate them into various types of questions.

5. How Long Is the Harvard Law Interview?

The Harvard Law interview will take around 15 minutes to complete.

6. What Should I Do After The Harvard Law School Interview?

Sending thank-you notes after individual interviews is a good idea. It's best to write them within 24 hours, either by email or hand. Thank the interviewer for their time, mention what you talked about, show your interest in the organization or position, and invite further communication. 

Just remember not to send thank-you notes to government employers as they might experience delays in receiving them.

7. When Does Harvard Law Send Interview Invitations?

As your application goes through the review process, there's a chance you'll receive an interview invitation from the Admissions Committee. These interviews take place starting in November and continue throughout the admissions cycle. 

8. What's the Average Waiting Time for a Response Following an Interview at Harvard Law School?

Harvard law school lets applicants know about their post-interview decision approximately six weeks, although there's no need to worry if it takes a bit longer.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to answer Harvard’s favorite interview questions should hopefully make this nerve-wracking step of the application process more manageable! Do your best to stay relaxed, provide insightful answers, and let your personality shine through! 

Good luck!

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