Interviewing Skills and the HeLP Clinic

By: Burton Miller, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

Recently, I started interviewing for jobs and externships as I tried to figure out what I was going to do for the Summer.  As someone who had not had a formal interview since last Spring, I was nervous about the upcoming interviews, especially since I felt that the last interviews I had done were not the best.  However, I found that this round of Spring interviews were much easier and much less painful than last year.  I found myself leaving my nervousness at the entrance, and being able to have genuine conversations with potential employers.  I think that much of the increase in being comfortable for interviews is due to my experience in the HeLP Clinic.

First, the professors in HeLP make you develop your active listening skills. Active listening means being able to focus and take in the information given to you by your peers or clients.  Whether it be through weekly supervisory meetings, case rounds, or interviewing clients, being in the clinic makes you develop your active listening skills.  In the clinic environment, active listening is very useful, as it helps identify follow-up questions, new legal issues, concerns about the facts and circumstances of the case, and the best ways to move forward in helping your clients achieve their goals.  In terms of interviewing, active listening helps you identify what the employer is looking for, making you able to answer their question clearly and precisely.

Another skill the clinic helps you with is developing and improving your personal demeanor during interviews. The clinic provides each student with a mid-semester review with their supervisory attorney.  During the review, the supervising attorney goes over your work and progress on your cases so far, giving you thorough feedback and critiques.  Going forward in the clinic, the mid-semester review is very helpful as it identifies what areas you’re progressing in and what areas you need to improve in to best help your clients.  In terms of interviewing, the most useful part of the mid-semester review is the requirement of having to record yourself conducting a mock counseling interview with another student.  By viewing the video with your attorney, you are able to observe and point out how you’re listening and reacting to your hypothetical client, while also being able to observe finer details such as your demeanor and facial expressions during the interview.  Knowing how you look and act during an interview is very helpful in making sure that you put yourself forward in a positive light.

Finally, I think the best skill the clinic provides you with is confidence.  Through being the primary contact with clients, and the professors letting you take control of how to move forward on a case, you’re presented and put into many situations that you would otherwise not have.  While these situations can be frightening at first and seem overwhelming, they also help you to learn how to interact and deal with difficult situations when they are presented to you.  Further, learning how to navigate these issues successfully leads to you being more confident and ready to deal and interact with tough situations in the future.