Students get real-world experience from Mock Interview Program

Issue December 2014 By Joshua Crawford

Dozens of law students across the commonwealth honed their interviewing skills by participating in the Massachusetts Bar Association's Mock Interview Program this fall. First piloted in 2013 by the MBA's Law Practice Management Section and Suffolk University Law School, the program offers law students and recent graduates the opportunity to interview with an attorney in a real, but low-pressure, setting.

The MBA's Mock Interview Program was developed around a similar one that MBA member Susan Letterman White had been involved with in Pennsylvania. In addition to Suffolk, the program expanded to include four other area law schools this year: New England Law | Boston, Massachusetts School of Law, Western New England University School of Law and the University of Massachusetts School of Law.

A total of 85 students and 65 volunteer attorneys from the MBA participated in this year's program. Volunteer attorneys provided participating law students with a 30-45 minute mock interview, which will help prepare the students for real interviews.

Law Practice Management Section Vice Chair Damian J. Turco noted that the program is unique because it provides "wins" all the way around for those involved. The students get the valuable experience of interviewing and gaining bar involvement. The law schools receive the added value of having their students receive free training from area attorneys. And MBA members get to engage with law school students in a practical, first-person manner.

Law school students are matched with volunteer attorneys based on their location and practice areas of interest. Then it is up to the law student to make outreach to the attorney and set up the mock interview, which are made as realistic as possible. Attorneys are provided with a list of sample questions in advance. After the interviews, the attorneys provide immediate feedback to the law students and also submit a feedback form.

"It was great," wrote one third-year student at New England School of Law | Boston. "After the process the attorney and I spoke about how it went, and she made me feel very confident about interviewing. It was also a great networking experience, and the attorney offered to lend a hand with getting me some trial experience."

Bringing students, lawyers together

The MBA has a close relationship with every law school in Massachusetts and frequently engages law students through continuing education programs and panel discussions, often provided directly at the schools. One of the qualities unique to the mock interview program, however, is that it helps to bring students off campus and into the greater statewide legal community.

"This is really a unique situation because in our traditional programs lawyers go to the students. In this program, the students go to the lawyers," said Turco.

While the intent of the mock interviews is to prepare students, they have an equally important impact on some of the attorneys.

When West Roxbury attorney Kevin Cloutier interviewed a recent graduate of Suffolk University Law School, it became clear that the interviewee had previously interned with the Division of Professional Licensure. Cloutier, who happened to have a case pending before that board, hired the student part-time as an hourly employee.

Overall, the program reinforces the importance of networking for both attorneys and law students as an indispensible aspect of career success. The mock interviews are not only practice for law students, but also provide a natural networking opportunity.    

Mike Vigneux contributed to this story.