Law students reflect on their interviews

Law students reflect on their interviews

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So probably that I was actually interested
in the topic. So I basically had about 45 minutes, I think it was, to go away and read
some of the materials that they had given me and it was looking at the tension between
freedom of speech and then some broadcasting regulations, so what they’re allowed to show
on TV. I think it was to do with an animal rights campaign and some, like, quite gruesome
images they wanted to put on the TV. So that was really interesting, I think, and that
was what struck me most, that I was coming across material I hadn’t really even thought
about before, that this was a problem. So, yes, the fact that I had to think on my feet
but it wasn’t too difficult because it’s something that, when you’re interested in it, you want
to think about it so, yes, it was interesting, I think. So I was struck by the room itself. When I
entered the interview room and I met Dyson and Jo Miles, my interviewer, it was a very,
very nice room with sofas and a fireplace and they invited me to sit down with them.
So I was very, very surprised because I expected more of an office-type interview, a very professional
setting, but I think at Cambridge they want you to feel at home. So during the interview
itself it was quite friendly and it was more like a fireside chat with two very knowledgeable
professors about anything, about on the law and about yourself. So I was very surprised
by that because I thought it would be hard-core, they would be focused on the issue at hand
and that they would be very structured in the way they ask you questions but at my interview
I was surprised. It was relaxed and very friendly. I got an excerpt from the Torture Convention
and was asked about a bunch of scenarios. So I think one of the last questions was really,
really complex and I didn’t even know where to start thinking about it. I didn’t even
know what step 1 was, let alone the conclusion, and I just sat there for a bit, just trying
to… just trying to sort it out in my head and I was talking aloud about what was confusing
me and I didn’t understand and finally I just said I have no idea how to progress what they
said. She just kind of laughed and so I literally asked her, “What is the answer because I don’t
know how to even start reaching it?” and she said, “Oh, this doesn’t have an answer. I
don’t know what it should be either. So let’s just move on,” kind of thing so I was, like,
“Okay, probably not the best thing to say ‘I give up’ but, you know, maybe not so bad.” Not really, I mean, because I had kind of
been preparing myself to eventually break down at some point from… because, you know,
the questions do get increasingly harder and I was kind of prepared for the other aspects.
I think it’s just a general style in which we approached it at the beginning that threw
me off a little. I remember being surprised when I first walked
in and it was sofas and armchairs everywhere. I was expecting a kind of really formal across-the-table
setting or something like that but it was like you could have been in someone’s living
room. So I remember that was surprising and also it put me at ease quite a bit because,
yes, I was just sat in a big comfy armchair. Again, it didn’t really feel like I was being
interviewed so that was nice. So definitely, yes, before the interview I
was very, very worried and stressed, especially after having done the test in the morning.
I felt unprepared because I didn’t do law at my A levels so I was very worried about
the type of questions that they could ask but I remember I took, like, time off. Like,
an hour before my interview I went to McDonalds just to take a breather and relax and just
get away from college life because your interview will take place in college and it’s just nice
to step out and get yourself reorganised before you go back into the interview. So that was
my method of approaching the stress and the worry of the interview. Yes, so I was kind of worried that I would
say something very stupid. I was worried because I was speaking to, like, someone from Cambridge
University and just a general bag of nerves about the interview. I think, as with any interview, just worried
that I was going to get asked something and have no idea how to answer but that wasn’t
really a problem on the day because obviously you prepare for it so there’s the obvious
questions like, “Why law?” You expect that that’s going to come so you have an answer
to it and then the more on-the-spot questions. It wasn’t a problem if I didn’t know the answer
because they can guide you to an answer and often I’ve been told after that they want
to get you to a place where you don’t know the answer so it is actually a good thing
if you find that you’re struggling to think of something and, yes, they guided me through
it when I wasn’t quite sure, so… So first of all just made sure I knew the
obvious thing, like, everything you’ve written on your personal statement, just have an opinion
on it as well, just so that you haven’t just name-dropped a book or an author or anything.
I reflected on what I’d written about and what I thought about it and another thing
I did, which sounds a bit silly but I always tell everyone who’s asked me for advice about
the Cambridge interview to do this, they give you the name of your interviewers so I just
looked on YouTube at some videos of them talking and it’s just one less unknown on the day.
You go in the room, you’ve heard how they’re going to sound. So you just feel like you
already know them and, yes, that put me at ease a lot and, yes, preparing answers to
the obvious questions, things like, “Why law?” “Why Cambridge?” “Why this course?” Those
kind of things. If you go in knowing that you’ve got some kind of stock answers prepared,
again, you’re put quite a bit more at ease. So being an international student, I tried
to catch up with English news. So I remember the day before the interview, I went to the
stores and just bought a few newspapers so the night before I just read up on different
areas of the UK, so any pertinent issues, and just think about the news articles and
how they might relate to the law, I think, would be quite useful. I think there were some sample case studies
I found online of the kind of questions they could ask you at an interview or, like, the
kind of excerpts that they would give. So I just kind of practised that with my parents
or with my friends. So they’d ask me and they’d look at me with blank expressions and I’d
have to stumble my way through. I did that a few times. Don’t feel the need to answer as soon as the
interviewer has finished the question. It’s perfectly all right and probably even expected
that you take a second or two to kind of just think through the question, think about what
you want to say and then walk through your answer in a rational manner. So don’t just
jump to a conclusion and then backtrack and explain why you reached that conclusion. Just
kind of say, “Okay, yes, so this is step 1 and this is followed by step 2 and, therefore,
this is the logical answer for the scenario.” That really helps you calm down as well because
you’re kind of going in a logical progression so you don’t need to start thinking about,
“Oh, my God. What am I saying?” because you kind of have an idea of where you’re going
with this and, secondly and most importantly, I think, is be true to yourself. Don’t try
to project an image of someone you’re not. I would say – I know you probably have been
told it so many times – but really try to enjoy it because that is how supervisions
work here. So if you find that you’ve come out and you’ve absolutely hated it, if, I
don’t know, you let nerves get the better of you or anything, yes, you’ve really got
to try and see if you could see yourself in that learning environment and if you can do
that, you’ll feel a lot better about it, whatever the outcome is. Also, another thing I remember,
don’t be unnerved if one of your interviewers is a bit more quiet or kind of good cop, bad
cop, or anything like that. I remember one of mine hardly said anything and now I know
her quite well and she’s absolutely lovely but at the time I was quite scared, but don’t
be worried about that at all. Just, yes, do you best and really think out loud so if there’s
a question that you’re not sure of the answer to, you can say, “I’m just thinking aloud
here,” or just walk them through your thinking process and then it really doesn’t matter
if you don’t get the right answer and there might not even be a right answer. They just
want to see your thought process so, yes, relax, enjoy it and think aloud would be,
I think, my three main things. So I think one of the biggest tips that I
have for you during the interview itself is to always think before you speak. So I was
asked a very difficult question which I, at that moment, I really didn’t know how to approach
it. So I told my interviewers that I needed some time to think and I took about half a
minute. It was a bit awkward during the interview itself, I must admit, the pause, and they
were just looking at me expectantly but after 30 seconds, when I had gathered my thoughts
and came up with a structured way to answer the question, I just gave the answer to them.
So I think one of the biggest advice is to always think before you speak. Do not just
go on and ramble about something without structure. As a good lawyer or a good law student, you
will need to have structure in everything you do and another good advice I can give
you is to always voice your thoughts. So every time you make an argument, you have to go
through every step of it. Even something that you think is obvious, you should really let
your interviewer know how you arrived at the conclusion and the steps needed before you
arrived at that conclusion. It really shows clarity in your thoughts and I think the interviewers
look out for the way you approach a question and the logic that you use to answer such
questions. In general, just try not to freak out about
it so much. Obviously, you’re going to be nervous before an interview and I’m not saying
don’t be. There is no way you can stop but when you’re in the interview, try not to fixate
on your errors or the things which you think you could have said better but you realise
five seconds too late. Just kind of go on with it and try, try to think of it as a conversation
with someone you’ve never had a chance to meet before. You’re meeting an eminent academic
and you are getting to kind of just sit and have a casual discussion for half an hour.
That’s an amazing opportunity, independent of whether you get in or not, and just try
to treat it as such and have fun, yes. I think I was a little struck by the fact
that they didn’t really ask me why I wanted to study law. They were more focused on, like,
the academic interest that I had in law, which I was happy to discuss. So I think students
who might be preparing for the interview could focus more on the real reason they want to
study law, as in academic reasons behind it, not to do with career, for example. Of course,
career is important but I think that the Fellows or the supervisors here will be more interested
in knowing why you really are interested in the subject itself. I think it’s important
to also have a passion for the subject itself because when you study here in Cambridge you
will be given a lot of readings and a lot of work to do over the term and even during
the holidays. So having a passion for the subject itself, even what people would call
the drier parts of the subject, would be very, very useful and I do think Fellows and supervisors
look out for that trait in the people that they interview. I thought it would be something very scary
and I’d just come out and burst into tears but I really genuinely enjoyed my interview.

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