Harvard Law School applicants far from Cambridge will have the chance to see, not just hear, their interviewer in the next admissions cycle.
The Law School will interview J.D. applicants via the free videoconferencing software Skype rather than by phone next year and will expand the number of applicants who are offered interviews from about 1,000 to 1,200. Those interviews will also be longer, from under 10 minutes to around 15 minutes.
To accommodate the increase in the number and length of interviews, interviews will be conducted not only by Assistant Dean and Chief Admissions Officer Jessica L. Soban but also by Director of Admissions Karen E. Buttenbaum.
“There’s nothing that ultimately replaces being able to physically sit down in a room with someone, but I think that Skype is a great way of approximating that,” Soban said.
To prepare for this expansion, the admissions office spoke with a number of professional schools, including Harvard Business School, which conducts videoconference interviews in addition to phone interviews. Soban said she did not speak to many other law schools, since she believes Harvard Law School is one of few that conducts any applicant interviews, much less interviews via Skype.
“I don’t know why other schools wouldn’t be pushing in this direction, because I think it just really benefits the candidate in being able to get their full story out,” Soban said.
While Skype will be the priority method for interviewing, Soban said, the Law School will accommodate applicants with special needs, such as those with disabilities that make using Skype difficult or those living in places that restrict internet communication.
In anticipation of the expansion, the admissions office is currently conducting internal practice runs and troubleshooting to avoid technical and logistical issues. Soban said it is also testing a new scheduling system to allow applicants to sign up for interview times instead of scheduling via email, as has been done in past years.
Soban, who conducted Skype interviews when she worked as a manager at Bain, said that videoconferencing will not only offer applicants the chance to discuss their passions but also put a face on the Law School for the prospective students.
“Sometimes admissions can feel like a little bit of a black box,” Soban said. “You hit submit on an application and then you don’t know what happens, and at least this way they know for certain that there are people on the other side.”
—Staff writer Juliet R. Bailin can be reached at email@example.com.