As technical interviews die at Google, should lawyers adopt them?

by Joshua Auriemma on June 23, 2013

Having entered law school from a discipline where technical interviews were the norm, I remember being very skeptical of the behavioral interview process. I’ve been thinking about technical interviews lately — specifically, their role in the legal profession — in light of recent news stories about Google vilifying the utility of technical interview questions and brainteasers during the interview process. (Disclaimer: once upon a time I got a callback to a Microsoft interview primarily for, one assumes, answering one of their infamous brainteasers.)

The premise of the argument against technical interview questions for software engineers revolves around the artificial atmosphere created by forcing an applicant to sit in a room and answer tough questions under pressure. While such a situation probably is artificial in the context of designing software at Google, it’s essentially any day of the week for most litigators. If an applicant can’t have an intelligent conversation with me about the implications of her law review comment or the law governing an area about which she has written, why should I think she’ll be effective with clients or judges? I would argue that the technical interview process is a fairly good gauge for how one will react under pressure as an attorney.

So why don’t we do this more? Particularly when you’re dealing with an applicant from a non-T14 school, how can you have any sort of gauge about what their achievements actually mean unless you’re intimately familiar with the law school in question? I’ve had people in interviews with CALI awards in constitutional law who couldn’t answer basic questions about con law jurisprudence that served as the basis for papers they’d written. That’s something that would never come up in a strict behavioral interview, and yet it seems pretty important.

So what’s the deal? What am I missing and why isn’t this the norm?