Every law job interview should be treated as an opportunity to showcase an arsenal of the most important skills, achievements, and strengths you've gathered from your previous work experience. But in the highly competitive legal sector, preparation is key.
So, go over your resume and be prepared to talk about specific experiences and why you want to work at a particular firm, and why you, specifically, would make a good fit for the job offer they have on the table.
The following guide condenses our extensive knowledge about the most prevalent law firm interview questions and will help prepare you for your next chat with a potential employer and ensure that you're never caught off guard.
Common Law Firm Interview Questions
While there is always a chance you could get an off-the-wall question, recruiters in the legal industry typically stick to certain routines during job interviews. This is done for a variety of reasons, one of which is to ensure a level playing field for analyzing all potential employees.
By using standardized interview questions, a law firm tries to narrow down the selection of candidates. Of course, these aren't always phrased in the same way, but they're centered on the same general idea and typically test personal skills and work style. Good preparation and articulate, well-thought-out answers are what will bag you the job.
Here are some law firm interview questions that you're most likely to hear:
Why do you want to practice law?
This is a frequent opener, even outside of the legal profession. Recruiters ask this question to try and get a better sense of the candidate's interests and career goals. It can also be rephrased in the following ways:
- Why did you choose a career in law?
- Why do you want to work for us?
Likewise, you might be asked why you're interested in specific types of work or a particular type of law. For example, do you see yourself more as a transactional lawyer or a litigator? What inspired you to get into advocacy, and have you ever worked pro bono? Whatever the wording, this will undoubtedly be one of the first law job interview questions.
Although it may sound simple, many candidates are easily thrown off by these kinds of questions, especially if they never gave much thought to the circumstances that led them to pursue a career in the legal field. On the other hand, well-prepared candidates can easily turn this question into a great opportunity to make a good first impression.
Here, it's important to highlight the experience you're after and how this fuels your interest in law. You can also talk about specific situations that led you down this career path. Ultimately, it's about showing passion for the kinds of work you'll face on the job and interest in the type of law the firm specializes in.
What can you bring to the firm?
This law firm interview question isn't your cue to start bragging about your general skills. Instead, you should give specific examples of skills, experiences, and work ethic relevant to the job. You should also use this moment to show knowledge about the position you're applying to and a good understanding of the firm's culture.
Bring up a recent case and explain how you could've helped. Also, use good judgment and make sure to avoid bashing any of your previous employers. This is a common mistake that will make you look very unprofessional. These types of interview questions are very common, and you should definitely anticipate them, regardless of the firm you choose.
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
While a very common question in job interviews, it's still one that can catch some people off guard. Remember not to dwell on pointless weaknesses. No one wants to hear about how much you hate waking up in the morning.
Instead, try putting a positive spin on your answers. Talk about being too detail-oriented, and if you have trouble getting organized, shed light on the tremendous number of activities that you pack into your workday.
These aren't just small law firm interview questions. You can get asked about your strengths and weaknesses almost anywhere you apply for a job. When it comes to the former, make sure to identify your key strengths by using examples from your legal career that are relevant to your potential employer.
Which law would you like to change and why?
This is another question that frequently pops up, especially in behavioral interviews. You can also be asked what law you would bring into force and why?
The question serves several purposes. First, it tests your knowledge of the legal system and the judicial branch. Moreover, it offers valuable insight into your critical thinking abilities and opinions.
Just like our advice on previous law firm interview questions and answers, we recommend that you tread with caution here. You don't want to come off as too controversial.
The best option is to choose a law that can somehow be beneficial to the firm you're applying to. This will allow you to show off your extensive legal knowledge and your familiarity with your future employer.
Describe your courtroom approach.
A typical list of attorney interview questions always involves topics related to the courtroom and your approach to representing clients. Describe your thought process, how you would prepare for a trial and your attitude during the court proceedings. It's best to stick to a checklist in order to make sure you don't leave any important steps out.
How would you solve a legal issue?
This is another one of the more common circumstantial or situational interview questions where you're expected to show problem-solving abilities and present your knowledge of the law.
It's helpful to read up on the law firm's recent cases before the interview, as it's quite common for interviewers to use them for this question. The question will likely be tailored to your expertise, so the wording depends on the type of job you're applying for. Looking into the firm's website is a great idea and can help you learn more about the firm policies, cases, and practice areas.
How well do you handle stressful situations?
Stress is an inevitable part of every lawyer's career. Therefore, it's only natural that behavioral questions in a law interview with potential new associates will include something related to stressful situations. Nobody's perfect, but you're expected to keep your cool in any work environment and handle difficult clients and colleagues without losing your temper.
You can fall back on something you wrote in your cover letter when applying for the job or explain your working process through an example. Give an example of a time you handled yourself well under duress. The goal is to show you're able to remain calm and professional even when situations appear unmanageable.
Legal Job Interviews - Other Common Questions
There are many more questions an interviewer may ask during a job interview. This depends on the type of law you're practicing, the job position the company is hiring for, and of course, the interviewer's level of expertise. Some questions are designed to analyze your experience and skills, while others are intended to throw you off and see how you react.
Here's a sample of interview questions that tend to pop up at law firm interviews:
- How do you handle feedback?
- What is the biggest accomplishment in your law career?
- Why did you leave your previous job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Who is a role model in your life?
- What was your favorite subject at law school?
- Which historical figures would you invite to a party?
- What qualities do you think a good lawyer should have?
- How do you build trust with a client?
Questions To Ask After the Job Interview
We hope our guidance about the interview process has been useful so far, but here's another tip you shouldn't forget: the interview is not over when you're done answering the interviewer's questions.
After the potential employer goes through all the legal interview questions, it's your turn.
This is the time to show your research skills and ask the interviewer some relevant questions that will show you have done your homework.
And no, we don't just mean asking about the salary or talking about stuff you could easily find on the firm's website. Instead, ask questions directly about your assignment, potential supervisor, special in-house rules, caseload, available resources, and so on. Truly show that you're interested in the company and your future position there.
Picking the right questions to ask during a law firm interview can be difficult. You don't want to sound arrogant, but at the same time, it's in your interest to learn as much as you can. After all, you won't get a better opportunity to gain valuable insight into the inner workings of the firm.
Here are some questions to ask an employer during an interview:
- What kind of cases are you usually working on?
- Who would supervise my work?
- How would you describe the work atmosphere here?
- What kinds of clients will I work with?
- Will I deal with high-profile cases or new clients?
- What do you like most about this firm?
- How is work distributed?
- How will my work be evaluated?
- Can you tell me more about my team members?
- Do you have a summer program/work with summer associates?
Write a Thank-you Letter
It has become common practice to send a thank you letter after the interview is done. While most employers don't explicitly expect anything more than basic interview questions, a letter shows that you're passionate about this profession, and it's a sign of good manners.
People with good handwriting should absolutely send a handwritten letter. A letter that you personally wrote and signed will definitely make you stand out, showing that you also put a personal touch on everything you do. Keep in mind that it may take several days for such a letter to arrive, so if you're working within a certain timeframe, consider sending it via email.