Preparing for a Job in the Legal Profession

As a job seeker, you’ve probably been told repeatedly to prepare some questions to ask at the end of your interview – but seldom got advice on what constitutes a good interview question. In brief, a good interview question is one that shows your knowledge of the field, and focuses on the company rather than on what you expect to get from your association with them. In other words, this is not the place to ask about salary and benefits. If you do your research on the company in advance, you’ll likely find some good subjects for questions. Some examples of questions you might ask include:

I saw in the trade papers that the property boom is expected to continue. How much of my job will involve supporting solicitors involved in real estate law?

How much of the firm’s efforts are put into charity work, and how can someone in my position assist in that area?

Is this opening the result of someone leaving, or is it an entirely new position? If the former, can you tell me under what circumstances the person who held this job formerly left? If the latter, what does the firm expect this new position to accomplish?

What would you say are the biggest challenges for the person who accepts this position with your firm?

What would you expect the person hired for this position to be doing in six months?

What would my typical day be if I accept this position?

I have particular skills in (name an area). How do you see those skills being utilized in this position?

Likewise, you’ve probably been told to prepare answers to the most commonly asked interview questions – but again, few people tell you what those questions are. It’s rather difficult to prepare answers to questions you don’t know! Here’s a list of some of the most commonly asked questions in interviews for jobs in the legal profession.

Describe your experience in the legal field.

Tell me about yourself.

How do you see yourself fitting into a team here at our firm?

Where do you see yourself in five (or ten) years time?

What special skills do you bring to our firm?

Why should we hire you?

How do you deal with conflict in the workplace?

Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle it? What was the result? What would you do differently?

Tell me about your greatest – or fondest – achievement.

Do you prefer to work on your own or do you function best as part of a team?

We all have comfortable ‘roles’ in the workplace – the organizer, the cheerleader, the communicator, etc. What is your typical role in a team/workplace environment?

Have you ever been in a situation where someone at work disliked you? How did you handle it?

The pace can get frantic here sometimes. How would you deal with being overwhelmed with too much work landing on your shoulders at once?

In most cases, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The way to deal with them is to answer as honestly and positively as you can. Some career advisors will recommend that you attempt to divine what answer the interviewer is seeking and answer accordingly. In truth, if that strategy is successful and you are offered the position, you’ll simply find yourself in a job that is not a good fit. Be honest, give your best answers, and expect that the interview process will work as it’s meant to work – by matching you up with a firm where you’ll feel at home and make great contributions.