As the job market continues to improve, many senior lawyers are considering moving jobs, after spending years at the same firm. This isn’t to say that a more experienced lawyer is better equipped for an interview though – in fact, it may have been years since your last one.
Whether you’ve just graduated and are now seeking a training contract, or you have years of experience as a lawyer, the fear of not knowing which questions will be fired at you during your interview can easily affect how you perform.
Applying for a vacation scheme or a training contract? Or perhaps you’re simply at a stage in your legal career where you are ready for a new challenge? Whatever your circumstances, an interview will very likely be a part of the application process. Law interviews provide you an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and competencies, to convince the recruiter that you are right for the job in question.
The legal industry is competitive, and recruiters will likely put you through your paces during the application stage, so your best bet for success is to prepare, particularly ahead of a job interview.
Of course, there is no way to determine exactly which questions you’ll be asked at your interview – but it is possible to prepare for the most common questions in the event that you’re asked. Below, we’ve put together a list of questions that recruiters say could come up during a job interview for lawyers. You can expect these questions to pop up during your training contract and pupillage interviews. Others, you might come across at any stage in your career when interviewing for lawyer jobs.
What types of questions could I be asked?
Questions can usually be divided into five general areas.
- Questions relating to your legal career.
- Questions regarding the law.
- Questions surrounding your skills and competencies.
- Questions about commercial awareness.
- Questions designed to test your ability to deal with unexpected or tricky issues.
Below, we’ve broken down some of the most common questions for each area above.
Questions about your legal career
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
- Tell me about yourself?
- What is your biggest achievement to date?
- Is there anything you consider yourself to be particularly good at?
- What kind of person are you?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How would you approach this job?
- How do you get things done?
- How would you decide on your objectives?
- How do you manage your day?
- What motivates you?
- How do you cope without motivation?
- How long were you at your last job?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- How have you changed in the last five years?
- Are you a team player?
- What contributions do you make to a team?
- How do you react if you find that someone you work with does not like you?
- Have you ever experienced such a problem during your working life?
- If so, how did you cope and how did the matter resolve itself if it did occur?
- What would your peers say about you?
- What do you think you can bring to this position?
- What do you think you can bring to this company?
- How do you see this job developing?
- What sort of salary are you expecting?
- What was your last salary?
- If you did not have to work, what would you do?
- What decisions do you find easy to make?
- What decisions do you find difficult to make?
- Do you like to work in a team or on your own?
- What would you do if you don’t get this position?
- If offered the position, how long do you plan to stay at this company?
- On taking this job, what can you contribute to it?
- How do you get the best out of people?
- How do you respond under stress?
- Can you provide a recent example of when you were under stress, and how you coped?
- What support training would you require to be able to do this job? If not, why not? Explain.
- What would you look forward to most in this job?
- How does the job sound to you?
- Which subjects did you enjoy during your qualifying degree?
- Why do you want to be a solicitor?
- Have you always wanted to be a solicitor?
- What is your alternative career, should law not be the avenue for you?
- Would you be able to supply any references?
- What sort of response would we get from your referees about your professional as well as social manner?
- Why would you want to do LSC funded (legal aid) work? If not, why not? Explain.
- Why should we employ you, instead of someone else?
- What are your thoughts on partnership prospects in the future?
- We are not willing to give partnership prospects, what are your views on that?
- What are you expecting from this firm in the future?
- How much preparation on files for trial do you do?
- How much do you expect Counsel to do?
- Are you willing to do after-hours work?
- Are you willing to go through the accreditation process for police station advisors?
- In the future, would you be willing to manage a branch office? If not, why not? Explain.
- What advocacy experience do you have?
- Do you think you would need to undergo training for advocacy?
- Have you ever been involved either paid or unpaid with the services of the voluntary sector?
- Are you a member of any clubs or charities?
- What are your hobbies outside of work?
- Are you a socialising person? What is your work/life balance?
- Would your social life infringe on your work commitment?
- If so, how? Explain.
- What sort of employment background do you have?
- Why did you come to us through an agency?
- Have you applied anywhere else apart from us?
- Have you had any other interviews apart from us?
- Have you been offered a position yet?
- How much notice must you give to your present employer if you were offered a position?
- Would you be willing to branch out into any other area of law, if the need arose?
- Have you ever been abroad?
- Do you speak any other languages apart from English?
- Do you have any questions for us?
Questions regarding the law
- In your view, what are the major problems/opportunities facing the legal industry?
- What are your views on the franchising of legal aid firms?
- What are your views on the policies of the Legal Services Commission?
- What do you know about the impact of the Human Rights Act on law in this country?
- Do you think that there will be a major impact on criminal law?
- How has business/commercial/family law been affected by the change?
- What do you think about the principle of Legal Aid? Should clients have to pay for services they use in all circumstances?
- What do you think about law as it is practised in private practice firms?
- What are the three main attributes for a successful commercial lawyer?
- Why have you applied to this firm/set?
- What differentiates us from our competitors?
- What has been the most important development in an area of law we work in, and why?
- Give an example of a recent decision that you agree/disagree with and explain your position.
Questions surrounding your skills and competencies
- What will be your key target in this job if we appoint you?
- What makes you think you can be successful with us?
- What sort of management skills do you have?
- Do you think you require training in management skills? Why?
- Do you prefer to manage yourself or let someone else do the managing?
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- Are you computer literate?
- Would you be able to do time-recording? Do you keep good time?
- Are you better working alone, or as part of a team?
- Give an example of a time you experienced conflict or disagreement. How did you resolve this?
- Give an example of your ability to negotiate and persuade. How did you go about this, and how successful were you?
- What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness? How do these help/hinder your work, and what are you doing about them?
- Give an example of a problem you solved. Explain your approach and what you would do differently if faced with the same problem again.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
- How do you deal with failure?
- How do your friends describe you?
- Why are you a good person to have on a team?
- What makes you the ideal candidate for the role?
Questions about commercial awareness
Commercial awareness interview questions are intended to assess your ability to identify key commercial considerations that a typical business should consider. Your answers need to demonstrate both commercial sense and common sense.
Consider the following points when answering these questions:
- Company structure
- Location, premises and leases
- Marketing and advertising
- Regulatory issues
- Supply and demand
Below are some examples of questions you could be asked:
- What views do you hold on the recent budget?
- How do you stand on equal opportunities?
- Explain how the 2008 recession came about, and what you would expect its effects to have been on us as a firm/set. What might be done to minimise any negative effects? Might there have been any positive effects?
- You are about to set up a cafe. How would you go about doing this?
Questions designed to test your ability to deal with unexpected or tricky issues
- Have you ever attended a court hearing or employment tribunal?
- What was the outcome?
- Who would you take a desert island, and why?
- With which three historical figures (living or dead) would you most like to have a dinner party, and why?
- How long is the London Tube network?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- You are in a client meeting with a supervisor who is giving incorrect advice. What do you do?
- If you knew you were about to be stranded on a desert island for a year, which five things would you most want to have with you and why?
- Describe your ideal work environment?
- Describe your worst work environment?
- Tell me about a time when you successfully handled a situation?
- Tell me about a time when you felt that you dealt with a situation inadequately, and how has that changed how you would approach the same situation?
Want more advice surrounding interviews? Download our brand new interview guide below!