The most effective way to alleviate interview fears is to prepare for the big day.
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.
And if you are a budding young graduate ready to impress, you’ll be equally as keen to secure your very first training contract – preparation will be key to your performance.
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.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common questions lawyers can be asked during an interview, and made a few suggestions on how to answer them.
Tell me about yourself
This question is a very common question asked in an interview. It’s usually the icebreaker to get the conversation flowing. While the interview wants to hear your question, they’ll likely be more interested in how you answer it. Because they are actually looking to test your verbal communication skills. The best thing to do here is keep your answer brief and clear – don’t tell them your life story. Then you can ask them if they require you to expand on any of the information.
Tell me about a time where you failed
This question will likely test you ability to recognise mistakes and how this has affected your future judgement for a similar task etc.
Describe an ethical situation that you had to deal with. How did the situation develop?
Here, the interviewer wants to get a better idea of you interest in upholding the law. Did you handle the situation ethically?
What is your greatest weakness?
This is a tricky question in any scenario. By asking “What is your greatest weakness?”, interviewers can get a sense of several aspects of your character. This question is a great way to add pressure to the candidate’s interview, to assess how they cope under pressure.
It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how proactive you are about improving any weaknesses that you have. Interviewers will be looking to see whether you take advantage of this opportunity.
The weakness that you choose to talk about will also reveal how much you understand the job role. Be careful not to highlight something central to the job in question. Your interviewer will also be looking to see how genuine your answer is.
To prepare for this question, create a list of possible answers and think about any mistakes you may have made at work or anything a manager has ever highlighted as an issue. Then, cross reference this list with the job description and eliminate anything you think could make the interviewer question your ability to do the job. After this, you should have some clear examples up your sleeve.
How do you respond to stressful situations?
The interviewer wants to identify how well you deal with pressure at work. Do you prioritise? Or find other ways of making your workload more manageable? Be sure to point out your ability to leave work at the office too.
How would you generate business for the firm?
This question challenges your ability to network and maintain a social life outside of the firm. Consider the quality of service you provide when you secure a client, ensuring they return in the future.
How would you feel about defending an individual who admits his guilt to you and wishes to plead “not guilty?”
This is a question many lawyers will likely find tough, but will help to illustrate the ability to protect your client’s rights legally. You may also be asked what you would do if you were assigned to a case that you were morally opposed to. This poses a similar challenge, testing your ability to reconcile inner conflict in difficult circumstances.
There are of course an array of other questions you could be asked at interview stage. If you’re applying for jobs, take a look at the below questions too, provided by Ten Percent Legal Recruitment’s blog:
Top 100 interview questions for lawyers
- 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 major achievement?
- What do you consider yourself good at doing?
- What sort 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 did you leave your last job?
- How have you changed in the last five years?
- What contribution 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?
- 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?
- 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 would be your major contribution?
- 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?
- In your view, what are the major problems/opportunities facing the legal industry?
- What will be your key target in this job if we appoint you?
- What makes you think you can be successful with us?
- 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 an 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 do you think about 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?
- 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?
- Have you ever attended a court hearing or employment tribunal?
- What was the outcome?
- How much preparation on files for trial do you do?
- How much do you expect Counsel to do?
- What do you think about the principle of Legal Aid? Should clients have to pay for services they use in all circumstances?
- 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 sort of advocacy experience do you have (apart from those taught on the LPC)?
- Do you think you would need to undergo training for advocacy?
- How do you stand on equal opportunities?
- Have you ever been involved either paid or unpaid with the services of the voluntary sector?
- 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?
- What views do you hold on the recent budget?
- Who would you take a desert island, and why?
- Are you a member of any clubs or charities?
- What sort of activities are you interested in 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 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?
- 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 would you need to 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?
- What questions do you have for us?
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