How Attorneys and Law Students Should Answer the Most Important Questions in Law Firm Interviews |

How Attorneys and Law Students Should Answer the Most Important Questions in Law Firm Interviews


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When preparing for a law firm interview, one of your primary goals is to anticipate and prepare for virtually every significant question that the firm is going to ask you. Of course, not all interview questions can be accurately predicted. But many can, at least in terms of the general subject matter. Of course, some of the questions that will be asked will not be predictable. Most of these questions will be trivial, however, and do not require preparation. For these questions, as well as the interview in general, you just need to have strong overall preparation. This includes dressing right, having strong confidence (which comes in part from being well prepared for whatever they are going to ask you), clear enthusiasm for the opportunity and your most charming personality at the forefront. Rather, it is only the substantial questions that you need to prepare for. And it is these questions that you can reasonably anticipate and be entirely ready to hit out of the park.
How Attorneys and Law Students Should Answer the Most Important Questions in Law Firm Interviews

In fact, the essence of every law firm interview of a lateral attorney candidate can be boiled down to just ten primary points or issues that the firm really cares about. Many – if not all – of the substantive questions that you will be asked during the interview will relate in part to one or more of these ten points. This means that if you are fully prepared to respond to each of these ten key points, you will be well on your way to delivering a knockout performance. Boiled down to the basics, what each law firm really wants to know about you is:
  1. Are you able to fully perform the job at a consistently high level?
  2. Can we always depend on you to get the work done whenever or wherever necessary?
  3. Will you work hard to be as profitable for the firm as possible in terms of keeping yourself busy, hours billed, business developed, etc.?
  4. Will you always be fully professional and never make the firm look bad?
  5. Will you always be someone who is personable and easy to work with and not a jerk?
  6. Are you really enthusiastic about obtaining this job for the long term?
  7. Will you be a "team player" that generally fits in to the firm's culture and values?
  8. Will you respect our authority and allow us to manage you?
  9. Will you gradually grow and improve and become more valuable to the firm?
  10. Do you have any "red flags" that we would want to know about?
Now try to think of some common questions that firms typically ask attorneys during interviews. Below are just a few examples:
  1. What kind of specific transactional/litigation experience do you have?
  2. Why did you leave your prior job?
  3. How many hours did you bill last year?
  4. Why are you interested in this firm?
  5. Tell me about yourself.
What do all five of these questions have in common? The answer is that they all relate to one of more of the "top ten" points cited above. In fact, the last question ("tell me about yourself") is perhaps the most important one of them all. It is frequently asked in some form, and frequently "blown" by unprepared candidates who did not know how to handle an open question.

Of course, every candidate is different, and as a result the particularities of every interview question and answer are going to be different. Consequently, there is no "one" proper way to answer any specific question. But the best way to prepare is to be able to firmly understand and persuasively explain why you meet all of the ten points described above. Then you are ready for virtually any reasonable, relevant question that comes along.
  In other words, you do not need to memorize every conceivable form of every conceivable question that could be asked at an interview and their corresponding answers. You just need to be ready to fully address the various important aspects of the 10 key points cited above, as well as any additional key points that may be relevant to your particular interview. If you can do that, you will be better able to answer any relevant question, regardless of how the exact question is phrased. The advantages of this approach include keeping you focused on the truly important subjects, simplifying you preparation, providing you with valuable flexibility and not rote memorized answers and giving you a solid understanding of where nearly every significant question is coming from. Once you understand the true purpose of each question, you are well on your way toward forming an excellent response to it. In short, by the end of the interview you want to be able to persuasively assure the firm that you are a great candidate with no significant "red flags" on any of these ten points. Of course, if you DO have some sort of "red flag" or issue that the firm either will or might inquire about, then you will have to be fully prepared on how to best address it during the interview and limit its potential damage.

Finally, what if you do get a substantive question that was not reasonably foreseeable or otherwise related to the ten points? Sometimes, this just may just be a broad open question like the "tell me about yourself" question identified above. In that situation, you are entirely free to use any of your prepared responses relating to the 10 key points. The more difficult types of unforeseeable questions fall into the "oddball" category. Such questions are rare, but they happen. Obviously, you can't fully anticipate or specifically prepare for such questions. You can, however, prepare a strategy for dealing with the possibility of one arising in an interview. Often, a good strategy is to again fall back on general "themes" that you have created to respond to questions that do relate to the 10 major points. Although the question may not seem to be very relevant to these points, there are usually opportunities that you can take advantage of to steer your answer back into so you can use one of your previously prepared answers.
  For example, this was an actual oddball question that I once received at a big law firm interview: "If you were going to be stranded on an island for a year but could take any three people with you, who would they be?" You could, for example, fall back on your theme that you are an exceptionally hard and effective worker and pick people that meet that theme (Robinson Crusoe would be a good choice!), or perhaps you could emphasize your extraordinary legal acumen by choosing great judges and legal scholars. "Oddball" questions can be very dangerous precisely because they come out of nowhere, with no way to accurately predict what the questioning partner is really looking for. Using a theme to produce a more "safe" answer in a relevant subject will help steer you out of danger and while simultaneously promoting the theme that helps demonstrate that you are a great candidate for that firm.

Learn why attorneys usually fail law firm phone-screening interviews in this article:

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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