A Legal Interview Preparation Guide For Law Jobs | BCGSearch.com

A Legal Interview Preparation Guide For Law Jobs


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Legal recruitment is currently one of the strongest sectors for recruitment growth, but job interviews can be a daunting process no matter what your level of experience. If you are a starting lawyer or are a seasoned attorney with many successful years behind you, having good interview skills will help you to succeed in your career.

We love the interviews because it is the time when you can finally show off your personality and be yourself -be your most professional, brightest, most thorough, most hardworking self. Job interviews come in two varieties: screening interviews and call-back interviews.

Screening Interviews: Quick screening interviews can give an employer a better sense of your skills, experiences, and interest. A typical meeting lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, perhaps near campus, at an employer's office, or by phone.

Callback Interviews: These are the “main event! During callback interviews, candidates are typically interviewed by multiple law firm attorneys. Furthermore, the interviews can be used to gauge how well you "fit" with the employer based on your skills, experiences, and interest in his/her law firm. Many of these interviews include lunch or some other type of social interaction. Most follow-up interviews are conducted at the employer's office, giving you a chance to learn about the company's culture.

In the interview, you will discuss everything you have done based on your CV, so you will want to have a lot of detail. You can expect to be asked to elaborate on each individual transaction at length - for example, if you say you have worked on a large acquisition of property or assets, expect to be asked to give minute details about the transaction.

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Prepare For A Legal Job Interview In Simple Easy Steps


Successes Should Be Highlighted

Candidate's CV is an opportunity to sell themselves to their prospective employer, so they should take advantage of it to the fullest extent possible.  

Including some highlights of past careers, like the biggest accomplishment may be a good idea for candidates with some work experience.  Your prospective employer will learn more about your experience when you do this.  A personal brand helps employers decide whether you are someone they would want to work with.

Be Knowledgeable About Your Work

With regard to a CV, bigger is not always better. Your CV should not contain your entire work history.  Even if it was for a prestigious company, employers probably are not interested in hearing about your meeting minutes projects.  Experiences in which you played a significant role should be given higher priority.  Your potential employers should be able to learn more about these experiences.  

If you wish to make the most of your CV, be sure that each experience on your resume is clearly described in a brief, but thoughtful manner.  Providing more information to your interviewer may even be a good idea after you have explained these experiences.  Even if they are not interested, it shows that you have put in the effort to prepare for the interview. 

Describe Your Experience In Relation To The Role

You should explain your past work experience in a way that is positive and appropriate to the position you are seeking. It is generally unprofessional to complain about current or former employers.  

Negative experiences at current or past companies should be framed as positive reasons why you want to move to a new company.   Instead of saying, "My company has no advancement opportunities," it is better to state, "I believe this new position will allow me to use my leadership skills in a more effective way."

Make Sure You Stay Up To Date

Research the market developments that could be important to the potential employer in the legal industry and job search.  

Gathering such information through online forums might be a good place to start.  It will not only impress the prospective employers if you consistently develop and maintain your expertise, but you may also broaden your professional network in the process.

Sell Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are just as important as hard skills.  In order to be considered for an in-house counsel position, candidates must show the ability to deal with a multitude of stakeholders.   

An in-house lawyer will need to demonstrate legal expertise, commercial acumen, as well as the ability to function within multiple teams.

Prepare Your Questions — And Your Answers

Most experts advise candidates to ask questions in order to demonstrate their engagement with the job posting.  Candidates, however, should also prepare their answers in addition to their questions.  

In addition to preparing for your interview, you should also research any subject matter that is relevant to the questions you ask.

Research The About The Law Firms

Make sure you thoroughly research the law firm before attending the interview. If you wait until the night before, you may not have the information you need.

Recent financial information and the number of countries and offices the firm has should be readily available on its website. As well as reading recent press articles, legal journals, and law firm-specific social media posts, you should also gain a deeper understanding of the company. At the end of the meeting, you may be able to come up with some questions.

Make sure you know exactly what the business does and how it works when applying for in-house jobs.

Be Positive

Regardless of whether you hated your old boss, be positive during the interview. Your former employers may well wonder what you would be like as an employee if you spend your interview complaining about them. Attorneys seek candidates who are upbeat and passionate about the job.

See Also: The Secret to Effectively Sharing Concerns about Your Current Employer without Committing the Most Common Interview Blunder

It Is All In The Timing

You may find yourself sitting in the reception area with little to do except getting nervous if you arrive too early for your interview. Make your decision as soon as possible. It may take some time to sign in and/or get past security so be sure to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the interview.  It may also be a bit far from reception to the interview room. 

If you have to travel from afar or are unsure how long it will take to get there, find a nearby coffee shop where you can read your notes last minute while you wait.

Leave Salary Negotiations To Your Recruiter

Do not bring up your salary during an interview unless asked. From the advertisement, you should be able to determine how much the job will pay.  In the event that you are offered the job, you can raise your concerns about the compensation package you want.  It may not work in your favor later in negotiations if you give too much away.

Mirror The Mood Of The Interviewer

A successful candidate must be able to represent the company both internally and externally and ‘fit in’. When cultures differ greatly between companies, the safest thing to do is to mirror the interviewer's mood. At the same time, do not allow yourself to be anything but professional at all times, and be sure you show enthusiasm for the job.

Dress To Impress

During an interview, it is crucial that you dress professionally.  Employers who see you in a professional manner are more likely to hire you.

No matter how lax the dress code is at a particular company, it is better to hedge your bets with a more professional ensemble.

Work On Your Key Message 

Write down three sentences that summarize why you should be hired (which is not the same as why you want the job). Make use of some of the job descriptions words or phrases, but do not put them in unnaturally.

If all else fails, say this at the end of the interview by thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to be considered for the position and delivering your three killer sentences.

Do Not Worry, Just Be Yourself

Lastly, stay calm and relaxed throughout the interview process.  Your interviewers are likely to have had their own law firm interviews, so it may be helpful to keep that in mind when you talk to them.  

A job interview is meant to provide the interviewer with a chance to get to know you personally.  Hence, it is important not to seem too robotic and to be open when sharing information.

21 Questions to Ask During a Legal Job Interview

During an interview, you will likely be asked questions of a particular type. Prepare your answers without rehearsing them or scripting them. Hypothetical or substantive questions may be asked by an interviewer. This type of question is commonly used to assess how well you analyze, reason, and speak. Being able to articulate your response is often more important than being an expert on relevant case law or coming up with the right answer.

If you have gaps in your educational or work history or sudden changes in career direction, you may want to address those weak areas. Be honest and open about these topics, without appearing apologetic, defensive, or insecure. To help jumpstart the process, below find 21 interview questions to ask during a legal job interview:

1. How did you become interested in X practice area/subject matter?

2. Did you focus on X while you attended law school? Do you recommend any courses or clinics that would enhance my understanding of X field?

3. Why did you choose this firm over others?

4. What do you like most about this firm/practice group/organization?

5. What makes someone successful in this role?

6. Tell me about the firm/practice group/organization culture.

7. How is work distributed/how will I receive assignments?

8. What type of assignments do attorneys of my level typically work on?

9. Will I work with the same partners/senior attorneys often or will I be assigned to projects with different partners/senior attorneys?

10. How will my work be evaluated? What kind of feedback can I expect to receive?

11. How do you think the firm will grow in the next five years?

12. Is there a shadowing or training period?

13. How does the firm train junior attorneys to develop business?

14. What makes this firm/organization unique from other similar firms/organizations?

15. Tell me about a memorable case/deal/issue you worked on while working at this firm/organization.

16. Can you explain the firm’s/organization’s management structure to me in greater detail? Does the headquarter office dictate the actions of the other offices?

17. What type of interaction do attorneys in this office have with attorneys at the firm’s/organization’s other offices?

18. What do you find most challenging about your practice?

19. What are the biggest challenges facing the firm/organization right now?

20. What is the next step in the hiring process?

21. Do you have any concerns about me as a candidate that would disqualify me from the position?

Five Common Questions And Answers Asked In Legal Interviews

Preparing for common interview questions will help you reduce your stress during interviews, which are naturally stressful because you do not know what questions will be asked. Prepare in advance for an entry-level or lateral interview, an interview on-site or by phone, or a callback to make it easier to relate your experiences to the specific position and company. Here are a few common legal interview questions, along with some tips on how to answer them:

Tell Me A Little About Yourself

You know yourself better than anyone else, so you may think this is an easy question. Without proper preparation, this open-ended question can become a disaster. Providing enough information to attract the interviewer is key to a great response. Describe your relevant experience, skills, and career goals in this question. Additionally, you can explain how you got interested in this field or why you chose law as a career. Responding in a brief and targeted manner is important. On interview day, make sure you practice this response so you are confident in your delivery.

What Attracted You To Our Firm/Organization?

Employers in the legal field want to hire people who are serious about working for them and want to invest in their recruitment efforts. In your response, include what you love about the type of law that the firm/organization deals with and what about the job opportunity (or law firm) caught your eye. Include details from the job description and the firm's website in your response. Learn more about cases the firm has handled and how it relates to your career goals by reading about specific matters the firm has handled. The firm may also have specific attorneys that you admire-but make sure you know their work first before mentioning them. Make sure you thoroughly research the firm and link your aspirations and experiences with everything the firm does and stands for (pro bono program, sustainability initiative, active affinity groups, etc.). You should also take the time to research the firm's culture and initiatives.

Can You Describe A Challenge Or Conflict You Have Faced At Work And How You Overcame It?

There is no need to panic - behavioral interview questions like this will not cause you to be disqualified from the position. In reality, this type of question offers you the chance to show your ability to handle conflict with real-life examples from your life. Law firm interviews are increasingly using behavioral interview questions (especially as firms work to change implicit bias in hiring). Legal job seekers should prepare for behavioral interview questions.  

If you are responding to a behavioral interview question, you may want to use the STAR method to outline your answer. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. Each STAR component should be described in between one and three sentences. Shorten your answer and spare the interviewer from unnecessary details that may give the impression that you are venting.

Concerning this specific question, conflict at work, stay professional. You can appear immature and unprofessional if you discuss small matters and social situations. 

Those who have never faced this scenario or are unable to share an example may feel overwhelmed by this question. Behavioral interview questions can be mastered by preparing in advance. You are likely to discover valuable experiences that otherwise would have been difficult to recall on the spot when you give yourself time to think.

What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

Another question that feels like a trap. When you are prepared with an answer, this does not have to be the case. To begin with, do not choose a weakness that is actually a disguised strength, such as "I am a perfectionist." Rather, prepare in advance by identifying a weakness and ways that you are working to improve it. Do not mention any weaknesses that would be detrimental to your job performance (e.g., if you want to be a litigator, do not mention poor writing skills). Become even stronger as a lawyer by focusing on a skill you can continue to develop. Some examples to consider include being indecisive, not assertive enough, and not focusing on the details.

Do You Have Any Questions For Us?

When the interview is over, be sure to ask at least three questions. Even if it is tempting to claim that you have done your research, asking questions will demonstrate that you are serious about the interview. The best way to exhibit your research in your interview is by asking your own questions about the firm, as I discussed earlier. Using a quick website search will not provide answers to these questions (e.g., whether there are multiple practice areas, where the firm is located). In addition to asking about the firm's experiences, one should find out what work an associate will be assigned.  You can start by answering the following questions:
  1. What drew you to work for this law firm?
  2. What is the most important indicator of success in this role?
  3. What types of work does a junior associate do in this practice area?
  4. How do performance evaluations work at the firm?
  5. What has been the most useful training you have received at the firm, and why?
  6. Are you involved in any firm committees or affinity groups?
When you conduct research, it is important for questions to not seem "canned," but rather to reflect an actual interest in the firm or organization. The above questions should be tailored to the job you are interviewing for and reflect your own speaking style. If asked about salary and benefits or partnership or exit options, make sure you do not bombard the interviewer with too many questions. Best of luck!

See the following articles for more information:

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, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, 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 www.BCGSearch.com.

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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