Working with lawyers and paralegals, preparing documents and proofreading legal correspondence, and taking care of all other things secretaries typically respond for, legal secretary is a wonderful position. You do a bit more and earn a bit more than a typical corporate secretary. And you get a good idea of the legal business, make new connections, and can possibly consider this job as a springboard to your own career in the legal field, whether in corporate or public sphere. It doesn’t sound bad, does it?
But there is also bad news: This is a popular job title, and since applicants often do not need any formal education (other than a high school diploma), you will typically compete with many people for the job. How to make a grade? How to stand out in your interview? We will try to find the answers in this article.
More than just your qualification and interview answers
Obviously, experience helps. If you have some experience with legal documents, such as subpoena, summon, motion, etc., you will earn a few extra points in the interviews.
However, big legal firms will always provide training to their new hires. Therefor the skills with legal documents aren’t decisive, and won’t win you a job contract. Other things will make a difference at the end of the interview, namely:
- Your answers to their questions, whether you can convince them of your motivation, skills, and right attitude to work, and to various situation that can happen in the office (scenario-based questions).
- How they feel with you in an interview. If they like you as a person, if they enjoy imagining to work with you on a daily basis, basically if the chemistry works, your chances to get the job will improve a lot.
- How you fare in a practical test. It is not uncommon to see legal professionals testing the job applicants right in the interview. For example they will ask you to retype something to MS Word, or other Word Processor. Or they ask you to proofread a certain document. Will you spot the mistakes? How long will it take you to complete the task? Spelling tests, grammar, usage, punctuation tests, and keyboarding practices tests are also common.
Summarized and underlined, success (or failure) in an interview for a legal secretary job depends on a variety of things and factors. The better you prepare for each challenge, the better your chances of succeeding will be. Let’s have a look at the questions.
Can you tell me something about yourself?
This is typically the first question in a job interview, an icebreaker. Take it easy, and try to come up with a genuine answer, focusing on your strengths (be it your education, experience, or your attitude and personal traits).
It is good to mention also a hobby, or something you enjoy to do in your free time, just to show them that you have some life outside of work as well.
Do not forget to have a positive body language right from the start. Smile, keep an eye contact with the people in the interviewing panel (if there are more interviewers), and simply make this a good beginning. You do not have to stress here about whether you do not forget to say something at this point. It is just a first question, and if they want you to elaborate on something, they will tell you.
What do you want to accomplish on this position?
You should always have some goals on your mind, though it is not easy to find any major accomplishments in the profession of a secretary.
But you can focus on small things, or everyday achievements, such as helping the workflow, helping the reputation of the company (with your excellent customer service and professional conduct in work), maintaining good atmosphere in the workplace, or basically taking care of all your duties and helping to streamline the workflow for the legal professionals.
Another idea is talking about your career plan, perhaps a more senior position you’d like to have one day in the legal field.
Why did you leave your last job? (Why do you want to leave your present job?)
Hint: Career change or job change is a part of life. Employers understand that, but they want to know the reasons why you want to make a change.
It is important to stay positive, and to not talk badly about your previous employers. It does not matter if they fired you, or if you left on your own terms. Talk positively about the experience, speak about lessons you learned and value you brought to your employer. Nobody wants to hire an employee who is not satisfied and complains about something each day…
How do you imagine a typical day in work?
Hint: This is a tricky question, as your answer reflects what you expect from the job, as well as what you are willing to do. You should actually think about it for a couple of minutes, trying to write down a list of duties a legal secretary carries out in their company or legal practice.
Some secretaries believe that the work is only about making coffee and answering phone calls. However, there is much more you can do for your superiors and the company in general. You should mention as many working duties as possible in your answer, stressing that you like to have your hands full. To most common tasks of secretaries belong:
- administrative work
- organizing the schedule of one or more employees
- answering phone calls
- greeting visitors
- operational cleaning of the office
- maintaining good atmosphere on the workplace
- and of course, helping with the not-elaborate tasks when it comes to the work with legal documents
How would you cope with an angry customer/client/guest?
Secretaries meet with all kinds of people. Angry clients simply belong to this job, and a good applicant should count with experiencing some unpleasant meetings.
Tell the interviewers that you would stay relaxed, and that the angry behavior would not distract you in your job. If you already have a similar experience from the past, you can narrate it, explaining how you dealt with an angry customer/client/guest before.
You can also emphasize the importance of an excellent customer service. It matters for the reputation of the business how secretaries treat the visitors, and you want to make sure that you contribute to their reputation in a positive way…
Would you mind working overtime?
Hint: If the interviewers ask you about your ability to work overtime, or on Saturdays, typically it means that you will be supposed to do that in your job.
I suggest to say that you would not mind, adding that you understand it is necessary sometimes. You can elaborate on it explaining why you would not mind. For example, if you do not have a family yet, or if your partner works long hours each day, you can say you have no reason to hurry home.
On the other hand, if you would mind working overtime, you should tell them why. In such a case, try to stress that you’d do your best to finish your work in time every day. And if that wasn’t possible, say you would occasionally agree to stay longer, or take the work home, and work on things in the evening. Try to show some flexibility in your interview, so they see you are willing to make some sacrifices for the employer.
Other questions you may face in your legal secretary job interview
- How do you make sure that you make no mistakes in your work?
- Tell us about a time when you had to work on multiple tasks (projects) at the same time. How did you prioritize?
- Describe a time when you used logic to solve a problem.
- Have you ever felt overwhelmed with work? If you have, how did you get over it?
- Describe a time when you went above and beyond for someone.
- What is your experience with different legal documents?
- What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced at work?
- Describe a situation when you had to meet a tight deadline.
- Tell us one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want us to know.
- What does integrity mean to you? In your opinion, how important it is in a legal practice?
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Final thoughts, next steps
Interview for a job of a Legal Secretary belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You will typically get an extensive training before starting the work, and the hiring managers do not expect you to have any elaborate knowledge of legal matters (though it helps if you have it…).
On the other hand, you will typically face plenty of scenario-based questions (tell me about as time when…, describe a situation when you…), and you will compete with many people for this job–each vacancy for legal secretary attracts many job applications.
Try to prepare for the questions, and do not forget that personal preferences also play a role in this interview. Making a good connection with the interviewers will help you to succeed. I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Anxiety won’t allow you to deliver your very best in an interview. Learn how to overcome it.
- Interview Success Package – Premium interview answers to all 104 interview questions. Gain an advantage over your competitors and never look back…
- Salary negotiation tips – Basic rules you should remember when negotiating a salary in your interview.