They do not expect you to be an expert in any area of law–simply because you are an assistant, and not a lawyer. They will ask you mostly personal and behavioral questions in your interview, trying to understand who you are, what motivates you, and what is your attitude to various situations that happen in the workplace, in a typical law firm.
I know that some job candidates spend more than a month preparing for their interviews at a law firm, and they do sometimes compare this meeting to a state exam. In most cases, however, this isn’t really necessary. We live in the 21st century, and as long as you know how to find the information your colleagues need–in what book or on what website you should look for it, you are good to go.
Having said that, considering the number of graduates from law schools, you have to count with a tough competition in your interview. And that’s why every preparation can help–if nothing else, it demonstrates how important the interview is for you, and that you really did what you could to get the coveted job. Let’s have a look at some questions you may face.
Why do you want to work in our office, and not for one of our competitors?
Do your homework, research about their law firm, try to find some good references. Recognize them for their achievements, and win them over. Show them that you did not apply by a chance, but chose them on purpose. Show them that they are the best–at least in your view, or the right match for your career goals and education.
Alternatively you can be honest, talk about the competition in all interviews, and say that you simply submitted your application with numerous firms, trying to get some interviews, and eventually a job. It is a game of numbers after all in this field, and some hiring managers may appreciate your honesty.
Why have you chosen law for your profession?
Money is not a good answer. Go for a worthy goal of your work, or perhaps for your faith in justice. Emphasize your confidence in your skills and abilities, and say them that you believe to have what it takes to become a good lawyer one day–if that’s your aspiration.
One thing you should avoid is referring to the past. Saying that you have a family tradition in the field, or that you apply with them because you’ve already spent years and a small fortune on your studies, is not a way to go. It would indicate a must, but you want to show them that the desire is still burning in-within you, that you still want to work in the legal field.
What do you think makes a good lawyer (notary, legal advisor, legal assistant) today?
Perfect knowledge of the subject, combination of high IQ and emotional intelligence, dedication to work, and constant effort to improve on their skills and abilities. These are some things that come to my mind right not, but they certainly aren’t your only option.
A good alternative consists in focusing on the results–they matter the most after all. If a lawyer manages to win most of their cases, or at least help the defendant minimize the losses (or shorten the time they will spend behind bars), we can certainly call them a good lawyer. This is a decent answer in most cases and one that can help you stand out, because not many other candidates will opt for it.
Why should we choose you, and not another candidate for this job?
One of the toughest questions, but also your chance to show them the value you can bring to the team. Refer to our Interview Success Package to see premium answers to this one, and to other common and difficult interview questions.
A rule of a thumb is to try to demonstrate the right attitude, motivation, and point out a thing or two which makes you different from other candidates. Or you can opt for a more unconventional approach, but explaining it here exceeds the purpose of this article.
What do you like the most and the least about this profession?
Try to be realistic. Show them that you expect the job to be tough, that you are ready to work hard. You can say that you do not like the failures, or seeing injustice–which obviously does happen. What is more, you should expect to spend a lot of hours in the office, often working overtime, well to the night, and so on, when a tight deadline approaches.
For the good things you can talk about the meaningful purpose of the job (if you still believe into it), or perhaps simply about enjoying the things lawyers do on a daily basis (including collecting hefty paychecks for their services).
Tell us about a conflict you had with a colleague.
Try to speak about a conflict which had a good outcome. Either it helped you to learn something new, or perhaps you eventually strengthened the relationship with your colleague. Show your interviewers that you approach conflicts in a constructive manner, and try to get the best out of them–for all parties involved.
However, you should not say that you try to avoid conflicts, or that you hate them. Such an answer may work in many fields, but not in legal interviews… Simply because you cannot avoid conflicts in this profession, you’ll have to deal with them on a daily basis. Ensure the interviewers that you can deal with them, and that they won’t impact you physically or emotionally. It is simply a part of your job, something you count with, and are ready to handle.
Other questions you may face in your legal assistant job interview
- Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.
- Have you ever worked on a project that was a failure?
- What motivates you the most in this job?
- Tell us one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want us to know.
- What does integrity mean to you? In your opinion, how important is it in law?
- Tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed with work.
- Describe a situation when you had to make a decision without having all information you needed.
- Tell us about a time when you struggled to communicate something to someone. How did you eventually get your message over?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Special tip: Not sure how to answer the behavioral questions, “tell us about a time when…”, “describe a situation…”, etc? Have a look at our Interview Success Package, where you’ll find up to 10 premium answers to more than 100 interview questions, including 30+ behavioral questions–basically everything a hiring manager can throw at you in an interview for a Legal Assistant job. Thank you for checking it out!
If you get any technical questions, they will differ from one interview to another one
It would make no sense to show you a long list of questions related to various areas of law. The field is broad, and you should focus only on your area of expertise–labor law, civil rights law, criminal law, corporate law, you name it… That being said, if you expect to deal with any technical questions in your interview.
Try to focus on the field of law they specializes in. It makes no sense to spend months studying labor law, if a potential employer specializes in divorce cases. Focusing on the right field will save you a lot of time in your interview preparation.
Try to work on your skill in finding information, rather than knowing everything. Let’s face it. The education system at the law schools is questionable, to say the least. They should not want us to remember thousands of empty sentences, especially in the world of information technology.
A clever person can find anything they need, either in the books, or online, within a few minutes, or even a few seconds. You should learn how to work with various sources of legal information and present your knowledge of the sources in an interview. Working with information is crucial in this field, and your interviewers are well aware of it.
Try to build a good relationship with your interviewers. The truth is that many job applicants will give similar interview answers, especially to questions that test their knowledge of law. What is more, everyone will have a similar profile and background (typically graduated from law school, no experience or a few years of experience on a clerk position).
For this reason, personal preferences play a big role in the interviews. They will often choose the candidate they like the most as a person, the candidate they feel good with in an interview–provided that they didn’t remain silent when facing the personal and behavioral questions. Will it be you, or will it be one of your competitors? I hope it will be you, and wish you best of luck in this tricky interview!
May also interest you:
- Body language in an interview – Learn how your non-verbal communication impacts the impression you make on the interviewers.
- How to overcome interview nerves – Do not let the nerves to spoil your chances in this interview. overcome your anxiety and show them your very best on the big day.
- Salary negotiation tips – Basic rules you should remember when negotiating a salary in your interview. Get what you deserve, or more….