Common Interview Questions for Lawyers

Here are some common job interview questions (areas of inquiry) and suggested answers (or at least talking points). Remember, honesty is the best policy but don't be afraid to put your best answers forward!

1. Tell me about your current position.

Answer: I am fortunate to have a position that has developed my skills and experience in the following specific areas: [list on point experience and skills as per job description] and I am proud of my accomplishments such as [fill in blanks, may be sterling job evaluations]. I believe the skills and experience that I've gained in my present position has prepared me well for a new opportunity like this one that can maximize and advance my skills and experience over the long haul.

2. Why are their gaps in your resume?

Answer: [ Be Honest] While there is no stock answer for this question, the important thing is to be candid and up front with the hiring authority when you explain why there are gaps in your resume. Common reasons are personal circumstances (care for a family member), downtrodden economy, or inability to find the right job where you can properly contribute your strengths and experiences. You must be able to convey to the potential employer that your independent research and discussions during the interview thus far indicate that this particular position at this particular firm fits in well with your long-term aspirations of remaining with a firm for a long time. While job hopping is not uncommon in the legal profession, it is nonetheless frowned upon and you can bet that you will face tough questioning from a sharp interviewer. Therefore, think twice before leaving your next job.

3. Why did you leave your last job? /Why are you looking to leave your current job?


a. If fired: Sometimes in life the greatest growth opportunities are often the result of painful experiences. While I respectfully disagree with the reasons for being fired, I have also learned that it is incumbent upon me to know exactly what is required and expected of me in a job. My prior boss made a difficult decision and I must abide by it. Thankfully, I have learned a great deal from my past mistakes/experiences and will not be repeating that same mistake in the future.

b. If laid off:

Answer: Unfortunately, in this difficult economic environment my past employer had to make difficult decisions. My past employer followed strict criteria in laying off employees in the following manner: by position being eliminated, seniority, and then when other things were equal performance. In my case, my layoff had nothing to do with my performance (to the contrary) but rather it was the result of my position and my years of tenure with the firm. I have excellent job references from them and I wish them nothing but the best of success in the future.

c. If you quit:

Answer: While it is not in my nature to quit a position, I had personal circumstances arise which made it impossible for me to continue with my past employer. Unfortunately, my ailing father required me to be the primary care giver. I did the best I could under the circumstances to my employer, provide them with sufficient notice, and I even offered to train the next person to lessen the impact. They were sad to see me go, but they understood. Now that situation is resolved I am ready and eager to rejoin an employer where I can anticipate being a vital team member for the long haul. This job seems to match my skills and experience to a T.

d. If you are still working:

Answer: I am doing well in my present position and have accomplished many things including [fill in the blank]. While I do not necessarily need to leave my position, I do believe that I have reached a certain level in my career which makes exploration of a new position sensible at this time. I have identified very strict criteria for what I am looking for in my next position in order to make a move in based upon our discussion so for far and my own independent research I could see the makings of a long-term match with your employer.In the end I want to get to the next level.

4. What you like and dislike in your present/past job?

Answer: The key here is to convey that you like the specific practice area, and then be able to tie your likes with the key attributes that the legal position requires such as organizational ability, research or analytical abilities. If you don't like deadlines then stress how you have overcome the anxiety of them and how you have learned to avoid them in the first place with proper planning and how you have learned to handle them when they still arise.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Answer: Again you must be prepared to answer this question by thinking about it in advance of the interview. Honesty is the best policy. Strengths should be tied to the specific job requirements of the position. For example if you are experienced with Best Case Bankruptcy Software and the job calls for it, stress this and how much you enjoy the great features of Best Case. As for weaknesses, pick one that you have uncovered in the past and describe what you did to overcome the weakness. For example, in the past I was guilty of trying to do too many things at once. Over time, I have learned how to better prioritize and structure my day so that I can focus with detail on the task at hand. I have also been able to utilize my strong communication and interpersonal strengths to confer with my coworkers and bosses so that my priorities are aligned with the teams objectives.

6. How do you get along with others?

Answer: Fortunately, my greatest strength may be my ability to work well and effectively with my bosses, coworkers and clients. By this I mean not just fitting in well, but using my communication skills to ensure that my function fits in well with the overall team objective. That is why, and my references will bear this out, I am always willing to lend an extra hand when called upon or where I have the opportunity to do so. I can assure you if you hire me you will not have a problem in this regard.

7. Let's discuss your specific job competencies.

Answer: Again these questions will be phrased in such a way as to ask you to dig into your past and describe a past experience where you were called upon to perform a specific function that is part of the job description for the position sought. The best and only way to answer this question is to carefully think through each element of a job description and be able to relate specific experiences that will demonstrate you have actually undertaken the task before and have done it effectively.

8. Why should we hire you?

Answer: The ultimate question. Isn't this really what every question is asking underneath? If you have done a good job answering the other questions this one should actually be easy to conquer and put you to the top of the list. Something along the lines of the following should work: Based upon my conversation with you here this morning and my own independent research, it is apparent to me that I have specific on point experience commensurate with the job requirements that are vital to this position. Moreover, these job requirements fit in nicely with my strengths and it appears that your firm's culture meshes well with my interpersonal strengths. What really makes my toes tingle is that this sounds like the criteria that I have established to leave the position I am in are all present her. This job actually sounds like a great match for me. I can assure you that I will contribute mightily to your firm's success, maintain an exemplary positive work attitude for others to emulate and always represent this firm in the professional manner in which it demands and deserves. I want to take this process to the next level.

9. How much money are you looking for?

Answer: As I have indicated before I am looking for a very specific set of criteria to be met before I would be interested in leaving my present position. Therefore, salary and benefits are only one of the factors that I am considering, but also an important one. My understanding from my own research and what I've heard this morning is that your salary range fits in well with my parameters. What is the most that you would pay for someone with my skills and experience? If pressed, you can tell them what you are currently making but then probe them for "what is the most that they would pay for someone with your skills and experience?" Please note that if the salary range is lower than your expectations tell the employer that although it sounds a bit low you have been so positive with the other attributes of the position that you would need to take about it before committing. This gives you the opportunity to try and negotiate a higher salary later.

All things worth pursuing require proper thought, preparation and practice. The above discussion should prepare you to handle virtually every job interview topic and questions with confidence and ease. Happy Hunting!

Now that you are prepared to answer to interview questions you may want to apply to lucrative and rewarding legal jobs from our Legal Jobs Listing -