Common Questions Asked During Law Job Interviews
If you’re interviewing for law jobs, you’re probably wondering what type of questions you’ll be asked. Excellent question!
As we discussed previously, employers are looking for a mix of hard and soft skills (including enthusiasm, humility, and curiosity) — skills and traits you want to display when answering common legal job interview questions.
Questions You’ll Often Be Asked
Keep in mind that lawyers typically haven’t been trained in interviewing techniques so that you may get some odd questions on occasion. But, typically, you’ll be asked some or all of the following:
How Do/Did You Like Law School?
People ask this question because it’s simple to ask, and it’s an easy weeder question. If I’m interviewing someone who tells me with vehemence how much they hated law school, I’m probably not going to hire them for a legal job. The only appropriate answer to this question is some variant of, “In general, I enjoyed it and found it challenging. Of course, it was tough at times, but I learned enough to make it worthwhile.” Don’t be a Pollyanna (no one will believe that you loved every second of law school), but try to be generally upbeat about the experience.
What Were Your Favorite Law School Classes?
Again, an easy question to ask that can be a minefield for the unprepared. It doesn’t matter how you respond to this, as long as the courses you offer have a reasonable relationship to the job you’re interviewing for. If you’re interviewing at a small law firm that only does civil cases, it’s suspicious if all of your favorite courses are criminal law and procedure. Perhaps you’re just interviewing here because you can’t get the job you want? (Which may be true, but isn’t the best impression to convey!) Before the interview, look over your transcript and think about what classes are most related to the work you’d be doing in the role you’re interviewing for.
Easy — those are your favorite classes!
What Type of Law Are You Interested In?
If you’re interviewing for an entry-level position in a firm, or with a judge or certain internships, you might not be expected to have a strong interest in exactly the subject matter of the job on offer. However, you still need an answer prepared to explain what type of law you eventually see yourself practicing. “I’m not sure,” is not a good answer! If you have to, make something up. But have a reasonable answer ready to go.
Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?
If you have a job now, be prepared to explain why you’re leaving it. “I hate my boss,” is not a good answer. Be tactful, and focus on the growth opportunities the new role you’re interviewing for will permit (or focus on some other practical issue, such as the need to move to a new location). For example, “I enjoy the work I’m doing now, but I’d like to spend more time in court. That’s why this position handling contested child custody battles are perfect for me.”
Tell Me About Your Note/Moot Court Competition Brief
Remember that anything on your résumé is fair game for discussion! If you list a Law Review Note or even an undergraduate thesis project, be prepared to talk about it in detail. If it’s been years since you looked at your Note (or thought about the argument in your Moot Court competition), spend a few minutes getting back up to speed in case it comes up.
Why Is This Job a Good Fit for You?
It’s unlikely you’ll be asked this question directly, but it’s likely to be asked obliquely. (“Why Organization X?”) It is where you get to showcase the research you did on the organization and job description. You want to show that a) you know what the job description requires and b) that you’re a good fit. For example, “I’m really excited about the mix of work in this position. I enjoy client interaction, so I’d like to help out with the weekly legal information booth.
But I’d also like to improve my courtroom skills, and expand on the work I did in the family law clinic in law school, so the opportunity to handle regular motion hearings is appealing.”
I See You Like Baking…What Type of Things Do You Like to Bake?
As I’ve argued elsewhere, the most important information on your résumé actually has nothing to do with law at all — it’s your hobbies and interests. If well selected, these can fill a good chunk of time in an interview and allow you to make a more human connection with the interviewer. However…you have to actually do these things! I once asked a candidate what kind of cooking he enjoyed, and he looked at me blankly until I showed him the Interests section of his résumé, which listed “cooking” as an interest.
It turns out he didn’t cook at all, which was somewhat confusing (and made me wonder who wrote his résumé!).
What Is Your Opinion on the Holding of James v. Smith?
Just kidding! You’ll hardly ever be asked substantive law questions in an interview. You might encounter “behavioral” questions along the lines of, “Tell me how you’d handle this situation with opposing counsel,” but you’ll almost never be quizzed on legal topics. So don’t stress over them.
Whatever questions you’re asked in your law job interview, stay calm! Most interviewers will be reasonable, but some throwbacks enjoy making candidates squirm. If that happens, remember it’s a test, not a personal attack. Take a deep breath, focus on the question, and try to give a reasonable response.
If you encounter an aggressive interviewer, that’s simply one data point for the next critical analysis — what YOU should be paying attention to when you interview for legal jobs.