You’ve completed your studies, qualified with the grades you hoped for – and now you’ve set your sights on a career in law. Your next hurdle is to actually land a position at a law firm.
Making a positive first impression is rarely more important than during an interview for a new position. But what makes an interview at a legal office or law firm different than in other industries?
What makes good lawyer material?
Any legal team worth joining will be seeking qualities of leadership and diligence, twinned with respectability and conscientiousness, in their candidates. Strong communicators will also fare well; however, whilst television may have you believe that legal work centres around making impassioned speeches to panels of jurors, the long hours spent combing through paperwork rarely finds its way into these depictions.
Additionally, those interviewing you will be looking for assurances that you have a resilience to a high pressure work environment, and the meticulous attention to detail required to analyse substantial amounts of documentation.
Some questions you should consider ahead of time are:
- Can you work effectively under pressure?
- How do you resolve conflict?
- What is your leadership style?
- Are you a team player, or do you prefer to work alone?
It always helps to know your career narrative inside and out – what you have achieved so far, the core workload of the practice you are applying to, and what you expect to achieve in the coming years. You will also be better positioned if you have identified your strengths and areas that you need to improve upon.
Good judge of character
You know the drill: do your research; turn up on time; dress appropriately; remember to ask questions. This is standard fare for most interview situations, regardless of the position or sector. However, the field of law requires a great deal of technical knowledge as well as a finely-tuned ethical understanding. When interviewing for a position within a legal team, you should expect to have your character and demeanour assessed, as well as a thorough examination of your knowledge and competencies.
An interviews with a law firm can include as many as three interview stages, or rounds. In larger firms, the first stage may be with a HR manager, and will focus on your general experience and skills. The next stage of a law interview is usually a ‘technical round’, consisting of more specific questions related to your chosen area of legal practice. The third and final stage will usually take place with the firm’s senior partners. This is where your personality and potential ‘fit’ for the firm’s culture will be judged. Alongside the usual interview questions concerning your strengths, weaknesses, and employment history, expect questions about your specific legal expertise and your motivations for working in that particular legal environment. It is likely you will be presented with some hypothetical scenarios to give an indication of how you would approach various challenges.
You could also be asked to expand on topics such as:
- Why do you think you are suited to a career in law?
- What is your opinion regarding the concept of legal aid?
- Did you ever take part in moot court?
- Who are this firm’s main competitors?
Keep in mind that no interview or interviewer is the same, but if you follow these guidelines you can better prepare for an upcoming interview, and get your legal career underway. Or, if you are just starting out on your legal studies, take a look at The University of Law's LLB Qaulifying Law Degree.