The Questions Legal Employers Like to Ask at Interviews (and How You Need to Prepare)

I’ve been helping lawyers and law students prepare for interviews for the last decade.  Because of that, I have a good sense of the common interview questions employers like to ask. Here are four examples:

Tell me about yourself

This is a question that most of my clients hate. It’s such an open-ended question that they don’t know where to begin. But from the employer’s perspective, it’s a low-stress way of getting the conversation started.

I help my clients formulate an answer that covers three phases: past, present and future.  I like starting with the future. This is about why you’re interested in working with that particular employer.  In my mind, everything that you say about the past and present should give rise to that final, future-oriented statement. It’s like the volleys in a volleyball game that lead to a spike!

If you’re talking about things that explain why you’re interested in working with that employer, then you’re going to necessarily be raising relevant skills or related work experience. I liken the scope of this answer to the relevancy test in discoveries. Just like discovery questions are limited to the four corners of the pleadings, your answer to this interview question should be related to the job at hand.

How did you handle a difficult situation or difficult client?

Employers know that problems are bound to rise in the workplace. They want to know how you’ll respond. Your answer to this question could be the difference in showing that you are patient and emotionally intelligent, or petty and short-sighted.

This is also the kind of question that my clients will have already prepared a short story to share.  I get my clients to prepare five CCAR stories (context-challenge-action-result) before any interview.  Chances are that one of those stories will cover a difficult situation or client.  The key in answering this question is to explain the lessons (or results) that you learned in dealing with a difficult situation or client, and how those will help you going forward.

What’s something you can teach me?

I love this question! It’s designed to see how emotionally intelligent you are. Many of my law student or junior lawyer clients feel like they need to say something about a hard skill, like research or writing.  This is the wrong way to go.  The lawyers who’ll be interviewing you will have more experience with the technical skills related to the law, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to teach them anything in this regard.  The better way to answer is to think about a hobby or a skill you possess that’s unique, and telling the interviewer something specific that you can teach them about that.  I’ve had clients who are multilingual teach interviewers how to say a basic greeting in another language!

What are your weaknesses?

This is a tricky question because you can risk saying something too raw (and scare the employer away) or cliché just to avoid being honest (and still scare the employer). I believe in striking a balance by talking about a true weakness that can be redeemed.

I get all my clients to do a strengths assessment. From this, I help them find content to come up with a weakness.  For many strengths, too much can become a bad thing. I’ve had clients who are great at critical thinking, but can sometimes go in analysis paralysis mode. This can be a stated as a weakness and then redeemed by describing the steps taken to prevent overthinking or how recognize paralysis in the first place. The point is to come up with something that’s real and then explaining how that weakness is managed.

If you’re looking to bring out the best of your profile at your next interview, consider working with me and set up a 30-minute complimentary call here.


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