If you’re hoping to land a role at a law firm in the United Kingdom, you’ll likely be asked some tough questions in the interview process. Depending on the firm, and the interviewers, the questions you’ll be asked can vary greatly. However, there are some common law interview questions that you’re more likely to encounter than others.
Questions can range from why you want to become a lawyer, to specific scenarios you may have encountered during your legal studies or work experiences.
In order to help you prepare for these challenging interviews, we’ve compiled a list of 12 common law interview questions – along with advice on how best to answer them.
1. Why do you want to be a solicitor?
Your answer to this question should be concise and to the point. Some interviewers may be satisfied with a simple explanation, while others may want you to elaborate on your reasons for wanting to pursue a career in law.
Some possible points you could touch on in your answer include:
- interest in legal studies/the law
- enjoyment of debating and problem-solving
- desire to help others/make a difference in society
In general, your answer should reflect your genuine interest in and passion for the law. You should always avoid giving generic or cliche responses, such as “I want to be a lawyer because it’s a noble profession” or “I want to help people.” You should try to frame your answer having in mind the specific law firm you’re interviewing with – what are their values, which area of law they specialise in, and how do they contribute to society?
This question can also be framed as: “What made you want to become a lawyer?”, “What inspired you to study law?”, or “Why have you applied to work for us?”. In your answer, you should also provide details about the work experiences you have undertaken and how those have solidified and enhanced your interest in the law. Remember, it is not only about vacation schemes. You can also mention any other type of legal work experience you might have had, such as shadowing an already qualified solicitor, internships in charities that defend the rights of vulnerable people, or even working in a law-related industry such as regulatory compliance.
2. Have you applied to other firms?
This is not a trick question. Your interviewer is simply trying to gauge your interest in the law and the firm, and whether you have a genuine desire to work there.
Be honest in your answer, but avoid giving too much information about other firms you’ve applied to. You don’t want to come across as someone who is just casting a wide net and interviewing with multiple firms in the hopes of landing any job. Try to focus your answer on why this particular firm has sparked your interest.
Mention any positive reasons about why you’ve applied to the firm you’re interviewing with, and how their values align with your own.
Some possible points you could make include:
I was impressed by your work in/ commitment to (insert cause/area of law here).
I admire your dedication to (insert another cause/area of law here).
I appreciate your focus on (insert differentiating factor about the firm here).
You might want to mention specific things you like about the firm, such as its work culture, values, or the type of law it specialises in. Remember – your interviewers are looking for qualities that match the firm’s values and ethos.
3. What do you know about our law firm?
This is another question meant to test your interest in the law firm you’re interviewing with. The interviewer wants to know if you’ve done your research and whether you understand the firm’s values, ethos, and areas of law they specialise in.
To prepare for this question, review the law firm’s website and any other materials you can find. Make a list of key facts about the firm, such as its size, location, main practice areas, and major clients. You should also be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in working for this particular firm. Also, be sure to avoid saying anything negative about the firm.
4. How would you make yourself stand out as a trainee?
This is a question meant to assess not only your ability to stand out but also your motivation for wanting to do so.
Your answer should reflect an understanding of what the firm is looking for in a trainee. To prepare for this question, review the job description and person specification for the role you’re applying for. Identify key qualities and skills that are required for the role, and think about how you could demonstrate those qualities.
Some examples of qualities you might want to highlight include:
- commercial awareness
- written and verbal communication
- legal research
Remember, your goal is to show that you have what it takes to be a successful trainee at the firm and that you’re motivated to excel in the role. Do not use general examples, instead, try to be as specific as possible.
5. What do you think are the key skills required for a successful lawyer?
This question is meant to assess your understanding of what it takes to be a successful lawyer.
There are many qualities that can make a good lawyer, but some key skills you might want to highlight include:
- critical thinking
- analytical skills
- research skills
- attention to detail
- logical reasoning
- written and verbal communication
- commercial awareness
Of course, the specific skills required will vary depending on the area of law you’re interested in. For example, if you’re applying for a corporate law role, then commercial awareness would be particularly important. Be sure to tailor your answer to reflect the specific requirements of the role you’re interviewing for.
6. Could you describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult legal issue?
This question is meant to assess your ability to think on your feet and handle difficult situations.
When answering this question, you should describe a time when you faced a challenging legal issue and how you coped with it. Try to choose an example that demonstrates your analytical and problem-solving skills. For example, you might want to describe a time when you had to research a complex legal issue or negotiate a difficult contract.
Your answer should show that you’re able to handle pressure and think critically in challenging situations. Be sure to avoid any examples that might reflect negatively on you, such as a time when you made a mistake or got into a disagreement with someone.
7. What are your career aspirations?
This question is meant to assess your long-term goals and motivation for wanting to become a lawyer.
Your answer should reflect an understanding of what it takes to be a successful lawyer. For example, you might want to talk about your plans to develop your skills in a particular area of law or your desire to progress to a partnership at the firm. You should also be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in working for this particular firm and how you think it can help you achieve your career aspirations.
Be realistic in your answer and avoid any grandiose statements that might make you seem arrogant or unprepared.
8. What do you think sets this firm apart from other law firms?
This question is designed to test your research skills, as well as your ability to sell the firm to a future employer. Be sure to have specific examples ready to back up your answer. Some firms will be known for their work in certain areas of law, or for their innovative approaches to legal services – highlight whatever you think makes this particular firm stand out.
If you’re asked this question early on in the interview process, it may also be a way for the interviewer to gauge your interest in the firm. If you’re able to articulate what you like about the firm, and why you want to work there, it will show that you’re genuinely interested in the opportunity. On the other hand, if you’re unable to answer this question, or you give a vague response, it may be taken as a sign that you’re not particularly interested in the firm, and that you’re just applying for any available law role.
9. What are the biggest challenges you anticipate facing as a lawyer?
This question is meant to assess your understanding of the legal profession and the challenges that it poses.
Your answer should reflect an awareness of the challenges faced by lawyers, as well as a realistic view of your own ability to cope with them. For example, you might want to talk about the pressure of working long hours, the need to constantly update your skills or the challenge of dealing with difficult clients.
Be sure to avoid any examples that might make you seem like you’re not up for the challenge of being a lawyer. For example, don’t say that you find research boring, or that you don’t like working in teams. Instead, focus on the challenges that you’re confident you can overcome.
10. How do you deal with stress and pressure?
This is a common question in any interview, but it can be especially important in a legal setting. Your interviewer wants to know how you handle difficult situations and whether you’re able to stay calm under pressure.
One way to answer this question is to give a specific example of a time when you were under a lot of pressure and how you coped with it. Alternatively, you could describe the methods you typically use to deal with stress and pressure.Either way, it’s important to come across as level-headed and capable of dealing with challenges in a calm and effective manner.
11. Which three historical figures would you invite to a dinner party and why?
This question is designed to test your ability to think on your feet and come up with an original answer.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but you should try to avoid any obvious choices (e.g. William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln) or controversial figures (e.g. Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden). Instead, focus on figures who you think would be interesting to talk to and who would contribute something unique to the conversation.
Once you’ve chosen your three historical figures, you should explain why you’ve selected them. What is it about their life or work that interests you? What questions would you like to ask them? How do you think they would contribute to the dinner party?
Your answer to this question will give the interviewer a chance to see how you think and how well you can justify your choices. They may also be looking for evidence of your interests and hobbies outside of work.
12. Do you have any questions for us?
Asking questions at the end of your interview is a great way to demonstrate your interest in the firm and the role.
When preparing for your interview, take some time to think about the questions you might want to ask. These could be about the firm (e.g. What are the firm’s plans for growth?), the role (e.g. What sort of work will I be doing as a trainee?) or the legal profession in general (e.g. How is technology changing the practice of law?).
Avoid any questions that could easily be answered by looking at the firm’s website or that are too trivial (e.g. What is the dress code?). Instead, focus on asking thoughtful questions that will show that you’ve done your research and that you’re serious about the role.
These are just some of the questions you may be asked in a legal role interview. While there’s no way to predict exactly what you’ll be asked, preparing for common questions will give you the best chance of impressing your interviewer and landing the role. Thanks for reading!
So what are you waiting for? Start practising your answers today!
Minoas graduated with a Merit upon studying the full-time MPA Public Administration – International Development degree (MPA-ID) at the University of York. He is currently working as a freelance EU affairs consultant in Belgium.
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