Legal interviews – prepare to succeed!

You’ve secured an interview with one of your target firms/chambers.  Savour the moment! The recruitment process for law firms and barristers’ chambers is challenging and this is a great result. You’ve completed significant preparation to get to this stage.  Build on this to successfully navigate the sort of questions you will be asked at interview.

  • Know your application inside out

Ensure you’re familiar with what you put in your application.  Similar questions are likely to come up at interview and recruiters may want to explore some of your application answers in depth.

  • Build on your research

An in depth understanding of the firm/chambers you are applying to is essential. Revisiting your application helps remind you of the research you did. You need to understand what type of firm/chambers they are, where they sit within the sector, their competitors and what differentiates them. Ensure you understand the employer as a business including its structure, how it generates income, main practice areas, the sectors in which it operates and its clients. Follow them in the news and pay attention to significant deals and cases. Use information from networking with the firm including what you found out and how this influenced your decision to apply. Ensure you understand how they support trainees and the culture of the organisation.

Familiarity with the firm/chambers’ website is essential. Other sources of information include platforms like LawCareersNet, Chambers Student, The Legal 500, Legal Cheek; specialist legal databases like LexisPSL (updates on developments in specific legal fields) and other business databases like MarketLine Advantage.       

  • Pay attention to commercial awareness

If you follow the advice in section 2 you’ll already be ahead of the crowd.  Know what’s going on in the wider world (the news) and within in the legal sector more generally and understand the implications for the firms/chambers you are applying to, and the clients they work with.  Find ways to keep up to date and make this part of your routine. Legal platforms like LawCareersNet, Chambers Student and AllAboutLaw have resources to help you. Law firms use specific questions to assess commercial awareness e.g. ‘Pick a news story that you feel has relevance to working in the law, what do you feel are the implications for our firm?’

  • Anticipate and prepare for the sort of questions you will be asked

There are 3 questions that you are likely to be asked.  These include:

‘Why law and what kind of lawyer you want to be?’ 

You need to demonstrate your motivation for the law and the type of law you want to practise and show why you think you are a good fit. You should be able to provide specific reasons supported by your research and relevant experience. Those seeking international work need to provide evidence of interest in international commerce/multi-jurisdictional work and the global economy.

‘Why our firm?’ ‘Why our Chambers’? (What differentiates us from our competitors?)

You need to provide specific reasons (based on your research) as to why you want to work for this law firm/chambers and to show you understand the nature of their work/clients with reference to examples (deals/cases). You need to demonstrate understanding of where they sit within the legal sector and what makes them stand out. Show how you might contribute to their work based on your interests, previous legal and other experience.

Why should we employ you? Competency Based Questions?

Law firms/Chambers will want to explore your suitability for the role in relation to specific skills they require. They might ask questions like ‘What makes you think you are suited to the role?’ Focus on some of the key skills they look for and provide brief evidence from your experience. Competency based questions (CBQs) will feature at some stage during the process.  These questions are different and look for evidence of specific skills (e.g. teamwork, problem solving).  They often start ‘Give me an example..’ ‘Tell me about a time…’ You need to provide a specific example from your experience and strategies like CARE (Context, Action, Result and Evaluation) and STARR (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection) can help you focus your response. Prepare by identifying the skills required and examples you could use to answer CBQs.

Other types of questions

These include questions about your strengths and how you might respond in a specific situation. For further information on questions you might be asked and how to answer them refer to Prospects 9 questions you might be asked in a law interview  Also look at the Law Careers Blog post 5 types of interview questions and how to prepare for them

Valerie Matthews-Lane

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