The following questions should assist you in preparing for job interviews. Reviewing these questions should help you to anticipate discussions that might evolve in the interview process.
The traditional interview
You should be prepared to answer questions like:
- Why are you interested in this firm? This question is a favorite of interviewers and invites you to show how diligent you have been in researching the firm and allows you to demonstrate your enthusiasm.
- What are your strengths? weaknesses? Answers to these questions allow interviewers to assess your level of self-awareness.
- Recruiters for legal services and public defender’s offices might ask how you would treat a client with poor hygiene or handle an irrational person.
- Career objectives, interests, and activities are all favorite areas for questions and conversation. Interviewers often will rely on your resume to suggest topics of questions.
- Why did you choose the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law? What was your reaction to law school? Do/did you enjoy your classes? Do you enjoy some classes more than others? What is your grade point average?
- Is there a parallel between your performance and your interest in a particular course? What courses have you taken? What courses do you plan to take? Which courses did you particularly like? Why were you not on Law Review, Moot Court, etc.?
The behavioral interview
Much is being shared now about behavioral interviews. Behavioral interviews assist firms in hiring based on specifically defined criteria for the new hire. Generally, the interviewer looks for four basic behavior patterns:
- Decision-making and problem solving skills
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Planning and organizational skills
This more rigorous approach to interviewing is based upon the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is an assessment of past behavior in similar situations. As law firms look beyond just the GPA, class rank, and law school memberships, behavioral interviews pose questions which elicit more in depth information regarding character, professionalism, maturity, and commitment. You must be prepared to discuss specific examples of behavior that demonstrate the qualities you claim to have. It is not possible to fall back on a laundry list of admirable traits. Examples of behavioral questions are:
- Give me an example of a time when you effectively used your people skills to solve a customer problem.
- Tell me about a time when you failed to meet expectations.
- Tell me one of the most difficult (or one of the best) decisions you made in the last year/six months. What made it so difficult? What process did you use to make the decision?
- Tell me about a time when you were too busy and had to prioritize your tasks.
You should be prepared to ask a number of questions which indicate you are approaching the interview process rationally and are capable of making an intelligent choice. Prepare questions that you want answered. Some suggestions are below.
How many participants does the firm anticipate having in its summer program? during the fall term? during the spring term? What percentage of the persons participating in the law clerk programs in recent years have actually become associated with the firm? What is the relationship between the number of people in the law clerk program and the number of associates normally hired each year? To what extent does the clerkship program involve activities other than pure research? Is there a systematic method of evaluation of the participant’s work? Are the results of that evaluation communicated to the participant?
About the interviewer
Confirm specialty area of the interviewer. What type of work is done in a normal work day? How long has the interviewer been with the firm? Did the interviewer work for someone else before joining the firm?
Which of the firm’s practice areas are growing? What new areas are of interest to the firm? What are the firm’s priorities? What is the firm’s vision? Tell me about the long-term stability of the firm. Does the firm expect to grow in the next five years, and if so, what type of growth is anticipated i.e. more new associates, more lateral hires, new offices? How has your own practice evolved?
How does the firm determine what type of work a new associate is to be assigned? How is the work of the new associate supervised? Are the evaluations of that work communicated systematically to the new associate? Does a new associate work for one attorney or several different attorneys? Are there formal in-firm training programs? Are new associates encouraged to attend outside seminars? Does the firm require or encourage its attorneys to specialize? When does the decision about specialization occur? Is the decision made by the new associate, the firm or both? How soon does the new associate get direct client contact and substantial responsibilities? Is there a firm policy on pro bono work?
Never ask how hard associates have to work. There are ways to find out other than asking. By scheduling a second interview in the late afternoon hours, you will probably be there around 6:30 and can see how busy the place is.
How many new associates does the firm anticipate hiring? How many associates has the firm hired in recent years? How many of those associates are still with the firm?
Pro Bono Policy
What types of outside activities (bar-related and otherwise) are your lawyers involved with? What is expected in terms of participation in professional organizations? What is the firm’s policy on pro bono and community activities?
When does an attorney become eligible for partnership? (As mentioned before, this question should not be asked in the initial interview). What are the criteria for advancement? To what extent is the development of new clients a prerequisite to advancement?