The market is becoming increasingly active which means there are more options for lawyers seeking an in-house role. When preparing for an interview often a large focus of your preparation will be based on you being able to answer various questions that are thrown at you in relation to your experience and motivations. Having said that an interview process is a two way process and therefore it is really important for you to be able to get the information you need to decided whether a particular business and role are right for you.
Here are some interview questions that should give you a good oversight of a business, role and working culture.
How has this opportunity arisen? - This is an important question to understand as it will give you some insight into what the business is looking to achieve by this appointment and also what the culture is in the business and team. If it is a replacement role the answer will give you insight into the reason the previous incumbent left and the challenges they faced or if it is a newly created role it will give you an insight into the business, how it is structured and what the needs are going forward.
How is the legal function structured in the business? - My experience is that legal departments vary substantially from one business to another. This question will give you insight into the size of a legal team, how they interact with the business, the extent to which they use external legal support and the expertise within the current team.
What is the reporting structure for this role? - This is important to understand as the reporting structure will give a good understanding of the level and seniority and scope of the role i.e. as a senior lawyer would you report into a GC, FD or CEO. This is equally important for junior lawyers looking to make the move in-house as a key focus should be on continuing to develop your technical skills and ensure that I future employer will be able to offer this support.
What do you enjoy about working in the business? – This type of question shows the interviewer that you are interested in their own experience at the company and it should also give you some insight into what you might enjoy about working there. It also might give you a more personal insight into the company and culture, beyond just the role you are interviewing for.
What challenges do you anticipate that the business will face on short, medium and long term basis? – The answer to this question will give you some key insights into commercial issues the business faces and how this impacts the role and priorities of the legal team. It also coveys that you have an interest in the business and that you are a commercially minded lawyer.
What is the culture of the business? - The culture of a business will have a huge impact on your role as a lawyer in a business and in my view this is one of the key considerations when making a move. I am constantly surprised by how businesses vary between sectors, and even direct competitors therefore points you should consider is whether the business is collaborative, more independent, sales led, entrepreneurial, bureaucratic, highly regulated.
Are there opportunities for development in business? – This question will help you demonstrate that you are looking to make a long term move. The answer you get will also give you some insight into the businesses approach to developing and advancing high achieving employees.