Donna Jones
Donna Jones

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What questions should I ask at a legal job interview?

When preparing for a legal interview, you will likely spend a large portion of your time trying to anticipate what the interviewers will ask you in relation to your experience, your technical ability, your motivators and your reasons for choosing to apply to the firm.

You will no doubt also spend hours trawling the internet and the firm's website to find out as much as you can about the firm ahead of the interview; their clients, work, any sector focus and the profiles of the people you’re meeting.

Less time tends to get spent thinking about questions you are going to ask during the interview.  It's important to remember that this is a two way process and in a thriving legal market it's as much about a firm impressing you as you impressing them.

When planning questions to ask, avoid trying to formulate 'clever' questions intended to demonstrate the research you have done on the firm (hopefully this will become apparent during the natural course of the interview) rather think about what you would really like to know about the job.  These questions need to give you the necessary insight into a firm so that you could comfortably accept a position there if offered, this is particularly important in a market where candidates often have competing offers from similar firms.

As a starting point, I've set out below five questions to get you started...


How has this position arisen?

This will let you know if it is a replacement or growth role.  If replacement, it might interest you to know why the previous employee left, or is leaving.  If growth, then it leads into a conversation about the firm's growth strategy and plans moving forward.

What is the structure of the team and who would I report into?

This will give you an insight as to where the position is pitched within the firm's hierarchy and whether it is a hierarchical model.  It will also enable you to get a better idea of the work you will be involved in if you get the job as he various partner within a team are likely to have slightly different focuses or sector specialisms.

How would you describe the culture of the firm?

Culture is a huge consideration, the 'fit' needs to be right for you and the firm.  Will you be part of a collegiate team, will you work more independently, what is the firm's view on agile/flexible working, what values underpin the firm, is it a work hard/play hard environment, are there social events you can get involved in...

How will my performance be measured?

It's important to understand what will be expected of you in a new role and how your performance will be assessed.  Does the firm focus heavily on chargeable hours recorded, fees billed and recovered or is business development and wider contribution valued above these KPI's.  This question will also lead on to a conversation about what opportunities there are for career progression within the role and what the firm's approach is to training and development.  It's crucially important, especially during the early years of your career as a solicitor, that a firm values and supports your on-going training and development and see the value in investing in this.

How are the firm tackling the Covid pandemic?

This question might give you some insight into the stability of the firm and your potential longevity there whilst we are still living in uncertain times. It’s a good indicator of job security and the stream of work coming in to the firm if they managed to manoeuvre their way through a crisis with minimal disruptions and/or redundancies. Some firms paid covid bonuses and repaid the 20% cut that many employees took during the height of the pandemic (for a 4/5 week when most ended up working the fifth day) as a mark of gratitude when it became clear that they actually performed well during this period. This demonstrates the integrity of a firm, an important characteristic which can be a key factor in your decision making if you do end up with multiple offers.

Do you have any reservations about me as a potential candidate for this position?

This may seem a very direct question but it shows a certain degree of gumption and is usually well received.  This gives you the opportunity to tackle head on any concerns a firm may have about you and also to address any misconceptions which could eliminate any issues following the interview in which you aren’t given the opportunity to provide your input.

Each of you will have an individual set of circumstances and objectives so focus on really asking open questions which demonstrate a genuine interest in joining the firm and never ask about salary - if you are using a legal recruiter, we will take care of those negotiations for you!

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