How to Answer the Most Common Paralegal Interview Questions
Your how-to guide to acing your next paralegal interview
Reading the future
If you could choose any superpower, what would it be? If you’re about to go into a paralegal interview, you’ll be wishing that you could see into the future. Bran Stark might’ve had a tough ride in Game of Thrones but he’d certainly ace an interview.
The bad news is that you can’t predict the future. The good news is that you can predict your paralegal interview questions by doing your research and with a few educated guesses.
(And to really complete your preparation, we have the 9 best interview questions you should ask).
This article will give you a list of the most common interview questions that law firms will ask when interviewing prospective paralegals. And don’t sweat, it doesn’t matter whether you’re applying as an experienced paralegal or if you’re a graduate applying for an entry-level job (or even a vac scheme): this list will have you covered! By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to know the future (in a very loose sense).
But remember, this will count for nothing unless you’re prepared to put in the hard graft. Make sure you meticulously prepare answers to each question.
Try using the STAR method for competency based questions to help structure your answers: it’s a surefire way to impress.
Now, without further ado, here’s your list of the most common paralegal interview questions.
The big one: ‘Why are you applying to this firm?’
Without a doubt, you will be asked to explain why you’re applying to this specific law firm. As we’ve discussed many times before, law firms want you to make them feel special.
To answer this question effectively you’ll need to demonstrate that you know this law firm better than they know themselves. Well, okay that might be overkill, but you should be able to show them that you’ve done your homework.
Research what the firm does, which practice areas they specialise in, any high profile deals they’ve made, their culture and values. Every law firm that you’ll interview at expect their paralegals to want to work for them, not just work in law more broadly.
Be authentic and passionate. Law firms want to hire someone that really, really wants to work for them. Interviewers can clearly spot authentic interest and passion. It will add significant value to your overall interview performance.
They want legal minds: ‘Why do you want to work in these practice areas?’
So, you want to be a paralegal at this law firm? What excites you about the practice areas they specialise in? Your interviewer will be looking for a spark, some passion and genuine enthusiasm about the legal fields they work in.
The best way to answer this question is by showing them that your interest in the practice areas has developed over time – you definitely haven’t just researched it the night before the interview, right?
This is your chance to discuss the cases you’ve worked on, either in your old paralegal role, vacation scheme or pro bono work.
But don’t worry if you can’t think of any cases. The best answers to this question draw on loads of different experiences. Why not talk about your law degree? Which modules did you enjoy the most and how did this lead to your interest in this practice area? Most entry-level paralegal interview questions won’t need you to talk about specific cases you’ve worked on.
Whatever’s sparked your passion for the practice area, make sure to provide your interviewer with concrete examples.
Dig for victory: ‘Give an example of your ability to research’
Want to know what makes a great paralegal? The simple answer is they are meticulous researchers.
Much of the day-to-day work of a paralegal boils down to research, you need to prove you have what it takes. Pick a specific scenario and describe in detail how your research skills enabled you to complete the task.
If you’re already a paralegal, this one should be easy for you. Start by thinking of a case you worked on and how your own research had an impact on the way it played out.
If you’re a fresh-faced grad, it shouldn’t be too tricky either. Talking about the methods you used to research your dissertation will make for a great answer in your paralegal interview.
You need to be a writing whizz and prolific with a pen: ‘Which experience demonstrates your skill in written communication?’
Despite the glamorous depiction in Suits, in reality, paralegals spend an awful lot of their time writing. A good answer to this question will demonstrate that you can write and have a keen eye for detail.
You could detail how you’ve handled correspondence between different stakeholders. Talk about a real-life example, for instance, that time when you wrote to a client regarding their personal injury claim.
Alternatively, you can mention writing you’ve completed during your time at uni. It’s definitely worth talking about your dissertation or your stint as editor of the uni newspaper here.
Patience is a virtue: ‘Tell me about a time when you’ve worked with a difficult person’
Ah, the quintessential competency question, we’ve been expecting you.
This one is pretty common, but it’s an especially common paralegal interview question. Sorry to break it to you, but as a paralegal, you’re going to have to get used to working with difficult people, clients and team-mates alike.
What employers don’t tell you is that, in their own way, everyone is a difficult person. So you’ll definitely need to show that you can find ways of adapting and accommodating to achieve results.
Again, a good answer to this question will make reference to a specific scenario and the direct impact you made. Think about a case you’ve worked on or a group project at university.
There’s something very important to bear in mind though: you need to play the ball, not the player. Don’t proverbially throw anyone under the bus. Your anecdote should focus on the roadblock and your personal actions, not on the difficult person’s personality.
Time is money: ‘Describe your approach to time management’
Law firms can be exhilaratingly energetic and incredibly intense work environments. If you want to land a paralegal job at one of these lightning-paced law firms you’ll need to prove that you can handle the pressure and meet your deadlines.
If you’re an experienced paralegal, you can mention your caseload. How is it split? For example, if you split your time between researching litigation and immigration cases, how do you ensure that you achieve quality results in both?
If you’re applying to an entry-level paralegal job, there’s nothing wrong with talking about the deadlines you had to meet while studying at uni or while completing your LPC.
Make sure to mention any tools that help to keep you on track. And while this may feel counterintuitive, talk about methods of organisation that didn’t work. Explain why they didn’t work and what you decided to do instead.
Paralegal interview questions are puzzling: Your problem solving will be tested
Law firms are increasingly making use of situational judgment tests. Unlike the other questions you’ll be asked during your paralegal interview, there’s not much you can do to prepare here.
But do make sure to give concrete reasons for your choices. Whatever you do, avoid vague statements. Be precise about what you would do and why.
Those are the most common paralegal interview questions
Look, no matter how hard you try, you can’t read the future. But take some comfort in the fact that preparation is the next best thing! If you prepare detailed answers to these common questions you’ll be well on your way to securing a paralegal job. If you still feel nervous, The Lawyer Portal have a great list of dos and don’ts for paralegal interviews.
But before you go, don’t miss out on The Ultimate Guide to All Things Paralegal – I’ll wager it’s the best thing you can do for your career in the next 10 minutes.
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