Questions to Ask When Interviewing Lawyers: A Hiring Guide

Whether you are in the planning stages of your business or you have already started, you will likely need to hire a lawyer to protect your interests. A lawyer can help you understand the intricacies of legal business requirements and defend you against any lawsuits. However, before you choose a lawyer, you should conduct an interview. Below are a few tips for hiring lawyers, including the areas you should focus on and the types of tactics you should use.


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Creating great questions for hiring lawyers

When creating questions for lawyer candidates, you should focus on the following criteria:


  • Your business needs
  • The lawyer’s level of expertise and their experience in your industry
  • The lawyer’s connections to other lawyers and legal specialists
  • The candidate’s experience with your competition
  • The candidate’s willingness to discuss the law with their clients
  • The lawyer’s billing policy

The candidate’s general mindset and purpose are also important. As you are talking to the lawyer, you need to determine if they are more focused on bringing in new clients, making sure that existing clients are pleased with their work or doing actual work for your company. The candidate you hire should exhibit the last two characteristics.


Ultimately, you will need to determine whether you like the attorney you are talking to. The attorney may need to fit into your company’s culture, but you will have to talk to your attorney regularly, as well.


Related: Common Interview Questions


Three interviewing tactics

When interviewing an attorney, here are three tactics you should use:


    1. Interview the candidate one-on-one. This is the best type of interview you can give to an attorney candidate. While you may also need to figure out if the attorney will fit into your culture, it is your business and you need to find a person who will protect your business interests above all else.


    1. Ask behavioral questions. Test the candidate to find out how they handled past situations, since past behavior is often a good predictor of future behavior. If the answers to your behavioral questions are satisfactory, you can consider hiring this lawyer.


  1. Negotiate billing prices upfront. Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, but not having one could be more costly in the long run. You will need to negotiate with your lawyer to make sure they are billing you fairly and if they will ask for a flat fee, bill you by the hour or charge you an extra fee for successfully completing a task.


Example questions to interview a lawyer

Here are a few questions you should ask a lawyer candidate and why they are important:


  • Tell me about your experience in this industry.
  • Do you know of any specialists in this area of the law?
  • Have you ever worked with any of my competitors?
  • Can you tell me about a situation where you failed a client?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you did more than what was asked of you?


Tell me about your experience in this industry.

The candidate you are interviewing should have a thorough knowledge of your industry. If you work with contracts, hire an attorney who has expertise in that area. If you create intellectual property, your lawyer should have a thorough knowledge of copyright and trademark laws. The lawyer you hire should also keep you and your staff updated on the relevant legalities of your business and industry. The lawyer can do this by talking directly to you and your staff and distributing memos and other literature.


Do you know of any specialists in this area of the law?

Occasionally, you may need to bring in another person to handle a special or otherwise rare legal issue. Since lawyers tend to only focus on specific facets of the law, see if the lawyer you are interviewing knows experts who may help you with special legal needs and can refer you to them.


Have you ever worked with any of my competitors?

If the candidate you are interviewing has worked with the competition, that means this person probably has adequate experience with your type of business and/or industry. However, be careful with an attorney who has worked with a competitor because there may be conflicting interests.


Can you tell me about a situation where you failed a client?

A follow-up question to this would be “Why did you fail in that situation, and what did you learn from that experience?” This question can give you insight into the candidate’s mindset and illustrate whether they can evaluate themselves.


Can you tell me about a time when you did more than what was asked of you?

This question will illustrate whether the attorney is willing to do all that they reasonably and legally can to help their clients. Of course, the lawyer may be bound by attorney-client confidentiality, but they may be able to give general details of what they can do to help you in the case of a lawsuit, for example.


Related: Best Interview Questions to ask Candidates


Hiring a lawyer FAQ

Here is an answer to one of the most common questions about hiring a lawyer:


What should I know about negotiation prices?

Ask whether your lawyer can quote or will charge you a flat fee for certain duties, when an hourly rate will be appropriate and when a monthly retainer or deposit is appropriate. When a lawyer asks for an upfront fee, hold back at least 10%-20% or make sure the attorney gives back the unused portion of a deposit unless they succeed.


Additionally, make sure that the attorney uses the money you have paid them and that they will not hold it up indefinitely. Always opt to pay fees instead of ownership stakes.


Finally, after all the details have been worked out and you have decided to hire this attorney, get everything in writing. You will need to sign a contract with your attorney that has all billing policies before you move forward.


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