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5 Attorney Interview Questions and Answers

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Q:

What is the first thing that you do when presented with a legal issue? 

A:

A large part of being successful at the legal profession depends on how an attorney can structure his/her thinking. Legal questions are often not a black and white issue and often require an attorney to be flexible in approaching the case. More often than not, an attorney who uses the correct thought process will arrive at the right answer. You should get a sense of how the candidate approaches issues. What to look for in an answer:

  • Start with the facts of an issue
  • Ask as many questions as possible
  • Is flexible about the right answer
Example:

"I start approaching a legal issue by committing to be flexible in my thinking and making sure that I get all the relevant facts."

Q:

What do you do when you receive criticism from a legal client or a superior?

A:

In the legal profession, attorneys will always find themselves facing criticism from someone else, and many times, that criticism can be harsh. This is because there are complicated issues at play and high stakes. Attorneys cannot afford to be thin-skinned and will not succeed at their job if they cannot handle criticism. You are looking for someone who can learn from harsh critique. What to look for in an answer:

  • Learns and grows from criticism
  • Doesn't take things too personally
  • Continuous commitment to improvement
Example:

"I look at criticism as an opportunity to learn and try to dissociate any tone from the substance of the criticism."

Q:

How do you handle and deal with stressful and pressure-packed situations, like trials?

A:

Being an attorney is a stressful job. There are always pressing deadlines that are not flexible and must be met. At the same time, you are dealing with difficult people during trials, some of whom are accustomed to getting their own way. The rate of burnout in the profession is high, and you will want to know that whoever you hire will not wilt under the often unrelenting pressure that comes with being an attorney. What to look for in an answer:

  • Thrives under pressure
  • Avoids getting emotional in responses
  • Craves challenges and finds solutions to complex scenarios
Example:

"I welcome pressure and do some of my best work when under stress. I can compartmentalize to get the job done."

Q:

What do you do when you have to persuade someone to accept your point of view?

A:

Much of the practice of law revolves around getting others to accept your point of view. At various points, an attorney may have to persuade a judge, client, colleague or opposing counsel. In many cases, the practice of law is about resolving differences of opinion. An attorney will have to make his/her case and then assemble the requisite arguments in order to bring others around to his/her side. What to look for in an answer:

  • Persuasiveness without being overbearing
  • The ability to be articulate and structure answers
  • Experience convincing others
Example:

"I make sure to listen and give other people the ability to be heard while calmly and persistently explaining my point of view."

Q:

Can you give examples of times during your legal career that demonstrate you have a strong work ethic?

A:

Lawyers can work long hours, including nights and weekends. It is not uncommon for an attorney to work until midnight and be back at his/her desk the following morning. It is essential that you find candidates who do not shy away from hard work because they will not last as an attorney if they cannot handle the hours. Make sure that whoever you hire can commit to long hours. What to look for in an answer:

  • Examples of maximum effort to complete the job
  • Has demonstrated working long hours
  • Seeks more responsibility
Example:

"I always try to seek out as much responsibility as possible. When the works comes in, I embrace the challenge regardless of the amount of time it will take."

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