Your resume and cover letter have gotten your foot in the door, and now you have an actual interview! For many law students, the interview is the great unknown. Because legal employers vary so much, it's difficult to predict how their interviews will unfold-but you can at least cover your bases by preparing some questions that are common to any interview situation.
Solid preparation for any interview also dictates that you formulate some questions for the interviewer. You should ask these with honesty and sincerity and show real interest in hearing the answers. Avoid questions whose answers can easily be found on a website or in the employer's file in your law school's career services office, such as practice areas or number of lawyers.
Why did you choose to work at this firm?
What type of work do you do?
What do you see as the benefits/drawbacks of working at a firm your size?
What type of client base does the firm have? Does it rely heavily on one client?
For interviews with an organization with more than one location: Are the offices independent? Is there a shared client base?
Government/Public Interest Agencies
How is the legal department organized? Where do junior lawyers fit in?
How does the legal department relate to the head of the agency?
What opportunity is there for promotion within the agency?
Are there any possibilities of intra/inter-agency transfers?
How often will I be reviewed for salary increases or promotions?
What promotions can I expect in the next two or three years?
How soon can I expect to hear from you if an offer is to be made?
Corporate Law Departments/In-House Counsel
Could you explain the department's hiring policy?
Do you expect growth in the corporate law department? How much and in what areas?
How is the department organized? What is the relationship of the general counsel to the Chairperson of the Board? The Board of Directors? How is outside counsel used and for what matters? What is the relationship of the office of the general counsel to outside counsel?
How are promotions made? What will a typical career pattern look like?
Is there a pro bono practice?
What are your attrition rates?
How often will I be evaluated/reviewed?
How common are transfers to other departments within the company?
If I receive an offer for permanent employment, will it remain open through the period of my judicial clerkship? What about a two-year clerkship?
If I accept a position with your firm following my clerkship, will my standing be the same as other new recruits, or will I receive "credit" toward partnership because of my clerkship?
How is your summer associate program structured?
How many summer clerks do you plan to hire?
What type of projects/assignments do summer clerks receive?
Is there a chance for involvement in client meetings? Depositions? Hearings?
What type of evaluation/feedback process do you have?
Do you allow split summers?
Are most offers for permanent, entry-level positions made from the summer program?
What must one do as a summer clerk to receive an offer?
What percentage of summer clerks typically receive offers for permanent employment?
Considering an Offer
If I accept the offer, will I have a voice in choosing the kind of work I do?
How many associates do you expect to hire? Do you recruit at law schools or laterally?
At what rate am I expected to bring in new business? Am I compensated for doing so?
Am I expected to bill a certain number of hours or dollars? How many hours does the average associate work? Bill? Is any part of my bonus or compensation determined on the basis of bills collected? Are admission or promotion decisions based in part on hours worked or on bills collected?
When do you evaluate people for possible partnership?
The single most important guideline for lawful interviewing is for interviewers to focus on job-related questions that can be asked of all applicants. Interviewers should take steps to avoid any questions that would be asked of only one group of applicants.
Generally, an employer is not trying to be discriminatory; many times they ask inappropriate questions out of ignorance or to promote conversation. If you are having a good interview and are asked an inappropriate question, answer it only if you feel comfortable. You should never, however, feel pressured to answer an illegal question. If you feel an employer is deliberately asking discriminatory questions, you have every right to confront him or her about it.
Always try to understand the interviewer's motivation. If you choose to respond to an offensive question, answer positively and focus on your professionalism and job ability. Your demeanor and handling of an offensive question could work in your favor and let the employer know why you are such a good candidate.
Some typical discriminatory questions and suggested responses include:
Where were you born?
Where were your parents born?
Of what country are you a citizen?
"As a permanent resident and citizen of the United States, I feel like I was born here
since it has been my home for so long."
What is your religion?
What church do you attend?
Do you hold any religious beliefs that would prevent you from working certain days?
Suggested Response: "In all my previous employment,
schooling and other activities, my religious practices have never interfered
with my performance."
How old are you?
How would you feel about working for a person younger than you?
Suggested Response: "I relate well to people of all ages.
In law school, most of my friends were younger than I was. I respect people
based on their knowledge and competence."
Marriage or Family
What are your marriage plans?
Do you plan to have children?
What does your spouse do?
What happens if you or your spouse gets transferred or needs to relocate?
"I believe my career will be successful with or without a
spouse or a family. My spouse and I make career decisions
together. Certainly law school was not undertaken lightly and
I am not interviewing frivolously. I am here because I am
committed to my career and interested in this position."
Race or Ethnicity
What is your ethnic background?
Would you feel out of place being a minority in our office?
"Throughout my life, I have gone to school with
persons of diverse backgrounds and cultures. I
have always worked hard and gotten along with everybody.
A person's race, whatever it may be, should not interfere in the work environment."
Gender or Sexual Orientation
How would you feel about working for a man/woman?
Do you think you would be comfortable working for or with someone of the opposite sex?
As a gay, lesbian or bisexual, would you feel out of place working in our office?
"As long as a person is qualified, I have no problems working
for or with someone of the same or opposite sex. A person's sexual
orientation, whatever it may be, should not interfere in the work environment."
As a physically challenged person, what help are you going to need in doing your work?
How severe is your handicap?
"Actually, I do not need help doing my work, because I have been
adequately trained. What I need might be minor adaptations of the work
station and colleagues who relate to me as a fellow professional."
Interview tips for law students provided by a Canadian law firm.
An overview of the interview process, as well as advice on how to prepare for the
interview, how to research the employer, and how to handle grades and other
skeletons. From Boston College Law School.
The Job Interview
Advice on how to approach informational interviews, recruiting interviews, and second