Essential questions to ask a legal interviewer

Written by: Brian Mcintyre, Austen Lloyd
Published on: 6 Apr 2021

Interview questions blog

If you’ve managed to secure an interview for your dream job, well done – the first hurdle has been met! At the end of the interview, the interviewer will commonly ask if you have any questions. This is a good opportunity for you to show off your interest in the job and the firm/organisation.

How do you make sure you come across as the right candidate and crucially, which questions will make you stand out? We asked legal recruitment experts Austen Lloyd the essential questions you should ask a legal recruiter, and the key factors to consider.

Your questions must help you achieve your goal

In asking your questions, you’re seeking either to impress the interviewer with the depth of your research or your shared experience, or you’re seeking information you can use to show the interviewer how perfect you would be for the job. If a question does not serve either (or both) of these goals, it should not be asked.

Good topics to ask about are:

  • the organisation - strategic goals, challenges they are facing, why do the interviewer(s) enjoy working there, most significant recent developments in the firm/organisation, etc
  • the working conditions - opportunities, career development, how is performance evaluated, etc
  • the process - what happens next, how many people are being interviewed, do they fill open positions from within the firm/organisation first, etc

Avoid asking questions that have been answered for you during the interview. Do not ask anything you should already know from details they have sent you, or about salary, holidays, etc.

Avoid asking questions that are too direct

While there is certain information about the employer you simply must know in order to make an informed career decision, there are some things you can’t find out about by asking a direct question.

An example would be asking “how hard do you push your staff to work long hours?” Asking indirect questions such as: "are there any expectations as to the number of hours a first-year associate is expected to work at your firm?” would be a better way of getting the information.

Avoid questions about the firm’s weaknesses

Even if you think you can phrase them in a positive way, questions such as "tell me, how is your firm handling that massive legal malpractice judgment that was brought against you?” is going to go down like a lead balloon.

More tactful ways to handle these questions are to phrase them like: "How does your firm handle quality control as a general matter? Is there much close supervision of associates in the early years?" and "What is your company's overall strategy for adding or reducing legal staff this year?" These phrasings of the same question are more neutral.

Ask questions that make you look great

What sort of questions will make you look good? Generally, ones that play to the interviewer's special interests or current problems go down very well. You should find out as much as you can about the firm/organisation before arriving for an interview. Most have websites and are also happy to send brochures to interview candidates. You can also search the websites of the legal press for a more objective view. You should try to get a feeling of the ethos of the firm/organisation - what are their buzz words, do they put most value in ambitious, confident people, or instead prefer communicative team players?

Your questions can be researched by having a look at the firms “about us” webpage, social media, or researching any news about cases/mergers that pertain to them online. The answers to these questions could be irrelevant to the position you’re applying for but they will show the interviewer you have done your homework and are genuinely interested.

Good interview questions

The key to asking good questions is to memorise the question so that you can introduce it naturally and gracefully during the interview. With that understanding, here are some good interview questions that Austen Lloyd believe will be a good fit. You should feel free to change them to your own style of speaking and your own interests.

  • If I were to start working in this position today, what sorts of projects would I be working on?
  • When you think about your practice and where it's going, what sort of things are you happiest about?
  • If you could narrow it down to one thing, what do you think is the key to success in this position?

Remote interviews – how do they differ?

If you’re doing a remote video interview for the first time, your considerations and questions might be different to what you’re used to. From preparing your tech to dressing to impress, this article about how to prepare for a video interview could be useful.

After the interview

The interview is also your opportunity to decide if you want to work for the organisation so think about what you've learned and your impressions.

Think about the questions the interviewer asked. Were you satisfied with your answers, or could you do better next time?

If they do not contact you by the agreed time, or if it's been more than two weeks since the interview, contact them to check the situation. If you haven't been successful, ask for feedback.

If you need any more support or career advice, check out our resources: