Strategies for Answering Five Common Legal Interview Questions

Published: Mar 27, 2024

 Education       Grad School       Interviewing       Job Search       Law       
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Interviews are always somewhat stressful. There's a lot on the line and you don't know for sure what you'll be asked. Preparing for some of the more common interview questions will help both with peace of mind prior to the interview as well as your execution once you're actually there. No matter how far along in the interview process you are, taking time in advance to prepare will arm you with specific examples and concrete ways to link your experiences and expertise to the particular role and firm you are interviewing with. Below are five of the most common legal interview questions, along with our suggestions on how to approach them.

Tell me a little about yourself.

This one seems easy at first glance. There aren't really any wrong answers, and you know the subject better than anyone else in the world. That said, the open-ended nature of this question can turn it into a trap for the unwary or unprepared. A great response will be brief but provide enough information to intrigue the interviewer. Think of this question as an opportunity to give your elevator pitch—briefly (in a few sentences) discuss your relevant experience, skills, and goals. You should also be sure to include a sentence or two about your unique interests and hobbies that aren't specifically tied to the position. If you've made it to the interview stage, you've met or exceeded the qualifications for the position. Interviewers are assessing your fit and what your personality is like; they want to know if you're someone they actually want to spend time with every day, so give them a little glimpse of what you're like as a person. Be sure to practice answers to this question in advance, as it gets asked in nearly every interview. There is no good reason not to deliver a confident, thoughtful response to this one on interview day.

Why [firm]?

This is another question you're almost guaranteed to hear. Hiring is a significant investment, particularly if you're a junior who will be trained and learn the job at this firm, and employers want to find candidates with a sincere interest in working at their organization so that investment pays off for them. Prepare by crafting an answer that includes what you love about the type of law the firm (or practice group) handles and what about the firm piqued your interest. Look at the job description and the firm’s website for details you can include in your answer. Take this further by reading about specific matters the firm has handled and why that type of work fits with your professional goals. You can also discuss specific lawyers at the firm who have done work that interests you, and go ahead and explain why you think you'd be a good fit to assist in the work those people are doing. You should also take the time to research the firm’s culture and initiatives, and pinpoint the areas that are important to you (Vault Law's profiles are an excellent resource on this matter). No firm is great at everything, and it will go a long way if you can pinpoint a firm's specific strengths and explain how they align with your professional goals.

Can you describe a challenge or conflict you have faced at work and how you overcame it?  

Behavioral interview questions such as this one are becoming increasingly popular, as the data shows they do a better job predicting candidate performance in the future by assessing as precisely as possible a candidate's past performance. For any such question, the best method of answering is the STAR method (see this post for more on STAR and behavioral questions in general). STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. Your response will include one to three sentences about each STAR component. Keep the answer brief and to the point, conveying all relevant information while excluding any extraneous details.

With regard to this specific question—conflict in the workplace—remember to stick with professional issues. Discussing personal or social issues will make you appear unprofessional, and is almost never a good idea. 

This question may feel daunting if you have not faced this situation or can’t think of an example to share. Preparing in advance will go a long way with behavioral interview questions. Taking the time to think beforehand, when you aren't under immediate pressure to answer, should enable you to come up with at least one good example to discuss when this question arises in an interview.

What is your biggest weakness?

It's important to give a real, honest answer to this question. When an interviewer asks it, the actual content of the answer is almost secondary; they're assessing your ability to self-assess and honestly communicate your weaknesses. This means you shouldn't dodge the question by giving a disguised strength, such as “I care too much” or "I'm too detail-oriented." Prepare in advance by honestly identifying a weakness, but do include the ways you're working to improve on that weakness in your answer. That said, it's also a bad idea to highlight a weakness that is a specific skill mentioned in the job description or could otherwise be a genuine dealbreaker (e.g., if you want to be a litigator, don’t pinpoint poor writing skills as your weakness). Instead, focus on a skill that you are able to train up to become an even stronger lawyer. Examples of the types of answers that can work here include not being assertive enough, having trouble saying “no,” or a reluctance to pull yourself away from a type of work you really enjoy and prioritize other projects.

Do you have any questions for us?

This is another "question" you are just about guaranteed to hear in every interview. Always have at least three questions to ask. Interviewers are looking for a few things when they ask, aside from having a genuine interest in answering your questions. They want to see that you've done your homework about the organization, so specific questions tailored as follow-ups to the information you found during your research will demonstrate both curiosity and the fact that you are genuinely interested in the firm. It is a terrible look to ask questions that have answers available on the firm's website, so be certain not to do so. It can also be useful to ask the interviewer about their experiences working at the firm and the types of work you would handle as an associate.  Below are a few possible questions to get you started, but remember that questions informed by research and framed as follow-ups or seeking detail are better than these:

  1. What drew you to work for this law firm?
  2. What is the most important indicator of success in this role?
  3. What types of work does a junior associate do in this practice area?
  4. How do performance evaluations work at the firm?
  5. What has been the most useful training you’ve received at the firm, and why?

Remember the best way to handle any type of question is to prepare in advance by doing your research and practicing for the interview. Ask a friend to do a mock interview with you, or if you’re a current law student, reach out to your school to see if there are mock interview opportunities. Best of luck from all of us at Vault Law on your legal job search!


This post is an update to one originally written by Ashley Reed and published on March 21, 2021. The original can be viewed in the Vault archives.