Are you an ambitious paralegal? Do you have what it takes to handle legal cases like a pro?
Whether you’re a newbie or you’re an established paralegal looking for interview advice, chances are you’re fretting over that intense Q&A. You’re eager to answer questions better than Erin Brockovich and desperate to land the career of your dreams.
Worry no more! To help you smoothly glide through that upcoming job interview and give off a great first impression, we’ve gathered a list of the top 10 most common paralegal interview questions with advice on how to answer each one.
1. ‘Why did you decide to become a paralegal?’
This question will be asked to determine your passion and determination as a paralegal. Start off by outlining your interest for a particular specialisation, whether it’s criminal justice, corporate or personal injury. You can then move on by mentioning how drawn and committed you are to the research and data entry aspects of the job.
The interviewer will want to gain a sense of perseverance from you, so make sure to mention that this profession allows you to constantly learn and grow. Tell the interviewer that becoming a paralegal offers you the opportunity to think critically, enhance your communication and teamwork skills and, most importantly, actively participate in the legal process.
2. ‘What skills do you have to qualify as a paralegal?’
Now is the time to show off and recite your CV – not in a robotic way, of course! Relax, take a deep breath and give the interviewer a clear and concise run-through of your skills and experience.
They want to determine your true competency for the role. Becoming a paralegal can be challenging and complex, so make sure that you mention any previous training you might have had and what your experience was like. Cover any skills that you might have in law research, legal administration skills and client litigation.
It’s also a great idea to talk about how talented you are in developing and maintaining relationships with clients. Discuss your organisation and planning skills, your great attention to detail and, finally, your patience and confidentiality.
3. ‘Are there any practice areas that interest you in particular?’
This is yet another frequently asked question during a paralegal interview at a law firm.
You need to demonstrate an understanding of the type of law this firm does. Explain why you’re a good fit for the organisation and tell the interviewer what led you to apply for this role and company in particular. Make sure to do your research about the firm and comment on your strengths and interest in the practice area in question.
Bear in mind that you don’t have to be an expert on an area just yet – especially if you’re applying for an entry-level role. You don’t even have to tell the interviewer that you’re committed to it for the rest of your career. Simply express that you’re interested in this practice area and that you’re eager to learn more.
4. ‘How well can you handle criticism?’
Being a paralegal is no easy task. The job can be intense, demanding and incredibly tough. Sometimes, you’ll have to deal with criticism from seniors. Show the interviewer that you can handle any stress, pressure and judgement from fellow lawyers or managers. Mention that you have thick skin and that you would never take any criticism personally. You understand that they are trying to better you for the role and improve or maintain the overall reputation of the company.
It’s best to explain that you will take any critical remarks as an opportunity to improve and correct mistakes and that you will always respond to your seniors in a respectful and professional manner.
5. ‘Can you deal with difficult clients?’
Much of this role involves dealing with difficult clients. The interviewer will try to determine whether you can handle disgruntled, angry and impatient people with dignity, professionalism and skill. Shed light on your ability to deal with confrontation and mention that you never take anything personally.
Explain that you would listen to the client attentively, understand where they’re coming from (dealing with legal matters is tough, after all) and offer a reasonable explanation or solution to their issue. Don’t forget to highlight your sense of empathy and patience when it comes to handling difficult clients. The interviewer also wants to hear that you’re aware that you’re representing the company and that you must maintain professionalism at all times.
6. ‘How do you stay calm under pressure?’
Do you have what it takes to succeed under pressure? If that’s a ‘yes’, make sure you clearly clarify this during your job interview.
All jobs come with stress, but that of a paralegal can be incredibly exasperating. Talk about a time when you successfully managed a tight deadline and point out your ability to maintain quality work, even when under a lot of pressure. Cover any skills you have in multitasking, organising and prioritising, and persuade the interviewer that you have what it takes to stay calm when feeling frustrated.
7. ‘Are there any areas in which you struggle? If so, how do you handle this weakness?’
When you get a question that covers weaknesses, it’s important to answer honestly. Always give your answer a positive spin by saying how you’re working to improve this ‘flaw’ and how you positively dealt with it in the past.
Being a paralegal means handling heavy workloads, disgruntled clients, difficult cases and pressuring seniors. Whatever it is you struggle with, tell the interviewer, but mention that you will be careful to avoid any mistakes and that you’re committed to continuous improvement. They want to see that you have a sense of self-awareness and that you can honestly articulate any weakness.
8. ‘Have you had to make any complex legal decisions? Tell us about it.’
During your paralegal interview, your interviewer will try to gain evidence of your logical decision-making. You will be facing serious legal matters, after all; and your decisions can be life-changing for your client.
Think about a time in the past when you had to deal with a complex legal case. What decisions did you make? Recite your story to the interviewer and mention that you made these decisions independently.
A good example of describing your decision-making process might include, ‘I collected all the relevant information and facts about [the case], explored the appropriate alternatives and made the most practical decision which involved [solutions]’.
9. ‘What are your feelings for working for the defence of criminals?’
Working for a law firm comes with its own set of challenges, one being that you might have to participate in defence of a criminal. This is a common question to arise during a paralegal’s interview, as it will demonstrate your grit and sense of professionalism.
Explain that you’re ready to deploy professional legal services to anyone, without any discrimination. Clarify that you’re capable of separating your personal feelings from the job and how important it is to provide equal representation to every client.
This role requires that you’re diplomatic, no matter what charges a client is facing. It is, therefore, vital that you communicate this during your interview.
10. ‘Why should we hire you?’
This is one of the most common interview questions to expect for any profession.
Your hiring manager wants to know why they should hire you as their paralegal, instead of anyone else. This means it’s time to really showcase your legal knowledge and skills.
They want to know how you can benefit the organisation. Is it your specialist knowledge? Perhaps it’s your research skills. Highlight your strengths and always relate them to the benefit of the company and the needs of the job.
Regardless of your chosen specialisation in law, these are the most commonly asked questions you’ll go up against during your paralegal interview. Just make sure to thoroughly prepare! Brush up on your CV, explore the company you’re applying to and ready your interview answers according to the tips outlined in this article. This will make you more likely to sell yourself as a viable candidate for the role.
What other questions might you be faced during a paralegal interview? Have you had any that we didn’t cover on our list? Let us know in the comments section below.