There’s no denying that with the competitive nature of the legal sector, training contract interviews can be pressurising and intimidating for prospective trainee lawyers. Some interview questions are predictable, whilst others are way more out there. Nevertheless, it’s useful to begin preparation with some of the more common interview questions. Getting to grips with the basics will help boost your confidence so you feel ready to take on questions of all kinds – however obscure.
Why this firm?
Even if you are applying to multiple firms, being able to demonstrate why their firm in particular stands out to you is very important. The key is preparation - read up as much as you can about why the firm’s culture, values, and local, national or international presence is a factor in your decision. It’s important to convey enthusiasm, whilst making it clear that there are valid reasons for your choice.
Don’t mention starting salaries; keep your reasons based on the type of work you’re interested in, and the reputation that the firm has established in your area of interest.
What other firms have you applied to?
Following on from the question above, this question may be asked to see if there’s a common ground with the firms you’ve applied to. It is better to say that you’ve applied to each firm because they have common attributes, rather than keep it too vague or outline the differences. It’s fine to mention the names of other firms, particularly if they are competitors, as this could increase your desirability.
When applying, bear in mind quality over quantity. You want to be able to make each training contract application the best it can be – which may be stressful if you’ve applied to lots. Mentioning this in the interview could in fact work in your favour.
Why do you want to be a ______ lawyer?
When answering this question, do not fall into the trap of stating that this area of law has been your longstanding ‘passion’ – even if you were passionate about law since childhood, this may come across inauthentic.
Instead, demonstrate your interest by drawing upon your real life experiences that directly reflect why you have chosen this particular career path – and the specific practice area. Give examples of where you have gone the extra mile – e.g. criminal law trainees may want to mention work experience in a police station – anything that shows a commitment. Reflect on how the experience shaped or furthered your desire to become a lawyer.
Tell us about a time when you…
You may be asked about lawyer-related competencies such as demonstrating team work, time management and commercial awareness. This might also include being asked about the times you made mistakes and how you dealt with them.
Think about part time jobs, previous experience or extra curricular activities that demonstrate these traits e.g. Balancing academic studies with clubs or societies is a perfect example of time management.
What recent legal development have you been keeping up to date with, and why does it interest you?
This can be one of the more challenging questions due to the fact that developments are ongoing. You should make sure you’re up to date with legal news and the news in general in whatever way suits you. Whether this is by reading news sites every day or subscribing to email alerts on your phone, the key thing is to keep in the loop.
When talking about your area of interest, avoid making vague statements. Before the interview, you should read the latest relevant news stories, noting a few points of interest and mentioning specific details. Don’t just quote the headlines.
How would you make yourself stand out as a trainee?
This question can often seem challenging, but you shouldn’t overthink it. As much as firms are keen to see the hardworking, academic side of you, this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how you’re willing to throw yourself into life at the firm.
Showing that you’re determined to get involved socially and help to contribute to an open, friendly working environment will paint yourself in a very good light. Any examples of leadership skills you have demonstrated in the past may be worth mentioning as it will show that you’re not afraid to take initiative and hit the ground running as a trainee.
Any questions for us?
Whatever you do, avoid saying no. Don’t jump to the conclusion that the interviewer is bringing things to a close. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge about the firm by asking about a recent deal or ask questions about the interviewer themselves (who you should research online beforehand). The interviewer’s interests could be a good talking point and will certainly show you have real commitment.
Steer clear of generic questions about working hours, benefits etc.
When it comes to interviews, preparation is the most important thing. Do your research for every interview – a good interviewer will be able to recognise the time spent preparing, so it won’t go unrewarded.