There’s no denying that with the competitive nature of the legal sector, training contract interviews can be outright intimidating for prospective trainee lawyers. While some interview questions are predictable, others are more surprising.
By working through common law interview questions as part of your preparation, you can give yourself a significant confidence boost. As is the case in many interview situations, confidence and preparedness is key.
Below, you’ll find seven of the most common training contract interview questions candidates are being asked today.
- ‘Why This Firm?’
Each firm wants to be every applicant’s first choice, and, at a minimum, they want applicants to be able to spell out why this firm stands out from the rest. You’ll be asked this question, whether your training contract is in-house or through a private practice.
As usual, preparation is your best friend here. Read up on the firm’s culture, values, and local, national, and international presence. The firm will want these considerations to be major factors in your decision to apply for a training contract with them.
It’s worth remembering that when firms assess candidates, they are looking for somebody who will fit the company culture, not just somebody who is technically competent. Further to this, it’s prudent not to mention starting salaries. In general, firms are not seeking for money-motivated individuals, instead preferring candidates who have a particular interest or passion for the firm’s specific field.
- ‘Which Other Firms Have You Applied to?’
This question is usually asked to establish whether there is a pattern in relation to your applications – to see whether the firms you’ve applied to have any common ground. If this is asked, the most effective approach is to speak about the common attributes that each of the firms share.
You might feel reluctant to mention the names of the other firms that you’ve applied to, but there’s no reason to feel concerned. Bringing up the firms can actually increase your desirability, particularly if they are competitors.
When applying for training contracts, prioritise quality over quantity. Not only will fewer applications raise the standard of your performance, but it will also appear that you have high standards and a clear career vision.
- ‘Why Do You Want to Be a _________ Lawyer?’
It could be that you are considering a particular practice area because you have a longstanding passion for it, but if you state that in response to this question, it’s likely to come across as inauthentic.
If possible, demonstrate your interest by drawing upon your real-life experiences that directly reflect why you have chosen this particular career path and, crucially, the specific practice area.
Give examples of where you have gone the extra mile or demonstrated a particularly keen interest. Using your work experience can be effective, as it shows a concrete commitment to the practice area.
- ‘Tell Us About a Time When You…’
You might be asked about lawyer-related competencies, such as demonstrating teamwork, time management, or commercial awareness. This might also include being asked about the times when you made mistakes, and how you dealt with them.
Part-time jobs, previous work experience, or extra-curricular activities that demonstrate these traits can be useful tools for answering such questions. For example, a situation where you may have balanced your academic studies with clubs, societies, or a part-time job – or several of these – clearly demonstrates time management skills.
- ‘What Recent Legal Development Have You Been Keeping Up to Date With, and Why Does It Interest You?’
If this feels like this question presents a bump in difficulty, the feeling is accurate. If you are planning on becoming a legal professional, you should try to keep up with legal news and developments anyway, but that kind of behaviour is especially useful for preparing for common training contract interview questions.
You can keep up with legal developments by reading news sites, subscribing to email alerts, and, most importantly, by staying engaged. Since this is a constant cycle, you cannot afford to let things pass you by.
When talking about your area of interest, avoid making vague statements. Before your interview, read the latest relevant news stories, noting a few specific points of interest. Mention specific details and ensure you do more than just quote headlines.
- ‘How Would You Make Yourself Stand Out as a Trainee?’
This is a question that might seem challenging, but there’s no reason to overthink it.
The minimum expectation that firms have of trainees is that they will work endlessly and demonstrate technical competence – those qualities, though important, will not make you stand out.
Rather, you should demonstrate your willingness and enthusiasm to throw yourself into life at the firm. Show that you’re determined to get involved socially, helping to contribute to an open and friendly working environment. You need to show that you are someone they will want to work with.
If you have any examples of where you’ve demonstrated leadership skills, these could also be worth mentioning, as they show that you are prepared to take the initiative and hit the ground running.
- ‘Do You Have Any Questions for Us?’
This is extremely commonly asked, even among typical training contract interview questions. Whatever you do, avoid saying no.
It might feel like the interviewer is bringing proceedings to a close, but that is not necessarily the case. Here, you can demonstrate your knowledge about the firm by asking questions 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 are a reliable way to build a solid rapport.
Generic questions about working hours, benefits, and other such subjects are not likely to impress.
Reading training contract interview questions and answers is incredibly helpful, but looking at things from a broader perspective, preparation is your best friend.
Carrying out substantial research for each interview yields outstanding results and is certain to impress your interviewer.
Check out these CV tips for training contract applications – and more useful legal industry and career advice content – on TotallyLegal.