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💬 Read this if you've got a law firm interview

In today's email, we've got:

  • how to prepare for a law interview

  • the different types of questions you might be asked

  • questions you should ask the interviewer

If you take just one thing from this email...

For any kind of interview:

1. be confident, 

2. be prepared and, most importantly, 

3. be yourself!


Hey gang!

So it's official, Rishi Sunak is our next Prime Minister in the UK. How long he'll last is another question entirely, but here's hoping it's longer than 45 days!

To get the position, he's had to get the backing of the Conservative party. As part of this process, he has no-doubt been quizzed and interviewed as to why he is suitable and what his plans are moving forward, which leads me to a smooth transition into...

Interview prep!

Ok, maybe it wasn't so smooth but it's not all going to be gold. Unlike today's email, which is a special kind of longer post, specifically focused on one topic.

In this instance, we cover all you need to know about prepping for law firm interviews. We're trialling this type of reports out to see if it's helpful, so if it is (or isn't) give us your feedback by replying to this email or using the smiley or frowny face buttons at the bottom of this email!

- Connor


💬 Read this if you've got a law firm interview

Credit: Giphy

What's going on here?

Huge congratulations - you've made it to interview. But how do you wow the crowd? We'll run through some key tips and tricks to help you perform at your best!

What's expected of me?

Interviews can come at any stage, or even multiple stages of the law application process. On top of that, recruitment teams don't just want you to talk about your skills, but they also want you to demonstrate them in situational exercises.

In a post-pandemic job market, the interview might take different forms. It might be online as part of an automated video interview, as a live video chat, or perhaps it is back to an in-person panel interview.

What should I do before the interview?

This section covers the obvious, but sometimes overlooked, practicalities of what to do before your interview. 

Plan your setup

If your interview is in person, luckily this is not something you need to worry about. 

Online interviews mean you need to think about where you are going to carry out the process. Test your laptop in different locations and make sure:

  • the room is not too dark,

  • your internet connection is good,

  • you are unlikely to be disturbed, and

  • you feel comfortable.

Plan what you're going to wear

As a general rule, dress business formal. It's better to be overdressed than underdressed. 

Some invitations will state the dress code they expect and will likely do so if the recruiter only expects more casual dress. 

It might be helpful to visit the firm’s website and have a peek at what senior employees seem to be wearing. 

If in doubt, dress smart and simple.

Start your research

Make sure you re-read  your CV or written application. The interviewer might pick up on any detail in it and if you cannot remember what you've written, this may lead to inconsistencies in what you are saying. 

 On top of being on top of your CV, research:

  • the interviewer,

  • the firm's competitors,

  • the firm's core values,

  • the firm's main sectors (think tech, energy, real estate etc),

  • significant deals or cases that the firm has worked on recently,

  • current affairs and legal news (you know where to look for this!) 👀

Mock interviews - they're worth the effort!

Sometimes the idea of doing a mock interview with a friend or your phone can feel more embarrassing than facing the actual interview. 

However, actually verbalising your preparation can be a key step in feeling confident in speaking about yourself. If you're at uni, book a mock interview with your university careers adviser to practice on-the-spot answers.

What different types of interview might I face?

Typically, a law interview is conducted by one or two senior employees of the firm, lasting between half an hour and an hour. Although the format of an interview can vary greatly, the aim is often fairly consistent: to find out if you have the required skills and personality that would make a good employee in the legal world. 

For every interview, it's important to determine whether it is formal or informal. This may be indicated directly via the invitation, or indirectly in the tone of the invitation. More likely, however, you will only find out when the interview starts. 

This is not as easy as it sounds, some interviewers may put up a stern front to see how you react under pressure. In this instance, while they may not crack a smile, they are still  looking for someone who can speak passionately and positively about the law. 

If you're ever in doubt...

Credit: Giphy

What style of questions will I be asked?

Once the interview is over, someone might ask you what the questions were. It'll probably all seems like a blur, and you may struggle to remember anything! However, the recruiter will likely have asked you questions in a few different ways.

Knowing the style of question being asked can help you understand what the interviewer is looking for and how to tailor your answer accordingly.

1. Open questions

With this style of question it can be difficult to know what the interviewer is looking for. Most questions will be delivered in this style. They may even be as simple as “how are you today?”. The interviewer may be looking out for your general demeanour, personality, and social skills. 

Questions specific to your application or experience can still be open questions. Such as “Did you enjoy your work experience at firm X?”. Ironically, it is easy to answer an open question with a closed answer: “Yes I did enjoy it”.

In this instance, it can be helpful to follow the burger method

  1. General: Start your answer from a general perspective - e.g. "Yes, thank you. It was a fun internship!"

  2. Specific: Then, focus on a specific aspect of your experience and what you learnt from it - "I was sat with the commercial litigation department, so I managed to pick up a lot about different strategies that are used when dealing with a dispute."

  3. General: Finally, return to a general insight about the open question - "I enjoyed the experience."

2. Closed questions

Closed questions are also easy to answer with a closed answer, even “yes” or “no”. The questions may be sequential in order to build on your previous answer. 

It's important to expand on your answer beyond simply “yes” or “no” while not going off on a tangent. This questioning style can sometimes be uncomfortable, and you may feel you are not answering in the way they are looking for because they keep asking you questions.

Try to remember, this can be a positive thing. If the interviewer had already disregarded you as a candidate, it is unlikely they would be so interested to find out so much about a specific aspect of your experience. 

3. Challenging questions

Often associated with pupillage interviews as opposed to (training contract or vac scheme interviews), challenging questions seek to contradict your previous answer or some aspect of your experience. The interviewer is likely to be looking for how you can defend your opinion or experience and how you cope under pressure. It would be highly unreasonable for them to simply condemn you for the sake of condemning you. 

Remember to stay positive. The question may come across negatively, but everything can be spun into a positive. For instance, if you had to retake an exam, all you can do is honestly explain the circumstances and what you learnt from the experience. After all, no candidate is perfect, and the interviewers recognise this.

What types questions will I be asked?

Personal Questions

These questions would generally focus on your CV, including your education, work experience, and even leisure activities. The interviewer is looking for you to expand on your CV. This may involve explaining a decision you made in choosing your degree or explaining a gap in your CV. 


  • Tell me more about your experience at firm X

  • Why did you choose X university? 

  • What did you do during your gap year?

How to prepare:

  • It is important to know your CV or your written application inside and out. 

  • Make a note of what you learnt from each section. This can require some brain power, but it really demonstrates you have reflected on your experience and can show how it is relevant.

  • It is easy to oversell yourself on an application, so make sure you can back up what you have written with real-life examples.

  • Consider how you would explain any gaps in your experience or education. These may be asked in a seemingly negative way, but this is your opportunity to create a positive outcome from the experience.

Competency Questions 

When asking a question about your competency, the interviewer is looking for how you have demonstrated skills like communication, teamwork, time management, and decision-making during your experience. 


  • Tell me about a time when you had to communicate effectively. 

  • When have you worked in a team and what did your team achieve?

  • How have you solved a challenging problem in the past?

  • What would make you a good trainee solicitor?

How to prepare:

  •  Consider the STARR method of answering; that means Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection

  • It can be helpful to assign one skill or competency to one experience to create a 'menu' of examples you can use. This will help you structure your competency answer and allow you to talk about all of your experience. “At university I had to balance my priorities with extracurricular volunteering, meaning I have developed my time management skills”. For example: “Working at X shop helped me learn how to work in a team as I…” or “At university I had to balance my priorities with extracurricular volunteering, meaning I have developed my time management skills”.

Strengths and Weaknesses 

Perhaps the most introspective type of answer you can give is to a strengths and weaknesses question. Ultimately, interviewers want to see  your level of self-awareness and how you reflect on your actions. 

How to prepare: 

  • Asking friends or family could be helpful to give you ideas for this type of question. 

  • Think about how the strengths you have could be of use in the role you are applying for. 

  • For weaknesses, think about how you have acted upon the weakness to improve them and what you have learnt which could be useful in the role. 

  • Do not be afraid to be honest about your weaknesses. Sometimes it can come across better if you are genuine rather than giving a superficial answer e.g. “I’m a perfectionist”.

Credit: Giphy

Situational / Dilemma Questions 

“What would you do if this happened?” The answers might seem endless and it is easy to get caught up in what you think the interviewer wants to hear, rather than what you would actually do. 


  • How would you act if you found out about a colleague’s questionable behaviour? 

  • What would you do if a major client asks you a question you are unsure of the answer to? 

  • What would you do if your manager said something wrong about the law to a client?

How to prepare: 

  • Find a list of potential situational questions related to the law and consider your answer as these are less likely to be related to your experience.

  • When answering: talk through the main issues raised, rather than jumping straight into an answer. 

  • Explain how you'd be thinking along the different steps too, not just your actions.

  • Balance the positives and negatives of acting in a particular way. 

  • If the dilemma is an ethical one, it might be helpful to have a look at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) / Bar Standards Board (BSB) codes of conduct.

Firm / Motivation Questions

These questions are ones you can prepare for quite thoroughly. The interviewer is likely to be looking for you to demonstrate that you have done some research and that you are genuinely interested in working for the firm. 


  • Why do you want to work for us?

  • Why do you want to be a solicitor / paralegal etc?

  • What team would you like to end up in? 

  • What sector are you interested in?

How to prepare: 

  •  It can be helpful to have a personal tie to your answer. What experience have you had that made you interested in a particular area of law or in law in general? 

  • Think about what you hope to gain from your career, e.g. personal development, working with a range of clients and colleagues, international experience. 

  • Make sure you thoroughly research the firm.

Legal Questions

Legal questions may be asked after having to complete a commercial activity, like a presentation on a proposed merger. This could be a technical legal question related to the activity or asked in the context of your interest in law. Or the question may be framed in the context of the legal profession in general. 


  • Which area of law are you interested in most? 

  •  Explain the topic of your dissertation. 

  • What is the effect of cuts to legal aid?

How to prepare: 

  • It is impossible to have a deep understanding of every area of the law, even if you are a senior partner in a firm! So, it is best to think of  answers related to something you are interested in. 

  • As a result, if you are asked a technical question which you are not sure of the answer to, you can relate your answer to something you do know about. 

  • Subscribe to newsletters or podcasts on news and commercial awareness (of course you have the LittleLaw newsletter, which gives a bitesize series of insights into issues in the legal industry).

Commercial Awareness Questions 

Although this may seem like a bit of a buzzword, it is something that many firms are keen for you to engage with. These questions may be asked directly during interviews, or the recruiters will be looking for you to demonstrate your awareness within the context of answering other questions. It is an opportunity for you to explain some specific knowledge about current legal affairs which relate to the firm. On top of that, a commercially aware candidate will have a foundational understanding of the key industries in which the firm operates and what recent or future trends are driving that industry. 


  • Who are our competitors and how do we differentiate ourselves from them?

  • What do clients look for in a law firm?

  • What are the major challenges facing the legal industry?

How to prepare: 

  • To avoid getting overwhelmed with information in the week prior to your interview, it can be most practical to read legal news sources or listen to podcasts consistently and over a longer period of time (as opposed to 'cramming' in one go). 

  • Familiarise yourself with the SWOT / PESTLE answer method. That's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for SWOT and Political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental for PESTLE.

What should I do if I don't know the answer?

Credit: Giphy

Your heart stops and your mind goes blank. You have been asked something you have no idea the answer to.

Firstly, don't panic!

Where a question is technical and you are unsure of the answer, the interviewer likely knows it is beyond the scope of your knowledge. They are probably looking for how you can make a reasonable attempt based on information you already have.

Follow these steps: 

  1. Make it known that you are unsure of the correct answer. “I’m not entirely sure, but I think…”. If you delve straight into hypothesising it may come across that you are exaggerating about your ability or that you are simply misinformed. 

  2. Address the main issues of the question. Keeping your answer structured will help you focus the information you have been given, or that you already know, allowing you to consider what an answer might be. Essentially this step gives you time to think out loud. 

  3. Provide a reasoned and informed answer based on what you have said in Step 2. There may not be a right answer. Providing a basis to what you propose might be just what the interviewer is looking for.

  4. Don't be thrown if the interviewer corrects you. Once you have provided an answer the interviewer may tell you that you are wrong and either provide more information or correct you. This is an opportunity to improve your answer further and get to the bottom of the issue.

What questions should I ask the interviewer?

Finally, the moment always comes when the interviewer becomes the interviewee. You may have some factual or practical information that you would genuinely like to know the answer to: “when does the job start?”. However, you always run the risk of becoming too familiar or too probing in your questions. 

Questions to ask

  • Practical questions about the scope of the role or the time frame for the application can be a good filler question to get the ball rolling. Or you might genuinely want to know the answer! For example: "How are the seats allocated? How are trainees chosen to be seconded"

  • Questions which refer back to something brought up in the interview can be a great way to show you are engaged and interested in the topic.

  • Questions about the firm culture and what they enjoy. These might help you get a flavour for if the interviewers actually enjoy their job!

Questions to avoid

  • The number one question to avoid is salary (unless you are directly asked what your salary expectations are). If you want to know those details, email HR.

  • Questions which are too obvious should be avoided. These are ones that can be answered by looking at the firm’s website or googled in a few seconds.

What if I'm nervous?

On the topic of nerves, before you start any preparation, it is important to remember that nerves, butterflies in your stomach, or feelings of anxiety are 100% normal.

Perhaps the only time it can be helpful to compare yourself to other candidates is in knowing that every single one will be feeling the same sort of sweaty-palm-inducing anxiety. And remember, nerves are what help you stay alert and perform at your best.

The recruitment team already want to find out more about you - that's what they invited you - so all you have to be yourself.

Okay, you've got this!

Tackling interviews can be one of the more daunting aspects of starting your legal career. The unexpected nature of their format can make them difficult to navigate. Of course, the more practice you get at them, the more confident you’ll become.

It might seem like there is a huge amount of preparation to do; checking off every eventuality and every question that might be asked. However, the preparation you do for one interview is likely to be useful for the next.

It is also important to keep in mind that it is impossible to prepare for every question that might be asked. Unfortunately, there’s always a curveball. So, getting in a practice interview and learning how to speak 'off-the-cuff' about something you haven’t prepared could be the key to feeling fully prepared.

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