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Taking Apart the Paralegal Interview

published February 22, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
Published By
( 5 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
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Getting ready for, going to, and participating in an interview is challenging, nerve-wracking, and for some, dreadful. Yet the formal interview is the way people get work. In fact, the majority of the hiring process takes place in the interview. There are enough other factors in the interview process to make it the palm-moistening, mouth-drying event that it is, but that factor alone turns knees into Jello and sets hearts aflutter. It helps sometimes to ponder the elements involved.

As one student, with a sense of humor, put it:

First, it's like public speaking, so it makes you sweat even if you're enjoying it. Then, it's personal stuff about yourself, and that makes most of us very uncomfortable. Then, we realize that "they're interviewing lots of others, too" and this builds resentment, and after all this, we say "yeah, but what if they want me?!"

When you think about it this way, you wonder how people do as well as they do in the interview process. Throw in, then, the additional challenge of entering a new world-the legal profession-and we have this double challenge. Thousands of paralegals have faced these challenges successfully over the last two decades, but it still remains a special assignment.

The Effective Paralegal Interview

Let's construct a working definition of an effective legal interview so that we can show how the aspiring paralegal can face this dual challenge. Following this definition will give you a successful formula for planning a winning presentation in the interview:

An effective paralegal interview is a warm, enthusiastic, and poised presentation of your qualifications, background, and skills as they relate to the legal profession. Your professional persona should reflect standards and values consistent with the legal profession. Your well-constructed presentation is directed and focused upon a specific job and firm, as you work to build a mutual intensity of interest that culminates in a feeling -and a sense that you could be a part of the team.

Now, let's examine several elements of this definition of a legal interview

"Warm and Enthusiastic" In an interview, you must believe that all of your past experiences and situations have come together to build a fine professional candidate who is worthy of consideration. The presentation you make must be made with self-esteem, strength, a positive attitude, and a glowing sense that you are a worthy candidate. Even though the field of law might seem a bit intimidating at first, be assured that meekness, weakness, or an unsure approach are generally ineffective in an interview.

"Poised Presentation" All new paralegals should be sure of the content of their background, education, skills, and other pertinent parts of their presentations. The more familiar you are with this "tale," the more poised you will be in making it. There is nothing wrong with a little rehearsal.

"Of Your Qualifications, Background, and Skills" What many people's presentations lack is knowing how to transfer their skills to the present job opportunity. A legal interview should go to legal concerns. The simple chronological recounting of the events of your life, without "filtering" it for legal and paralegal issues, can sound like you are only in need of a job and have nothing of special value to bring to the position.

"And Your Professional Persona" Along with the proper clothing, your demeanor should reflect a person who is up to the challenge of the world of the law. This may require an extra dose of confidence, but for some it also might require extra restraint and seriousness. You should reflect the middle road of confidence and stability. There are as many people who come on too strong as come on too weak.

"Focused on Specific Job and Firm" Many job seekers do not listen while the interview is going on. A lot of essential information is given during the interview which helps the creative and responsible job seeker design the presentation for both the job being described and the firm in which they are interviewing. Remember, you are trying to get invited to be a part of a "professional family." You must gear your presentations to both the job and the environment and people in which that job will take place.

"Mutual Intensity of Interest" The effective legal interview is an active process. If you passively participate in the interview, such as by simply answering questions you are asked, you are missing an opportunity to build enthusiasm on your part and theirs. Often the person who is hired is the one who was able to express the most interest in the job and get the hiring firm excited about their interest. As one recent hire put it, "I knew I had the job when they got as excited as I was. It was almost as if my enthusiasm was reflected back to me, and then it turned into an offer."

"A Part of the Team" Because the special world of the law has some characteristics that make it unique, the "team" is a strong concept. The need for confidentiality creates in firm members the realization that they can only talk with their coworkers about their work. The high stakes, win-lose atmosphere also offers camaraderie among firm members. This is true of all work settings, but it is especially true of the high drama, confidentiality, competitiveness, and tension of the law.

When you interview for a job as a paralegal, you are not trying to get a spot on a production line, per-forming one highly skilled task. You are trying to join a small group of people who will be working very closely together under varying circumstances in an array of work situations. The people you interview with will be looking at your skills and qualifications, but they will also be looking at your potential as a team player. This is an aspect of the paralegal interview that unsuccessful interviewees often forget, and successful job seekers have in the forefront of their minds.

See the following articles for more information:

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

published February 22, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 5 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.