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The Four Parts of a Legal Interview for Paralegals

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Those who leave the interview to fate seem to think that the interview is just one long series of questions and answers. The winning presentations are most often given by paralegals who understand the basic structure of an effective legal interview

The warm-up



The warm-up is actually the most important part of the interview. It comes first and it is the mood setter. A good beginning will have a positive effect on the whole interview. The first five minutes of an interview are the most important. This is very much like a blind date, for it is the first few minutes when people are sizing up, getting feelings, and getting comfortable with one another. If you know how to exude warmth, this would not be a bad time to glow.

Remember, interviewers get nervous too. If you can do your best to let them feel at ease, you will be getting the qualification mechanism working right away. It is only natural to like someone who has made you feel at ease. You gain if the interview goes well. This is when your enthusiasm headlights should be on "high beam." Gooey, gushy, and syrupy do not work, but there should be "warm" in the warm-up as an insurance policy for a successful interview.

Their question, your answer

This is the part of the interview that many consider to be the entire interview. They pass the warm-up and go straight to business. The question-and-answer period should be as friendly and warm as possible. The more Gestapo-like this becomes, the less the "blind date" is working for you. Below we'll discuss typical kinds of questions you will get, but you must also consider the logical points of interest people will find in your resume, bio, and cover letter. Also, look at yourself honestly. Consider where your gaps or weaknesses are, and where potential areas of concern might lie. Do not assume that because someone is focusing on a gap or an area of weakness that they do not favor you. If a person is hoping to hire you, they may be particularly interested in potential weaknesses so that they can make a good case for you in a later meeting. Remember, the more you have dealt assertively with gaps and weaknesses in your bio, the less you will have to entertain questions about it in the Q&A.

The following is a list of often-asked interview questions that you may want to consider before each interview.

FREQUENTLY ASKED LEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
 
  1. Why do you (with your background) think you can be a paralegal?
  2. Have you ever done this type of work (practice area) before?
  3. Why did you choose the field of law?
  4. Tell me about yourself.
  5. Why do you want to be a paralegal?
  6. Why should we hire you?
  7. What is your greatest strength?
  8. What is your greatest weakness?
  9. Five years from now, where would you like to be?
  10. Do you really think you can handle (least desirable feature of job)?
  11. You seem to have changed jobs a lot.
  12. How do you feel about a (male/female) boss?
  13. What kind of person bothers you?
  14. Why have you been out of work? (Gaps)
  15. How are you with office politics?
  16. How do you react when things get stressful?
  17. If someone yells at you, what do you do?
  18. Will you really work for this kind of money? (Asked of transitional people)
  19. Do you want to be a lawyer?
  20. How many years are you willing to give us?

Your Questions, Their Answers

There is nothing wrong with coming in with a pad of paper and pen. If you have questions written down, this shows a degree of preparation that bespeaks professionalism and seriousness. Usually a good interviewer will answer most of your questions before you get a chance to ask them. One good global question that a paralegal can ask which seems natural and logical is, "How would you describe this firm's style as a home for a future employee?" or "What's it like to work here?" You should also ask specific questions you have about the nature of the practice and job. This will demonstrate your interest in the details of the position.

Questions that relate to the firm and the job description should be asked early in the interview process, demonstrating your interest in making a strong individual contribution. The area of job benefits may arise early as a standard part of the employer's presentation. Since the interviewee does not want to give the impression that they are only interested in the benefits, questions about benefits should be saved until the end of the interview process, near or at the tendering of an offer.

There are many questions you should be aware of and ready to ask questions about compensation, overtime, billing rates (hard requirements and soft requirements), vacation, sick time, benefits, and times for review. Remember, never accept a job if there is any area of concern you have not explored. This is your responsibility. Ask the question in the interview or forever hold your peace. One person I counseled accepted a job based upon an assumption of paid overtime. But there was none, the firm paid no overtime. This disgruntled her. She said, "It just makes me mad that I failed to ask. It's not that I have to work that much OT."

The Positive Conclusion: With a Bang, Not a Whimper Studies show that most interviews wind down in a kind of anticlimactic fashion. They go out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Again this is the responsibility of the interviewee. If the interviewer orchestrates the interview to a resounding conclusion, that is good for you the interviewee, because you get a chance to repeat how much you enjoyed the talk, seeing the offices, and describing your background. But, if the interviewer does not know how to tell you that "It's over," you should grab the reins and positively conclude. Do it with a short recap of your qualifications and a truly sincere statement about wanting to meet them again, or even how you would like to have the job. This is the close. Salesmen know this word very well. You, at least, should end with a declarative statement of interest. This and the warm up are very much the blind date part of the interview, and they tend to be neglected. In fact, the worst interviews do not have a warm up, questions from you or a successful conclusion, but are simply Their Q and Your A.

See the following articles for more information:
 


About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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