Paralegal Interview Questions and Answers
Looking for a job as a paralegal? Whether you’re a fresh graduate or someone reentering the workforce after a career change, getting called up for a job interview is an experience that will give you a mix of excitement and nervousness.
If you’re reading this, chances are you have found a job that you really want to land. So to give you an even better shot, we’ve put together the most common interview questions asked in a paralegal job interview. We’ll talk a bit about why these questions are asked and also tips for answering them.
Being well prepared for these paralegal interview questions can help you make a lasting impression and stand out from the rest of the applicants.
1. Why are you here?
No matter what job it is, some interviewers like to lead with this question. Avoid answering this by saying that you have been called for an interview – then stopping there. Instead, this is a great opportunity for you to express what got you interested in working for the company or legal firm. How did you know about them and what makes them stand out from other options? Talk about how potentially working here aligns with your vision for your career, including what contributions you’d like to make or what skills you’d like to further develop in this position.
2. Why do you want to work as a paralegal?
This is another question that can be asked at the beginning of the interview. This is an opportunity to speak about your own values or how you’d like to contribute to society. You can also showcase skills or traits that you have which make you such a good fit for the profession.
Some of the traits you can highlight include:
- Good judgement
- Attention to detail
Some of the skills you can highlight include:
- Excellent communication skills
- Good research and writing skills
- Being able to organize information
- Being able to prioritize tasks and manage time
- Being able to work well under pressure
3. Are you planning to eventually apply for law school?
Because paralegals and attorneys share plenty of similar responsibilities, it is not uncommon for paralegals to transition to attorney positions some time in the future. Though it is important to be honest if this is something you are thinking about, it is not necessary to disclose this plan unless you are absolutely sure about it and feel comfortable sharing it.
Some firms may see this negatively as the educational pursuit might divide your attention or even take you away from work completely. Though to some, this will show ambitiousness and may be seen in a positive light. So be careful in answering this question especially if you are not yet 100% determined to go to law school.
4. What areas of law are you interested in the most?
This is a great opportunity to talk about the areas of the law that you are interested in and how it has brought you to seek out the law firm that is now considering you. Tie this back to the values that you uphold and/or to the skills that you have to offer.
Maybe there have been related cases that have struck you under this area of the law – talk about those. By expounding on your answer, you are able to show more and more how you are a good fit for this law firm.
5. What steps do you plan to take to be updated on legal developments in your field?
The learning of a paralegal never stops. Aside from continued learning being a desirable trait in a job applicant, it may also be required depending on where you practice. For instance, the Law Society of Ontario requires licensed paralegals who provide legal services to complete at least 12 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) every year.
But continued learning can be incorporated into regular habits like perusing the relevant rulings in the local law journal or as simple as educating oneself immediately when one encounters unfamiliar concepts over the course of the job.
6. What is your ideal work environment?
This is another general question that is asked in many job interviews. This unimposing question actually takes a look into how well you will thrive in the work environment of the law firm. And since you will potentially be a part of the work environment, this can also show what you will bring to the table.
Typically, the work environment of a paralegal is clean and organized to support the fast-paced nature of the job. Expressing your understanding of this shows you’re ready to work in an environment like this. It’s also good to express that you will do your part to help maintain such an environment which is conducive to maximum productivity.
Do you prefer working on your own or with a team? (H2)
Teamwork is vital for the success of a legal case and as a paralegal, you will be the backbone of the team. Therefore, being able to work with different people must be something that you express readiness for. As part of a legal team, you will be working with the following:
- Other paralegals
- Legal secretaries
You can talk about how well you understand the roles of these key players as you work in a team with them. But with all this said, it’s also important to express that you also have the skills to be efficient and productive on your own. So essentially, you must have a balance of being a team player while also being able to work independently.
7. Can you give me an example of a conflict you had with a coworker or superior (or in the academic setting) – how did you handle that situation?
The law firm can be a demanding and stressful environment at times. With this much pressure, conflicts can brew. One of the worst answers would be that you have never had any conflict at all because this is simply not believable – moreover, it can suggest that you don’t have enough experience to deal with conflicts if they arise. So really think back on a specific scenario.
As you answer this question, it is an opportunity to show attributes that allow you to handle conflict well. You can focus on attributes such as:
- Being able to maintain calm and focused communication
- Being able to take your share of responsibility in what happened
- Being able to carefully listen to the other party
- Being open-minded
- Being able to acknowledge your own faults
- Being able to look for opportunities for improvement in each conflict
- Being able to disassociate from a conflict that cannot be presently resolved to get the job done
8. How would you deal with the pressure coming from intimidating or aggressive lawyers who need a work product from you?
The pressure is another aspect of paralegal work that you need to be prepared for. This question allows you to showcase whether or not you have the right attitude towards pressure. It’s important to keep cultivating these attitudes over time. Here are a few helpful attitudes to have when the pressure rises at the workplace due to increased workload or really tight deadlines:
Stay positive but set the right expectations
Work products could pile up and it can be tempting to accept all of them without question – to please superiors. However, this can lead to missed deadlines, work that is poorly done, and/or burnout. So though it is important to have a positive attitude toward more work, it is important to be clear and honest about what you can deliver.
Always make sure you understand priorities
When a lot of work needs to be done and all of them seem to be needed immediately, make sure that you clarify what is the order of prioritization. This can help you better manage your time and workload to be able to deliver on what is most important first.
Have a sense of urgency and problem-solving
Having a sense of urgency does not always show itself as work that is completed on time, perfectly. Having a sense of urgency also means that you respect the deadline enough to know early on if you will miss it. In such cases, it is important to let the affected parties know in advance and propose a solution so as to not miss the deadline.
9. What are your legal research skills?
Legal research is one of the tasks that paralegals do daily – so showing your prowess in legal research is definitely important. You can also cite past instances of when you were able to exemplify these skills as you did legal research. Here are some examples of legal research skills that you can highlight:
- Being able to develop a holistic understanding of the subject first and foremost – like developing the foundation for the rest of your research
- Being able to use online legal research tools (e.g. Casemaker, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Ross Intelligence)
- Being able to check multiple sources to ensure accuracy
- Being able to gather and retain information from discussions with seniors and colleagues
Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare Again
The most important thing you can do before walking into any interview is to prepare. As you practice outlining your thoughts for these questions and answering them, you will be able to develop more confidence and readiness for the interview. With enough preparation, you won’t really need luck anymore – but either way, we at Cestar College wish you the best of luck