LAW PRACTICE INTERVIEW
Try a practice interview for legal jobs, answering typical questions and also getting tips on how you should answer. There are also other questions students have been asked at law interviews.
SOLICITORS need good VERBAL COMMUNICATION and LISTENING skills to deal with clients; INVESTIGATION, ANALYTICAL and PROBLEM-SOLVING abilities to handle legal casework and DECISION-MAKING skills - to assess, for example, the best course of action to follow. They also need the ability to work under PRESSURE and to DEADLINES, and NEGOTIATING and PERSUADING SKILLS. Below is the sort of the evidence you could give at interview to demonstrate that you had these skills:
- Solving Problems. Saturday work in an electrical retailers
- Analysing. Preparing a dissertation for one of your modules
- Making Decisions. Buying an expensive item e.g. a car or computer.
- Spoken communication. Explaining the menu and the day’s specials to customers when working in a restaurant.
- Listening. Voluntary work in an advice bureau or law clinic
Interviewers will also be looking for a genuine interest in the type of law practised in the firm whether this be commercial, private client or legal aid. You should also show an awareness of the context of this law, e.g. business or social issues. Read relevant publications, both legal (see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteslaw.htm#gensites for links) and general (e.g. the Financial Times www.ft.com for City firms or the Guardian’s “Society” section www.guardian.co.uk/society for legal aid work)
The questions asked in this practice interview are typical of those that might be asked of students at interviews for solicitors' training contracts. Only a few general interview questions are included here, so you might also like to try the general or multiple choice interviews as well for
standard interview questions that can be thrown at any candidate, also our answers to 150 common interview questions.
Click on "First Question" to begin. Think carefully about how you would answer, then click on "Show Answer Tips" to get an idea of how you should be answering.
OTHER QUESTIONS KENT LAW STUDENTS HAVE BEEN ASKED
If you have been to an interview or assessment centre recently please fill in our interview report form to help other students.
At trainee solicitor interviews
- Lots of technical questions. e.g. How is a merger/acquisition structured?
- They interviewers went through my CV and asked me why I choose the particular A Levels, work experience, extra curricular activities and skills that I have learnt from these.
- They also asked about something in the media that particularly interested me and why, and my opinion on the issue.
- They asked why I choose their particular firm for a summer placement.
- Give an example of where you had to work in a team. See our competency questions page
- Why do you want to study law?
- What do you think of law?
- Give an example of a recent commercial deal that captured your attention: which party/side in this deal would you like to work for if you were a lawyer and why?
- Questions about my work experience.
- Why do you want to work for our firm?
- Why do you want to work in London ?
- What extra-curricular activities have you undertaken and why?
- Which seats I wanted to complete?
- What modules I liked/disliked?
- What makes me different from other candidates?
- How is our firm different from other firms?
At interviews for pupillages and Inns of Court scholarships
- Why have you applied to study the BPTC at --- law school?
- Why do you want to be a barrister?
- Have you done any more mini-pupillages after you submitted your application form for the scholarship?
- What area of law do you want to practise in and why?
- Where do you want to work geographically and why?
- How did you become particularly interested in family law?
- Isn't what you want to do quite specific? (child care cases)
- What do you think about the recent divorce cases awarding so much money to a partner when marriage has only lasted 3 years?
- Tell us about one of your moots
- How would your friends describe you?
- How do you feel when other people disagree with you? Are you willing to listen to their side of the argument?
- Give us a two-minute potted history of your life, focusing on the high points
- Put forward three arguments in support of (and then against) a mother seeking a hysterectomy for her teenage, learning-disabled daughter.
- In pupillage interviews candidates may be asked to make a submission – such as a bail application or a plea in mitigation – with interviewers taking the role of a panel of judges
Some hypothetical, controversial or more obscure questions
One Kent student commented: "These sorts of questions are very popular (not with me!!). They are trying to see how you construct an argument or how well you can think on your feet and how you react under pressure. Be prepared for them to challenge your opinions and arguments in order to test all these qualities thoroughly"
- Is the current 28-day limit for detention without charge in terrorism cases sufficiently long?
- Should defendants in criminal cases have the right to know the identity of witnesses giving evidence against them?
- Do sporting boycotts have any effect on governments’ human rights policies?
The above questions all relate to issues that were widely reported and discussed in the legal and national press during 2008 – interviewers would expect aspiring lawyers to be aware of such issues and to have an opinion on them!
- How many petrol stations do you think are in the UK? This is a scoping question.
- If you were senior partner in this firm and the BNP came to you for representation what would you do?
- If a Client wanted to pay £750,000 for a house in CASH what would you do?
- What advice would you give to a friend who wants to set up a restaurant?
- How would you explain “the caution” to a client with learning difficulties who is extremely agitated at having just been arrested?
- What would you do if three partners all came to you on the same day with separate pieces of work that all needed to be done by 5pm?
- Explain the difference between contract and tort in layman’s terms;
- What makes you laugh?
- If you could have any super power, what would it be, and why? See our difficult questions page
These are often used to assess your common sense and written communication skills rather than your knowledge of specific legal issues and procedures. You may be asked to write a report that will then be used as the basis for discussion at your interview. See our in-tray exercises page
Examples of written exercises used by firms include:
- Write a letter advising an international student coming to your university what to expect from life in the UK;
- Write a report on the pros and cons of a takeover bid, based on 12 pages of material provided;
- Summarise the facts of a case file, listing its strengths and weaknesses;
- Summarise a Times Law Report for a client who is concerned with the issues it covers but has no specific legal knowledge;
- Write a letter of complaint to a travel company about the accommodation provided on a package holiday.
You will typically be given between 40-60 minutes to complete an exercise of this kind.
CASE STUDIES. See our example case studies
These are usually used by larger firms: they may be set for groups or individuals, and test your analytical, time management, writing and presentation skills. Group case studies will also test your teamworking and negotiation abilities. Below are examples of case studies that Kent students have undergone:
Group Case Study (5 or 6 candidates)
- We were given a very long case relating to a hotel owner wishing to acquire another hotel, and asked how we would advise the client, giving the pros and cons of the various options and the issues to be aware of (lots!). About 10 - 15 pages to read within the allowed time (45-60min). Allowed to take notes. Not allowed to speak yet. Interviewers were absent.
- Discussed with other candidates as to how we would advise the client (45-60min). Interviewers still absent.
- Presentation time: outlining the case, the issues involved and our recommendations to interviewers and answering questions (30 minutes)
Individual case study:
- Your client is a steel company. It is losing money due to, inter alia, a rival company. There's also a proceeding against your client. The rival company is thinking of merging with / acquiring your client's company.
- There's also an extract of a contract regarding the supply of steel between your client and their supplier.
Advise your client regarding the proceeding. What are the pros and cons?
- Time allowed to read the case - one hour.
- The case consisted of about 5-7 pages and there were 3 questions in the end.
- Had to take notes and prepare for the answers to the questions and discuss them with 2 partners in the end.
- During the reading time, you'll be sitting alone in a room.
- When time's up, 2 partners came in and discussed the case in great detail for around 1 – 1.5 hours.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS AT INTERVIEWS
- In 2012 the hot topic is the introduction of alternative business structures allowing non-law bodies, such as retailers and banks, to offer legal services.
- Analyse the issues well from multiple perspectives. It may not be necessary to give a definite or yes/no answer because there is no yes/no answer;
- Make sure you have arguments to back up your answers;
- Be enthusiastic and friendly;
- Prepare questions to ask at the end at the interview.
For City firms:
- Know about the firm - the name of the managing partner, the firm’s turnover and its major clients are absolute basics;
- Read the Financial Times and know what is going on in the business world- something you can talk about confidently;
- Sign up for email alerts from The Lawyer magazine www.thelawyer.com – this brings you the latest updates on firms, clients and cases;
- Basic knowledge of contract law is essential;
- Prepare for questions on M&A, IPO;
- Have at least two recent commercial transactions to talk about;
For “High Street” firms
- Interviews are likely to be less structured and more “conversational” than with large firms. Partners may only interview on an occasional basis so don’t be afraid to take the initiative when answering questions;
- Knowledge of the local area is often helpful so, if the firm is not in an area that you know, do some research (the local authority’s website may be a good starting point – see www.direct.gov.uk for a list);
- These firms will expect you to show a knowledge and understanding of the areas of law in which they practise rather than the firm itself;
- Experience through the Law Clinic will almost always impress;
- They will look for flexibility and good people skills – work experience outside law is helpful in demonstrating these;
- CVs, application forms and interviews for law www.kent.ac.uk/careers/interviews/lawAppsIVs.htm
- Example CVs and Covering Letters www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv/cvexamples.htm
- Interview Reports www.kent.ac.uk/careers/ivreps/ivrepsmenu.htm#LAW A selection of reports completed by students after they have been interviewed by employers in the legal sector. The reports give details of questions asked, tests administered and tips for candidates;
- Psychometric Tests www.kent.ac.uk/careers/psychotests.htm Some larger firms may use these tests at interview;
- Law Careers Pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteslaw.htm Links to a wide range of useful sites relating to careers in law;
- The “Top 100 Interview Questions for Lawyers” www.ten-percent.co.uk/top-100-interview-questions-for-lawyers
- Trainee Solicitor www.traineesolicitor.co.uk includes forums where applicants can give or seek feedback from interviews with firms;
- Roll on Friday www.rollonfriday.com has a similar forum;
- Sample Pupillage Interview Questions from the University of the West of England
- What to Expect at a Pupillage Interview from the University of Liverpool
- Preparing for Pupillage Interviews (City University)
- The following books are available to read at www.howto.co.uk