It would help if you prepared well before showing up for an interview regardless of the position or profession. For paralegals, the interviewers will examine you on organization, research, prioritization, interpersonal skills, research and legal knowledge, which you must be well versed in.
You must also show a genuine interest in your practice area of choice. Therefore, you should know how to come up with the correct answers for questions thrown your way. This article sums up 20 of the frequently asked questions to ease your preparation as you await the D-day.
Also, keep in mind that first impression matters, and therefore, your responses to the first questions should be great. Let’s take a look!
1. Why Are You Interested in This Role?
This is a common interview question that seeks to uncover your motive for rendering your application and whether you are a perfect fit.
Tip #1: Focus more on what you can do for the company and not yourself.
Tip #2: Do not mention the benefits of the position, such as prestige or money.
Having worked in several law firms in the past ten years and gained vast experience, I believe that I have what it takes to handle the tasks related to this job. I have also wanted to work for your company ever since I graduated, and it will be an honour if given a chance to serve here.
2. What Are the Roles of a Paralegal?
The interviewer’s work is to determine whether you understand the job description and what is needed of you in the workplace.
Tip #2: You can use the provided job description to answer this.
Tip #2: Mention some of your previous roles if the job listing had no description.
A paralegal conducts legal research, investigations, and documentary research and drafts legal documents, pleadings, and correspondence. He/ she also interviews clients and keeps in touch with them.
3. What Are the Qualities That a Paralegal Should Have to Be Effective?
Every profession or area of practice requires a given set of qualities. Convince the interviewer that you possess them.
Tip #1: Mention the qualities that have seen you through your career.
Tip #2: You do not have to relate these to your practice. Save time.
A paralegal should be highly organized owing to the nature of the work. He/ she should be able to communicate well and work independently. Other qualities include attention to detail, ability to multitask and good computer skills.
4. What Major Challenges Did You Face During Your Last Role? How Did You Manage It?
Every organization requires a problem solver. Every role comes with its fair of challenges, but your value as an employee is pegged on helping come up with a solution.
Tip #1: Do not mention a challenge that you created.
Tip #2: How you handled the challenge is the most important part.
My former workplace was not huge on technology when I joined. The computers and internet were slow, and the research lab was not well stocked. I had a sit-down with the senior partners and suggested some ideas from my former workplace that they could borrow. In no time, the research lab was fully functional, and everything was smooth.
5. Describe Your Daily Routine as a Paralegal?
What do you normally do in your workplace? The interviewer wants to know if you are conversant with your daily duties.
Tip #1: Describe a fully packed day.
Tip #2: You should convince the interviewer that you are busy.
I report to the office early and pick up an assignment from the senior partners or the office manager. If it is a case, I coordinate all its aspects and ensure that everything is done promptly. I also draft correspondences and calculate calendaring activities for filing throughout the day.
6. Describe Briefly About Your Experience
Your job experience is well captured in your CV, but the interviewer expects you to tell him/ her more than that.
Tip #1: Do not dwell on your former workplaces.
Tip #2: Show the interviewer some of the skills and real experiences that you have learnt.
I have worked in three law firms in ten years. I have obtained vast experience in law office management, filing and documentation. I was also part of the paralegal team that represented the country in the International Paralegal Forum, where I attended several workshops that have boosted my career.
7. What Kind of Strategy and Mindset Is Required for This Role?
The right strategy and mindset make the job easier and more fulfilling. Therefore, convince the interviewer that you know how to go about it.
Tip #1: Mention a strategy that has always worked for you.
Tip #2: The mindset that you mention should be related to the job.
Being a paralegal entails lots of research and documentation. The strategy that has always worked for me is being highly organized and attentive to detail. One also needs a positive mindset in case the job gets overwhelming, which happens occasionally.
8. What Is the Biggest Challenge That You Foresee in This Job?
The interviewer expects you to conduct some research and identify some challenges if you are really interested in the position.
Tip #1: Do not mention a challenge that will make you look incompetent
Tip #2: You can twist this to your favour if you haven’t noticed any challenge.
The main challenge that paralegals face is the occasional huge workload, which I have to admit I face at times. However, I have developed an effective work mechanism that puts me in control of everything, preventing me from being overwhelmed.
9. How Do You Keep Motivated?
What keeps you coming to the office daily despite the occasional workload?
Tip #1: Avoid mentioning the perks that come with the job as your motivating factor.
Tip #2: Treat this as a chance to sell yourself.
One needs to stay motivated to perform the roles of a paralegal. I believe that no work should be carried over, and all deadlines must be met, which comes in handy. I also take occasional rests (though not long) when I feel overwhelmed to reenergize.
10. Describe a Time You Failed in This Role and The Lesson You Learned
This is not a trap. We all fail at one point in time. It’s the accountability and lesson that matter.
Tip #1: Do not throw yourself under the bus. However, be accountable.
Tip #2: Do not try and blame others for your failure.
I once forgot to lock my computer when leaving my desk during the early years of my career. Even though I did not stay away for long, someone managed to access it and steal important information that cost us a client. I learnt the importance of data security and have made it a practice to lock my computer provided that I am not on my desk.
11. How Do You Organize Your Day?
Remember, being a paralegal requires a high organization level due to the documentation involved and the tasks at hand.
Tip #1: Show your usage of organizational techniques.
Tip #2: Convince the interviewer that you understand the importance of organization.
I normally use project management software to stay organized and ensure that all my tasks are done before the deadlines. I will also use these tools if given a chance here.
12. Have You Ever Missed a Deadline? What Do You Think You Could Have Done Differently To Avoid That?
Just like the tenth question, the interviewer wants to know if you can learn from past mistakes.
Tip #1: Draw from any experience that shows that you understand how important deadlines are.
Tip #2: Show that you are a critical thinker.
At one point in Johnsons & Burkley, I was working on a large database of case data for an attorney. A different attorney told me to prepare slides for his deposition before I was done. Due to the two concurrent orders, I lost track of time and didn’t finish the first promptly. If I were to find myself in the same situation, I would fully commit to the most urgent one and ask for help on the other.
13. Why Are You Convinced That You Are the Right Candidate? What Skills Do You Have?
The interviewer wants to know if you have the hard and soft skills required in a paralegal and whether you stand out of the pack.
Tip #1: Be outstanding, like the interviewer expects.
Tip #2: You can talk about a time when you displayed the skills.
I have extensive administrative, technical, organizational and research skills, which I believe sets me out of the pack. I have always committed to learning new skills whenever I get the chance to.
14. How Do You Keep Up with The Legal Developments in Your Field?
The interviewer expects you to be up-to-date with most of the things happening in your field.
Tip #1: Show interest in staying updated.
Tip #2: Answer this confidently.
I normally go through all the relevant rulings in the local law journal. I also participate in conferences and webinars and educate myself whenever I come through something I am not familiar with.
15. What Do You Do When an Attorney or Client Behaves Angrily or Unreasonably?
The legal profession has a lot of pressure, which an attorney or a client may try to vent out on you.
Tip #1: show the interviewer that you can handle tense situations well.
Tip #2: never lose your calm
I can maintain my calmness and professionalism in tense situations. I resort to come up with constructive solutions by taking into account the problem-causing issue. This normally quells the attorneys or clients.
16. How Did You Contribute to The Efficiency of Your Previous Firm’s Operations?
The interviewer wants to know if you will be an asset.
Tip #1: Narrate a relevant experience.
Tip #2: Convince the interviewer that you will be an asset.
I helped other paralegals and attorneys reduce the time spent writing up documents by assembling several sample document packets for several cases and legislation stages from initial filings to trial preparation.
17. Have You Ever Interacted with a Difficult Client?
The Interviewer wants to know if you can handle difficult clients.
Tip #1: Give a relevant experience
Tip #2: Highlight how you escalated the situation.
One client was unhappy by the way an attorney was handling his case. He wanted the attorney to handle the case to meet his liking, but the lawyer refused. I had a sit-down with the client and explained why the lawyer’s way was the most correct. I employed lots of diplomacy and persuaded the client, who later accepted the attorney’s way. He was happy with the outcome.
18. How Do You Manage Your Workload and Meet Deadlines?
Employers want people who can deliver. Convince the interviewer that you can meet deadlines.
Tip #1: Show that you are competent
Tip #2: Show prowess.
I normally use the available paralegal software to organize my cases and make a timeline for each case’s deadlines. I also prioritize work based on urgency.
19. Take Us Through Your Process of Making Complex Legal Decisions?
The interviewer is testing your legal mastery.
Tip #1: Show the interviewer that you can make sound legal decisions.
Tip #2: Be articulate and logical
To make complex legal decisions, I first gather all relevant information and facts, generate and explore good alternatives before picking the best option and reaching a decision.
20. How Do You Ensure That Your Work Is Accurate?
You cannot afford to make gross editing mistakes as a paralegal.
Tip #1: Let the interviewer know that you value accuracy.
Tip #2: Highlight that you are attentive to detail
I have made it a habit to go through my final work thrice before leaving my desk. I also use different software such as Grammarly to ensure that the grammar and spelling are correct.
These twenty questions should help you get prepared for your paralegal interview. You can use our sample answers to come up with your responses.