How to Prepare for a Legal Interview (as a Candidate)
Updated: Apr 14
At Beacon Legal, we’ve coached hundreds of candidates through the interview process over the years. We’ve also received feedback from an equal number of hiring managers. Whilst the dynamic of an interview has shifted over time (particularly in the COVID-era), one constant remains – preparation is the key to success. Here are our top tips for job-seekers looking to (a) perform at their peak in an interview and (b) importantly, get what they want out of the conversation.
1. Read your CV (in conjunction with the job description). It seems self-explanatory, but you’d be amazed how many lawyers forget to read their own CV’s in preparation for an interview. Your CV is the document that interviewers will be referencing and analysing throughout the interview, so it makes sense to familiarise yourself with it. Here are the key things to bear in mind:
Be able to succinctly, but sufficiently, account for the work you’ve done. Talk about your role within a transaction or matter. The interviewers are far more interested in your experience than the transaction itself. For example: “my team was responsible for advising [ABC Company] in its acquisition of [XYZ Company], and I was responsible for the preparation of due diligence reports and various other transaction documents.”
Have a think about your career moves and, for each one, be able to clearly explain the logic behind the transition. This is particularly important for any shorter periods of employment.
Point out any similarities between your CV and the job description. We’ve found that a helpful exercise is to read the job description and your CV concurrently, and (literally) highlight any similarities between the two. In the interview, talk to these similarities when running through your experience. It’s very impressive if you can say:
“I’ve had a lot of experience reviewing [XYZ documents] and I’ve noticed that’s a key component of the job description, so I think my experience would align nicely there.”
2. Think about your answers to the basic questions. In our experience, no matter the interviewer’s style or line of questioning, there are always some key questions that seem to emerge in any interview. It’s important to get comfortable answering these basic questions, as you’ll likely be asked some (or all) of them in any given interview:
Walk me through your background. A very open-ended question and difficult to answer without some prior thought. The key here is to be both detailed, and succinct. Don’t waffle. The question isn’t designed to elicit a lengthy response. Start with your most recent role and (if you need to) work back from there. Since the question is open-ended, feel free to ask the interviewer for a bit of clarity. For example:
“I’m currently in the corporate M&A team at [XYZ Firm], specialising in, largely, private M&A and capital markets work. Prior to that I was a lawyer at [ABC Firm] in their corporate and commercial team. Was there anything specific you wanted me to talk you through?”
Why are you looking to leave your current role? In answering this question, often people make the mistake of focussing too much about the shortcomings of their current role. Sure, if there are genuine, well-founded reasons for leaving your current position, talk about them. But don’t make them the focal point of your answer, and certainly don’t speak ill of your current employer. It can give the interviewer the wrong impression and lead to more questions than answers. Instead, focus on your interest in the role you’re interviewing for. For example:
“I’ve been in my current role for 5 years and, whilst I love my team and the work I’m doing, I feel like I’ve developed all I can. I’m looking for a genuine opportunity to progress my career and I think this opportunity is appealing that for these reasons…”
Why are you interested in this position? Whether you’re asked this question directly, or you weave it into your answer to the above, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your interest in both the company AND the role. Break it down into two parts. Have clear and specific reasons to demonstrate your interest in the business. Be sure to RESEARCH the company thoroughly. Look on the website, search for any recent news articles and be able to clearly articulate WHY the company is of interest. Then talk about your interest in the ROLE you’re interviewing for. For example:
“I’m really attracted to the company for [XYZ reasons], but I also think the role looks fantastic. I really like the fact that it’s a broad, commercial position that will offer me opportunities across a range of legal practice areas..”
3. Ask insightful, relevant questions (throughout the interview). Remember that interviews are a two-way street. They’re (especially in the modern working world) as much an opportunity for you to assess the company as they are an opportunity for the interviewers to assess your credentials. Make sure you ask questions that are well-thought-out, insightful, and genuine. The purpose of asking questions is twofold:
They will give you all the information you need to assess the company and the opportunity; and
They reflect well on you as a candidate, as asking these questions demonstrates you’ve done your research and are genuinely interested in the position.
I’m also a big advocate of asking questions throughout the interview, rather than waiting until the end, for a few reasons. Most importantly, asking questions throughout makes the interview more conversational. In my experience, the best interviews are basically just slightly more structured conversations. They are back-and-forth dialogues, where both parties are engaged in a meaningful discussion. If only one party is asking all the questions, that’s basically a friendlier version of an interrogation.
I hope the above information was helpful. Of course, every interview process is different, so if you have any questions, or would like tailored interview advice, feel free to reach out.
Alex Gotch LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexgotch/