12 Top Paralegal Interview Questions to Ask
December 22, 2022
The right paralegal interview questions help you choose the candidate who will best support lawyers in your firm. Finding a paralegal who is fast, accurate, and knowledgeable can improve the overall client experience and help each attorney be better prepared for court or negotiations. Below, you’ll find interview questions for paralegal jobs designed to help you assess hard and soft skills and get a feel for the candidate’s behavioral intelligence and compatibility with the rest of the team.
1. Why Do You Want to Be a Paralegal?
This question gives you insight into why the candidate chose this career path and may give you, as the interviewer, the opportunity to measure the candidate’s passion for the law or to learn a bit more about them personally.
- An ability to express themselves professionally;
- Enthusiasm for the law and their role as a legal professional;
- An ability to build rapport with the interviewer.
Your paralegal is a legal professional who will be communicating with clients, so look for someone who is well-spoken and relatable, has good communication skills, and can help clients feel at ease.
2. Why Did You Apply to this Law Firm?
One of the most common paralegal interview questions aims to provide insight into how prepared each candidate is. Ideally, candidates will learn about your law firm and what sets it apart from others in your city, whether it is a larger firm or a solo practice.
Consider these questions:
- Did the candidate research your firm before the interview?
- Do their values align with your law firm’s values?
- Do they seem to understand the kind of clients your law firm represents?
If a candidate doesn’t prepare for their job interview with at least a brief perusal of your firm’s website, it could be a sign of inadequate legal research skills as a legal professional.
3. What Legal Responsibilities Have You Had in Past Positions?
If you’re looking for a senior-level paralegal, you expect them to have a background in legal work. Each firm assigns different responsibilities to paralegals, so determine whether the candidate has extensive experience in the law or has simply done light research and prepared paperwork. The answers should be specific; the legal assistant should be able to clearly describe their duties and responsibilities.
- A job description of typical paralegal job duties;
- Details about past responsibilities, including any supervision of junior paralegals;
- Experience with client contact and knowledge of how to work with clients.
An ideal candidate will have the drive to learn more or expand their knowledge of a specific area of the law.
4. What Areas of Law Are You Most Interested In?
A well-qualified paralegal should also have some interest in and enthusiasm for your specific areas of the law. Good candidates should have a ready answer for areas of the law they find interesting and be able to explain why they’re intrigued.
Ask the candidate about their:
- Knowledge of different practice areas, like personal injury, family law, estate planning, or criminal law;
- Thoughts about your law firm’s practice areas;
- Desire to learn more about your practice areas, if the candidate is unfamiliar with them.
If a candidate states a particular area of interest, they should be able to talk about it in more detail. This could be another opportunity to learn about their legal knowledge and understanding of the differences in the legal industry.
5. How Are Your Legal Research Skills?
Legal research is one of the chief aspects of paralegal jobs, and good ones should be able to find relevant information from many sources, including databases like Westlaw, historical records, and other legal documents. Many paralegals should also be able to research relevant case law for particular clients or find information from legal articles or statutes.
- Familiarity with different databases used in your area of practice;
- Ability to locate information and weigh its relevance;
- Analytical skills and ability to summarize research.
Some law firms include a short research task in the paralegal interview, such as asking the candidate to locate a certain statute relating to the law firm’s practice area.
6. How Do You Deal with Aggressive or Demanding Clients?
One of the most critical paralegal interview questions, often overlooked, is how your new paralegal will deal with a client who wants answers immediately or isn’t happy about the information their attorney provided. Handling clients with poise and tact sets adequate paralegals apart from great ones.
- Interpersonal skills needed for successful client interaction;
- Ability to perform under pressure or handle frustrated clients;
- Examples of difficult people they have worked with in the past;
- Examples of their diplomacy methods or how they defuse charged situations.
Your firm may not have paralegals interact with clients often, but when attorneys are busy, a paralegal should be able to provide the human contact clients desire.
7. How Do You Stay Up to Date with Legal and Regulatory Changes?
Ensuring that legal work for clients is relevant and current is critical, and a great paralegal should have a fairly wide breadth of legal knowledge. You may gain insight into your candidate’s learning ability or how they seek the information they need.
- Knowledge of relevant law journals or law school publications;
- Experience attending conferences, participating in webinars, or other training for the paralegal profession;
- Ability to find updated information quickly.
Knowing where to look for updates to statutes, regulations, or changes in tax code is a baseline skill for any paralegal.
8. How Do You Organize Your Day?
The ability to prioritize the most important work every day affects how well paralegals assist their assigned attorneys. Knowing which tasks are most important shows an understanding of how to best complete their duties as legal assistants. Being organized and capable of time management are critical paralegal skills.
- Ability to self-organize;
- Demonstrable knowledge of what is most important each day and each week;
- Ability to shift priorities as needed without losing focus.
Interviewers may ask the candidate how they stayed organized on a large and complex case.
9. How Do You Ensure Accuracy in Your Daily Work?
Accurate legal research and summaries are key for those in the legal profession. Law firms depend on accuracy in drafting documents or case briefs. Many paralegals are entrusted to work independently of their attorneys, submitting polished, professional, and accurate work.
- A tried-and-true method of catching errors and proofing work;
- Specific approaches to verifying the accuracy of documents or briefs.
Look for a deep understanding of why accuracy is so important for paralegals, as well.
10. How Do You Deal with Confidential Information?
Any work delegated to a paralegal by an attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege, so paralegal interview questions dealing with confidentiality and security ethics are necessary to find candidates aware of the weight of their responsibility. You might explain the steps your firm takes to safeguard client information and legal documents and ask how each candidate previously handled client confidentiality.
- Knowledge of how to safeguard digital files as well as traditional ones;
- Understanding of the client obligations of a paralegal.
You might also ask about proactive steps a candidate would take to protect client legal documents and other sensitive information.
11. Do You Have Experience Using any Law Firm Management Software?
Many law firms use law firm practice management software designed to protect digital information and streamline much of the firm’s workflow. A successful paralegal will be able to master any programs used in your firm.
- What types of legal software they have used or are familiar with;
- What their capabilities are in programs commonly used by law firms.
Some candidates may not have had experience with these programs; if a solid candidate hasn’t used a paralegal software platform before, then ask interview questions to determine their comfort level with learning new software and their trainability for the system your firm uses.
12. Why Should We Hire You Over Other Candidates?
Look for candidates who understand how their strengths and experience in the legal profession can benefit your firm. They should be able to communicate the value they will bring to your practice.
- Openness to learning about your firm during the interview;
- Eagerness to join your firm;
- Confidence in carrying out the duties expected of them.
This is one of the paralegal interview questions that doesn’t have one right answer. Instead, it’s another way for legal assistants to show communication skills and sell themselves for the paralegal job.
Paralegal Interview Questions and Answers: the Bottom Line
Open-ended questions for paralegal interviews elicit thoughtful responses from candidates and allow interviewers to learn more than simple yes-or-no questions could. Understanding what each of the interview questions and answers is intended to reveal about the candidate helps you make a better-informed choice for your new hire. These interview questions for paralegals should be at the top of your job interview checklist.
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