Securing an interview for a paralegal position is about more than proving yourself to the firm. An employment interview is your opportunity to interview the firm. Treat this meeting as your chance to find out more about the firm, the position, and your future overseeing attorney. It is important to ask the right questions so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to accept an offer if extended.
While you do not need to ask all of these questions, it is helpful to cherry-pick the most relevant. Asking a couple of questions from each category will help you actively contribute to the interview and get the information you need to know.
Questions About The Law Firm
You aren’t going to work your new paralegal position in a bubble. Asking questions about the law firm as a whole helps you understand the firm behind the position. This is your chance to learn about the culture, history, and future of the firm. Asking about pro bono work can help you understand its importance to the firm and if it aligns with your values. If you value community involvement and pro bono work, then working for a firm that does very little pro bono work may not be the best fit. Asking about the firm’s current challenges can help you understand what the main focus is for the partner attorneys. This can help you understand what your future with the firm will be like. Some firms may be solely focused on getting more clients. Other firms may value maintaining their prestigious reputation. As someone working for the firm, can you see yourself working towards the overall goal?
- Tell me about the firm/practice group/organization culture.
- How do you think the firm will grow in the next five years?
- What makes this firm/organization unique from other similar firms/organizations?
- Can you explain the firm’s/organization’s management structure to me in greater detail?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the firm/organization right now?
- Does the firm handle pro bono work?
Questions About the Paralegals at the Firm
Once you feel you have a solid understanding of the law firm, it is time to turn your attention to the paralegals at that firm. Depending on its size, this could be one, two, or several. The ratio of paralegals to attorneys will help you understand the workload. Asking how long the paralegals have worked for the firm will tell you the turnover rate. A high turnover rate could be a sign of a toxic work environment. It could also be a sign of burnout. Firms that ask their paralegals to work a high volume of overtime can quickly induce burnout.
You want a law firm that will invest in you. Look for a firm that will provide training. This will set you up for success. The training could introduce you to the firm’s processes. It could also offer ongoing training that broadens your skillset or refines your current knowledge.
Ask about the review process and opportunities for the paralegals. There should be clear standards that the paralegals adhere to. This helps you feel accomplished and fulfilled by knowing what is expected of you. Asking how other paralegals have been promoted helps you decipher between firms that make promises and claims and those that actually follow through.
- How many paralegals are in this office/firm, and the ratio of paralegals to attorneys?
- How long have those paralegals been with the firm?
- Does the firm provide training for paralegals?
- Is there a performance review process for the paralegals?
- Are the paralegals involved in the pro bono work?
Questions About the Position
The whole purpose of the interview is to discuss the available paralegal position. Some of your questions should be pertinent to this. Asking why there is an open position can help you understand what is going on within the firm. It could be open because the firm is growing and it’s a brand-new position. Perhaps it’s open because the firm promoted another paralegal. If it is a positive reason, the person interviewing you should have no problem telling you the reason. If it is a negative reason, they may decline to answer, claim they don’t know, or give a vague reason. How they answer this question is very telling about the true nature of the firm.
This is also your chance to ask about the day-to-day expectations of the position. You can find out how you’ll receive assignments, turnaround time expectations, workload, and type of assignments. Asking about the different expectations of entry, mid-level, and senior paralegals gives you a better understanding of how you will fit into the firm’s structural hierarchy. It can also help you understand the potential for career growth.
One question many people forget about is to ask about the next step in the process. Don’t leave the interview not knowing what to expect next. The interviewer should be able to tell you when they expect to make a decision and how they will inform you of that decision.
- What circumstances led to this opening?
- How many attorneys would I be reporting to?
- How is work distributed/how will I receive assignments?
- Will I work with the same partners/senior attorneys often, or will I be assigned to projects with different partners/senior attorneys?
- Is there a shadowing or training period?
- What is the next step in the hiring process?
- Why and how long has this position been open? How many people have had this position in the past five years?
- Tell me the level of assignments for an (entry) (mid-level) (senior) paralegal.
- Is there a minimum number of billable hours?
- Can you describe a typical assignment?
- Is there cross-training available in other specialties?
- Are there any expectations for me to contribute to the firm in non-traditional paralegal roles?
Questions About the Ideal Candidate
The person doing the interviewing is there to determine if you are a good fit. However, you also need to think about whether or not you are a good fit. While you may have the right credentials on paper, this doesn’t mean you are going to be happy. For example, you may find out that the minimum billable hour requirement is more than you can accommodate. Or there are some firms that have a minimum requirement, but it’s expected that you work significantly more. While you can meet the minimum, you can’t meet the expected. You won’t be happy getting pressured to work more than you are comfortable with, and the firm won’t be happy you can’t meet their desired hours.
Asking if there are any concerns that could disqualify you is a smart strategy. This addresses any possible drawbacks or negatives that the interviewer sees during the interview. By facing this head-on, you can change the interviewer’s opinion by clarifying or explaining any potential issues.
- What type of person do you see as the best fit for this position?
- What is the annual or monthly billable hour requirement?
- Do all of your paralegals easily meet that billable hour requirement?
- Will most of the work come from the partners, associates, or other paralegals?
- Do you have any concerns about me as a candidate that would disqualify me from the position?
Questions For Your Future Boss
A firm can be amazing, but if the attorney you work with is miserable, you are not going to enjoy your role as their paralegal. It’s always important to have an opportunity to speak directly with the attorneys you will work with on a daily basis. You need to get along with them and be able to develop a rapport. Asking the lawyer about their interest in their practice area and their opinion of the firm will help you understand their mindset. Someone who is disengaged or negative will have this attitude when you work for them. This can make a difficult position even more challenging. However, someone who shows a passion for their work and an interest in sharing that passion will be more pleasant. Asking why the attorney chose to work for the firm can give you insight into the lawyer’s values.
- How did you become interested in X practice area/subject matter?
- Did you focus on X while you attended law school?
- Do you recommend any courses or clinics that would enhance my understanding of X field?
- Why did you choose this firm/organization over others?
- What do you like most about this firm/practice group/organization?
- What do you find most challenging about your practice area?
Are you Ready to Interview for a Paralegal Position?
Before heading into your next interview, review these lists of questions so that they are fresh in your mind. You could even have a few written down. As you go through the interview process, you may find some of them answered naturally. Then, when the time is right, ask the outstanding questions. With a better feel for the firm, the position, and your future attorney coworkers, you can make an informed decision about the position.
Contact our skilled team and let us secure you a paralegal interview.