banner image

Legal Interview Tips That Work

  • June 25, 2024

It’s often said that we spend a significant portion of our lives at work, and for legal professionals, this commitment is even more pronounced due to the substantial investment in their careers. Finding the ideal career fit is crucial for overall happiness and well-being, particularly concerning factors like compensation, professional satisfaction, and workplace culture. Recent trends underscore a noticeable shift in candidate priorities in these areas.

However, navigating the job search process can be challenging, as success in the initial stages often hinges on factors beyond individual control. Many individuals struggle to find the necessary guidance to navigate this journey effectively – whether they’re freshly qualified and looking for their first legal role, or indeed a seasoned professional who may not have been on active job market for several decades.

What’s more, ATS and CV-scanning tech, competing candidates and evolving industry demands are just some of the challenges that meet candidates at the screening stage and while a well-written CV can significantly improve success rate, the following one presents a challenge that tends to bring most right out of their comfort zone, that being the oft-dreaded interview.

Nerve-wracking, daunting, and often a stumbling block for many candidates (or so it is perceived) it forces you to sell yourself convincingly and succinctly to demonstrate that you are quite literally the right person for the job – a skill not easy to master in the legal space, but one that need not be difficult to learn.

Here we look at what makes a great interview, how to make that first impression memorable, and how to use the meeting to your advantage as well with expert legal interview tips that work.


Fail To Prep At Your Peril

Starting with the golden rule of all interviews – your preparation should leave no stone unturned in covering all bases. You should want to go into the interview well-aware and well-prepared for what impression you intend to make on the hiring manager.

To this end, your first objective should be to think about what you intend to get out of the meeting. Yes, you are there to impress and prove your candidacy but how you do this through your answers and overall communication will differ somewhat from interview to interview. To get started ask yourself the following:

Q: What kind of first impression do I want to give my employer? If the job description asks for an adept problem-solver with the ability to lead a project, then your first port of call is to ensure that you’re ready to showcase those characteristics during the meeting.

Q: What are the key messages I want to communicate – whether verbally or non-verbally? If your interviewer could only go away from the meeting remembering one thing about you what do you want it to be? Is it the expertise or wealth of experience you have in your field or perhaps the drive you have to continue finding ways to deliver in your role? How are you going to make those messages stick?

While these can seem tricky to figure out at first, they don’t need to be – as there is a myriad of resources now available at your fingertips, and even more so when you utilise the services of a specialist legal recruiter. Their knowledge and experience in supporting candidates at this juncture of the process, as well as the profile and requirements of the employer, can prove instrumental in making your preparation foolproof and equip you with the know-how you need to nail it on the big day.


Know Your Audience

When it comes to preparation, be prepared to get specific. By delving into the finer details of the position in question and gaining insights into what success looks like in the role, you’ll equip yourself with the knowledge to articulate how your skills and experiences align perfectly with the firm’s needs. This proactive approach not only showcases your preparedness but also demonstrates a genuine interest in the role and the law firm. Key areas deserving your attention during this research phase include:

The firm’s brand and personality – are they corporate or have more of a family feel?

Their vision, mission, and values as well as any terms, words, or phrases that communicate this most effectively. A good place to find this is on their website, on an About Us or similar titled page where their mission statement and value are outlined

Interviewer profile: This is something your recruitment consultant will be able to help you with – although a simple LinkedIn search will give you a head start not just on their own area of expertise, but any content/posts they publish which may indicate their personality, their passions and their impact on the sector more generally

Reviews: Seek out reviews on the firm on the likes of Glassdoor company to get a gauge of what it’s like to work at the firm. Some individuals also leave reviews about the legal interview experience itself – invaluable to get an idea of what to expect

Digital Footprint: Company news or updates via press releases on industry websites and articles – in particular any recent big wins achieved by the business that has been publicised online. If you’re able to show you are as invested in the firm’s success as they are, you will significantly improve your chances of landing a killer first impression.

It’s worth taking into consideration the type of interview you can expect as well, as this will guide your preparation accordingly. Again, a recruitment consultant can help in this regard, as they can give you pointers and tips on what the hiring manager will be expecting and how best to prepare if you will be required to give any presentations or take any assessments.


First Impressions at Your Legal Interview; Making Them Count

As the famous saying by Oscar Wilde goes, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

Whilst this may not be true in all cases, it remains a great way to capture the importance of first impressions and a good pointer for any candidate aiming to impress in an interview. With only a few seconds afforded to make your mark upon first meeting the interviewer, the level of your suitability is often communicated before the legal interview even starts. As such, everything else about you, from your dress code to your body language and mannerisms, should exude confidence and enthusiasm that leaves as strong an impression as possible.

Other key tips to ensure you make a positive first impression:

Dress Code- Check with your recruitment consultant or directly with the interviewer to determine the appropriate attire. When in doubt, it’s always safer to dress conservatively and professionally.

Body Language- Stand up straight with good posture. Approach with a smile, which conveys warmth and friendliness. Offer a handshake confidently; make sure it’s firm but not overpowering.

Communication- Speak clearly and confidently. Pay attention to your tone and pace of speech to convey enthusiasm and interest in the role.

Mannerisms- Be mindful of your gestures and facial expressions. They should align with your words and reflect positivity and engagement.

Awareness- Be mindful of other members of the team you meet or speak to on the day – the Receptionist for example may be the first person you speak to and the last!

By focusing on these aspects, you can ensure that your first impression is not only positive but also sets the stage for a successful interview.


Approach Legal Interview Questions With Confidence

While it’s not possible to prepare for every single question that can come up in a legal interview, there is still much you can do to ensure you are ready for what may be thrown at you. Starting with the questions themselves, make a list of common interview questions relevant to the role that you are likely to be asked, and use the below guide when crafting your answers for each one.

Use examples in your answers that specifically point to how you demonstrated the key characteristics they are looking for. The job description is a great reference point in this regard, as it will help to tailor your answers to the requirements of the job in question, no matter what question you are asked.

Don’t be thrown off by complicated questions: The question “What’s your biggest weakness?” can be one of the most overwhelming for candidates. A good way to answer this is to think about something skills-wise you’re struggling with but show how you’re working to improve. For instance, maybe nerves tend to get to you when doing public presentations, but you’ve been taking regular speaking classes in your own time to overcome your anxiety and improve your delivery.

Make a note of key numbers and statistics that can back up the statements and examples in your answers. Numbers, percentages, and other quantitative data make a real impact in interviews and add greater credibility to your accomplishments as they are actual quantifiable results that speak for them.

Remember that you will likely also be asked why you applied for this firm and your role in particular, and your research into the business will be key in crafting a good answer to this question. Try to highlight some key facts about the company how you as a person and a professional relate to them, and how the role allows you to do something that both you and the firm value in your professional life.

Once you’ve written out your answers, have a friend or colleague (or even your recruitment professional) go through these with you in a mock interview. It may seem a bit overkill, but it can help to boost your confidence and smoothen your delivery.


Don’t Be Put Off By Competency Based Questions

Competency-based questions often start with the phrase: “Tell us about a time when”. They’re designed to give the firm insight into how you react to specific circumstances. To prepare for these kinds of behavioural questions, it’s good practice know your way around the “STAR” technique.

The STAR method asks you to take an example of impressive behaviour from your past and arrange it into a particular structure. The acronym encourages interviewees to:

  • Situation: Describe the circumstances relevant to the question.
  • Task: Outline the details of your responsibility in that situation.
  • Action: Explain the action steps that you took to address these challenges.
  • Results: Talk about what your actions achieved.

Using these four steps to shape your anecdote will make it easier to deliver a highly focused and relevant answer.


Projecting Confidence in Your Legal Interview

Equally as crucial as thorough preparation, confidence plays a pivotal role in bringing out your best self on interview day and should be considered an integral part of your readiness. While interviews typically emphasise verbal communication, how you deliver your responses often matters more than the content itself. Many candidates find managing nerves challenging, yet overcoming this hurdle is less daunting with the right mindset. Effective preparation is essential, but seizing control of your interview experience involves additional strategies.

A few ways to increase your confidence before the big day include:

Have a go-to response ready when you need a moment to think. If you feel you’re prone to or fear blanking at the most inconvenient of times, then this can help to steady the nerves in the moment. Something like “That’s an excellent question. Let me think about that…” can be useful in buying yourself the time you need to get going again.

Using visualisation to mentally rehearse: A useful tip to implement when rehearsing your answers is to do so while visualising in as vivid a manner as possible, what the interview experience might be like. Remember, that this is intended to be a simulation of the real thing, and as such questions shouldn’t be rushed, and professional attire is a must when practising. If there are any parts of the visualised interview that you’re particularly nervous about, practice them with a friend.

Relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness are also worth learning for those who find anxiety a real issue in high-pressure moments, or their daily lives, and help to avoid getting stuck in their head and ground them in the present moment. That said, it should not be a substitute for a good night’s rest, as you want to be performing at max capacity on the day. Lack of sleep will only make that much harder to achieve.

Practising positive thinking: Negativity can get the better of us at times. If you’ve yet to experience the breakthrough you’ve long been waiting for in your job search, you may be getting a sense of déjà vu at this junction and perhaps even write yourself off before the big day arrives, expecting the worst of yourself in front of the interviewer. Try not to think this way as it will kill any ounce of confidence you have left in your ability. Instead, look back at the answers you crafted to your competency-based question, as that is what you should be judging yourself on as a professional. Even if you lack something to give for those answers, the point is that your suitability for the role in question is evidenced by the hard work and commitment you produced to get to this point – whether that be through education or experience. When that belief resonates in your answers it will start to spill over to your mannerisms and body language.


Mastering Non-Verbal Communication

Your body language will be another way that the interviewer will asses how confident and experienced you come across, and what they are more likely to remember, especially if they are in stark contrast to what you or your CV says. As overall communication is majorly non-verbal, the little things certainly matter in this instance whether that be a simple handshake or sitting posture. Fail to make the right impact with it and you could find yourself losing out on a great opportunity.

Some tips to bear in mind:

Smile! I know you might be full of nerves and smiling is a great icebreaker for all concerned so use it to your advantage

Concentrate on posture: Keep your chin up and your spine straight whether you’re sitting or standing. Lean forward slightly in your chair to indicate interest and avoid crossing your arms or fiddling with things on the desk in front of you.

Practice a firm handshake: During the handshake, make sure that you’re looking at the person, and giving them a genuine smile. Show them that you’re happy to be there.

Suppress any restless habits: Avoid crossing and uncrossing your legs, cracking your knuckles, tapping your foot, or biting your nails. All of these small quirks indicate nerves and may be deemed as impolite.

Make eye contact: Make eye contact during your interview, rather than continually staring at the clock or down at your CV. However, be careful not to stare continuously at the hiring manager, as this can make them uncomfortable. Balance it out by making eye contact as you listen to and respond to questions, but let your eyes wander occasionally.

Use your hands: If you’re not sure what to do with your hands, then use them to gesture while you’re speaking. Hand movements can show passion during a conversation. Just make sure that they’re not so aggressive that they distract from what you’re saying!


Show Your Ambition

Talking about your future during your legal interview demonstrates a genuine dedication to forging a path of progression for your career within the business. It also helps you understand what opportunities might come your way. Share what you’re looking for in the role and ask about the company’s development options for its employees.

You may want to ask:

  • Is there a mentorship programme where you can learn from other leaders and further build your skill set?
  • Does the company offer plenty of training solutions and chances to learn new things?
  • How does the business approach things like development plans?
  • Will you get regular one-on-one interviews to assess your progress towards your goals?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development when you get into this role? What might the next step look like for you?
  • What happened to the last person that held this job? Did they move into a bigger role or switch companies?
  • What are your thoughts about lateral movement? Do employees have an opportunity to explore other projects in different roles?


Approach The Legal Interview As A Two-Way Street

A big thing to remember with any interview is that they are more than just an evaluation by the hiring manager. It’s a great opportunity for you to envision your future with a potential employer and assess whether the role aligns with your aspirations. It goes beyond simply looking for a job; you are actively exploring whether the company culture and dynamics resonate with your professional ethos.

Preparing intelligent, well-thought-out questions shows the interviewer that you’re thoroughly prepared and that you understand what exactly you’re getting into. Your questions show that you’re interested in the position and that you have ambitions to excel in your new job.

Some potential questions include:

Q: Can you tell me more about the responsibilities of this job: If the day-to-day responsibilities have already been discussed in the job description, you can skip this question. However, if they’re vague, this is your opportunity to determine exactly what you’ll need to do in your new role.

Q: How can someone excel in this role? This question often leads to valuable information about how the business measures things like success and performance in the workplace. You can even ask how you’ll be assessed going forward, and how regularly you can expect to get feedback.

Q: Where do you see the company heading in the next five years? This question shows an interest in and points to a commitment to being in it for the long-term, and your interest in its progress.

Q: What do you expect me to achieve in this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days? This gives you an overview of the goals you’ll be pursuing when you begin your new job.

Q: Can you describe the culture of your company? It’s important to know if you’ll fit well with your team members. A brief description of company culture will show you whether your personality is a match for the business dynamic.

Q: What do you like best about working for this company? Asking for your interviewer’s personal experience of working within the company is an excellent insight into what you can expect from your new employment.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the firm or that specific department today? This question shows an eagerness to seize the opportunity and assist the firm in overcoming any difficulties. You might even discover areas in which your specific skills can save the day.

Q: What is the typical career path for someone who takes this role? This question will give you an overview of how career advancement works in your chosen organisation. It may also show you whether you can expect some regular support and training when working towards your career goals.

Q: What are the next steps in the interview process? This question indicates that you’re eager to move to the next stage with the business. It will also give you an insight into the timeline you can expect to follow for hiring. You’ll know when you can follow up appropriately, without pestering the company.

Q: Is there anything about my CV or background that makes you question my fit for this role? Here, you’re demonstrating a commitment to making the right impression as a candidate. This question also means that you have an opportunity to respond to possible concerns.

Remember, there are some questions to avoid asking in a job interview too. For instance, you won’t need to ask what the business does if you’ve done your research. Additionally, it’s a good idea not to ask about benefits and changing things straight away.

If you are looking for a new role due to dissatisfaction in your current one, you want to consider more strategically focused questions too, and use the interview as an opportunity to conduct your own due diligence of sorts.

Interviews can be stressful and nerve-wracking experiences. However, with the right preparation strategy in place (and legal interview tips to help you) you’ll feel more confident walking into the initial meeting with the company that’s right for you. Using the tips above, and some support from your legal recruitment specialist, you can ensure that you’re ready to make the right impression in an interview – and crucially get one step closer to getting that dream role.


Clayton Legal has over 20 years experience helping candidates in the legal sector to take the next step in their careers. Our work doesn’t just involve matching legal professionals with roles – we’ll work with you to make sure your professional profile stands out in the market, that you feel fully prepared for your interview, and that your preferences and requirements are met every step of the way.

If you are thinking of taking that next step, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

banner image

Are You Making These 7 Interview Mistakes?

  • February 1, 2023

Interviews can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. If you’re applying for an amazing new job opportunity in the legal sector, the pressure to present yourself as a reputable, trustworthy, skilled and reliable individual can quickly get on top of you, no matter how confident you usually feel.

While most interviewers expect to see a few signs of nerves in candidates, making certain mistakes during this crucial conversation could mean you miss out on a fantastic role.

Whether you’re meeting with an employer through a video conference or participating in a face-to-face interview, it is key to be prepared.

So here are some of the most common interview mistakes you should always avoid.

1.  Not Being Prepared

Perhaps the biggest cardinal sin any legal candidate can commit is failing to prepare fully for the interview. It should always be your number one priority, before going into any interview, to research the firm thoroughly. Take a closer look at the job description and ensure you know exactly what your employer is looking for, so you can prepare answers to interview questions that showcase the right competencies and characteristics. Examining the job description carefully will also help you determine whether the role is right for you.

Study the firm’s website to get a feel for its culture, vision, and values, and try to incorporate these factors into your answers too. Check the firm’s social media channels, and ask your legal recruitment agency for advice. The support and guidance that they offer during these times can be invaluable.

2.  Dressing Inappropriately

Times have changed, although not that much that dressing appropriately for an interview no longer matters. Most interviewers won’t give you a specific dress code to follow before you turn up for the conversation, so it’s up to you to use your common sense. If you’re unsure whether the firm is generally a bit more “laid back” about dress codes, dress professionally.

You don’t necessarily need to wear a suit for every interview, but you should focus on letting the level of professionalism you want to bring to the interview show through your dress code. This applies not just to face-to-face interviews but video interviews too. Hiring managers still expect to see professionally-presented candidates when they’re interacting over video.

Dressing properly will show your interviewer that you’re taking the interview seriously.

3.  Talking About the Wrong Things

For a hiring manager in the legal industry, an interview is a chance to get to know candidates better, evaluate their competency for the role, and determine whether they will fit the firm’s existing culture well. The things you discuss in your interview should highlight why you’re a good fit for the position and business.

With this in mind, make sure you don’t start talking about the wrong things. Don’t immediately jump into a discussion about salary (you can ask about this later), and try not to get too caught up in small talk at the beginning of the interview, either.

Most importantly, never criticise former employers or colleagues. Talking negatively about a previous place of employment will make you look petty.

If you’re asked questions like “Tell me about a time that you didn’t work well with your manager”, don’t try to pin the issue entirely on them. Focus on the communication issues or other problems which contributed to the situation.

4.  Not Being Punctual

A well-known quote says, ‘the way you do anything is the way you do everything.’

Therefore, an interview is the first opportunity to demonstrate how you ‘do’ things and what kind of employee you will be to your potential employer. Arriving late is never a good sign, as it shows you’re not well-organised, punctual, or good at time management – even if you have a valid excuse.

Ensure you’re going to arrive on time or early for your interview by planning your route and setting off early if you’re concerned you will be affected by traffic. If you’re taking part in a pre-screening interview over video or your interview is a video conference, make sure you check all of your software and hardware is working in advance.

When the interview begins, don’t rush off to grab your CV and other resources before you can start talking. Show you’re well-prepared by having everything you need in front of you. If you can’t avoid being late, call your hiring manager to let them know what’s happening as soon as you’re aware you’re not going to arrive on time.

5.  Poor Body Language

Around 55% of communication is non-verbal. It’s not just what you say that your hiring manager will be paying attention to in an interview, but how you present yourself too. Slouching in your seat, constantly checking the time, or fidgeting all show your potential employer you’re distracted or uninterested in the role.

Before an interview, take a few deep breaths to focus. Concentrate on regularly making eye contact with the people you’re talking to, sitting straight, and maintaining confidence. Keep your hands in front of you on the table or in your lap, and never check your phone during a meeting.

If you’re worried about what your body language might be saying about you, it could be helpful to practice some “interview scenarios” with friends before you go for the actual meeting.

6.  Not Listening Properly

Employers want their legal employees to be passionate, engaged, and attentive. With this in mind, you should always show your hiring manager that you’re listening carefully to every word they say. If you feel your attention slipping during a particularly long interview, make an extra effort to stay engaged. Lean forward slightly, make eye contact, and focus.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve understood a question correctly, ask your hiring manager about it. It’s okay to double-check that you know what they’re looking for when they query something. Just try not to ask your hiring manager to repeat themselves constantly.

A good way to show you’re actively listening is to rework the question into your answer. For instance, if someone asks you to “tell them about a situation where you acted as a leader”, you could say, “I think I showed my leadership qualities best during…”

7.  Failing to Ask Questions

Preparing for an interview doesn’t, of course, bring an end to learning about the firm in question. There is also another element of an interview that is essential in not only demonstrating your enthusiasm and interest for the role and firm, but actually ensuring you are sense-checking job suitability against your own objectives while you’re in the room.

All interviews, whether they are conducted over the phone, over video/virtually, or face to face, will present the opportunity for you as the candidate to ask questions.

Pass up this opportunity at your peril.


In Conclusion:

Interviews can be an anxiety-provoking experience, even for the most confident people. Not only must you show your best side to your potential employer, but you also have to find a way to stand out from the competition, and the pressure of presenting yourself correctly can quickly get on top of you.

But by avoiding these common pitfalls and getting your preparation right, you can significantly increase your chances of making a positive impression on the hiring manager and landing that legal role.

At Clayton Legal, we are committed to helping candidates every step of the way in finding their dream legal role, and part of that means giving them whatever support they need in preparing for upcoming interviews. Having built up valuable working relationships with many of the law firms we work with, we’d like to think we know a thing or two about some of the most discussed topics around culture, structure and remuneration.

If you are considering making the next step in your legal career, our team are here to point you in the right direction and give you the rundown of what opportunities are in your region and practice area.

Get in touch today for a confidential, impartial chat and we’ll help you take that all-important first step in the next stage of your career.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

banner image

Interview Preparation tips for Law Graduates

  • May 20, 2022

1. Do your research.
Lawyers are known for being good researchers. You spent countless hours in law school researching and scrutinizing information. Before every interview, know who you will be speaking with and research their background. Find them on LinkedIn, and conduct a light Google search to find any commonalities between you and your interviewer(s). Note down their accomplishments, awards, and accolades. Bringing it up during your interviews will show them you took the time to get to know who they truly are and gives them a sneak peek into your research capabilities.

On top of knowing the interviewers, walk into your interview with a deep understanding of the firm itself. After all, this is where you plan to dedicate your next several years. Having a good understanding of the firm’s founding story and partners will give you a good sense of the culture the firm builds.

Know what role in the firm you would have if you got the job. Knowing this in great detail will help you craft your narrative on where you want to take your career and how the firm closely aligns with your goals.

2. Be presentable and dress your best.
A Solicitors core job is to represent their clients, and coming to your interview polished and presentable bodes well. First impressions are powerful, and making it extremely important to you as you prepare for an interview will heighten your chances of being well received by your interviewers. The good news is law fashion has loosened up over the years.

3. Come prepared to ask questions.
What kind of lawyer would you be if you were not naturally curious and thorough? Let your curious nature shine through during your interview by coming prepared with well-thought-out and intelligent questions. Avoid questions that are related to your personal benefit. For example, don’t talk about money, vacation time, billable-hour logistics, and other related questions.

Think big picture and ask about the successes of the firm, where the firm is headed, and how you can contribute to their growth. Promote positivity in the interview and avoid any negative sentiment. If they were in the press for a controversial case, avoid bringing up uncomfortable topics that could sour moments in your interview.

4. Be personable and show enthusiasm.
Good Solicitors know how to build relationships. It starts with trust and one way to build trust is to be personable and get to know your audience. Show interest and enthusiasm for meeting your interviewers. They are taking time out of their busy days and their billable hours to meet with you.

Show respect by fully engaging in the conversation. Show up on time or early even. Being late is the kiss of death in the interview world. Be polite and courteous to support staff, such as secretaries, front desk receptionists, and other non-attorney staff. No need to come across as pretentious in the interview or ever for that matter.

5. Be genuine.
Repeat after me: Never, EVER, lie in an interview. There is no quicker way to bomb an interview than by starting to tell lies—even little white lies.

If you are invited to lunch during your interview day, don’t let your guard down. Those lunches are often strategically placed in the interview process to test how you interact in a casual setting. Be your usual genuine self, stay professional, and represent yourself just as polished over lunch as you would in an interview room. The same goes for virtual interviewing.

Sample interview questions and answers

Review these sample interview questions and answers to form your own responses:

Why do you want to practice law?

This question allows you to talk about what attracted you to the legal field. Your answer to this question can position you as the best person for the role and can provide the hiring partner with a glimpse of the knowledge and experience you can bring to the job. Employers want to hear how important this field is for you, so show your genuine interest in law when providing an answer.

Example: “I want to practice law because I’m passionate about bringing justice to clients and upholding the law of our country. I believe it’s important to be fair and unbiased, and I’d like to help someone experience that in their case. Being an attorney is more than filing paperwork with the court—it’s a chance to represent someone who needs help.”

What are your strengths as a lawyer?

Employers want to know your strengths so they can see how you could work with their current team. Since your strengths are unique, you can use your response to stand out from other candidates. Answer this question by relating your strengths to the job you’re applying for and the tasks you expect to be responsible for. Use the STAR technique to give a specific example of your strengths.

Example: “One of my biggest strengths is perseverance. I once represented a client who filed a suit against their employer for failing to pay for injuries they sustained while on the job. It was a difficult case to gather evidence since no employees claimed to witness the accident and there was no video footage. After performing some in-depth research and interviewing several employees, I was able to find out that there was a delivery driver present who corroborated my client’s story. Thankfully, we were able to settle quickly after that.”

What do you want your clients to know about you?

This question helps a hiring partner understand more about your client relations. Think about how you want a client to feel after an interaction with you in the office or courtroom. Consider what attributes you have and how you work that makes a client happy to have you represent them. Employers want to make sure that you treat clients well and represent their law firm in a positive light.

Example: “I want my clients to know that I’ll work hard in their case because they matter to me. I care a lot about their personal outcome and do my due diligence in researching their issue to offer solutions, file the appropriate paperwork and represent them in disputes. My clients should know that I am their advocate, and they can be honest with me about their situation and take comfort in the fact that I’m providing a safe space for them.”

Describe your approach in the courtroom.

How you perform in the courtroom can be the determining factor in winning your case. Answering this question is your chance to share how you interact with members of the court, present your case and represent your client. Give a detailed, step-by-step answer that shows exactly how you prepare and work in a courtroom.

Example: “Either the night before or the morning of a case, I study all of my notes so I’m fully prepared for the trial. I make sure any witnesses or evidence I need to present are confirmed. I usually take an aggressive stance during proceedings so my client gets fair representation. When the opposing side is presenting, I take thorough notes so I can counter effectively.”

Law firm interview tips

Here are some interview tips to consider so you can present yourself well to the hiring partner:

  • Familiarise yourself with recent court rulings.
  • Research the law firm.
  • Bring examples of papers you’ve written.

Research the law firm

Especially if the law firm is well established in the community, the partners want to make sure you will continue to bring good representation to them. It’s important to show that you have researched the firm and are excited to work there. You’ll also be able to better explain what makes you a good fit for the firm and why you chose it as your new place of employment.

Bring examples of papers you’ve written

A large component of working at a law firm is being able to articulate your case in a clear, concise and professional way. Hiring partners may want to see evidence of your writing, so bring some examples. This could include court documents you have prepared, an extensive legal research paper you wrote in school or a legal memo.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers.

Whether you are building your legal team or are looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

banner image

The 72 Hour Countdown To Your Legal Interview

  • February 5, 2019

Irrespective of whether you are moving into a new private client solicitor role or you are a superb legal secretary looking for their next opportunity, this is still a key career move; at least for now.

You actively applied for this role because you believe it will deliver you closer to your career and broader life goals.

By giving the interview process the respect it deserves, you will increase your chances of being successful and securing the role.

To truly succeed at a legal interview and confirm to your hiring manager you have the appropriate skills, traits and you are a good culture fit, you will need to be ready.

Poor planning delivers poor results.

Therefore, we aren’t talking about a quick look through their website the night before. Instead, we are referring to being fully prepared and ready by making the most of the 72-hour preparation window you need before your interview begins.

Three days is the perfect length of time to deliver you to the interview primed and ready in a calm and confident fashion.

Here is where we suggest starting.

1. Research and a Conversation With Your Legal Recruitment Consultant

In the current legal recruitment market, it’s likely that you will have found your role through a specialist legal recruitment company like Clayton Legal.

That being the case we, your recruiting partner, should be your first port of call when it comes to knowing as much as possible about the specific legal role in question and the company you could potentially join.

It is imperative to do this sooner rather than later, as this will enable you to carry out additional research as necessary, to stand out. Alternatively, this will let you know about gaps you might have that must be addressed in how you communicate your value to your future employer.

Google is naturally your friend here.

Look at any news about the sector of law you will be involved with. For instance, earlier this month I was looking at information about collaborative law and came across a post from a press release by a Bath law firm who were offering free mediation information sessions to people considering divorce, as part of Family Mediation Week.

A talking point maybe? Though your skills and experience are critical, your wider knowledge of the law is important too.

Research the company online. Learn as much as you can from the website, including all their specialisms and any bigger cases they are working on and what their plans might be.

Review all their social media profiles and anything they have published on LinkedIn’s article platform.

If the website has staff profiles and an ‘Our Story’ page, so much the better. If you can, find out how many employees they have and who is part of the leadership team.

During this research stage, you will be able to prepare good questions to ask that will demonstrate you are a serious candidate who’s done their homework. You would be surprised how many candidates don’t make an effort in this regard, and you’re likely to stand out by doing this.

If you are working with a professional legal recruitment consultant, they will be able to help you with most of this too. So, it’s critical to discuss the job description in detail and how you can demonstrate your value, which leads me onto the next point.

2. Know And Demonstrate Your Value

In today’s legal field hiring managers are looking for skills and abilities, yes; though they are also looking for the value you can add.

Imagine some of the questions you might be asked and prepare your answers that communicate how you have added value in the past. For instance, it might be a new system you initiated on creating court documents that improved the process, or the updated advice process you developed that has generated positive testimonials and referrals.

Ask your recruitment consultant to tell you what is behind the job specification and what are the crucial skills to demonstrate and communicate.

Finally, if you have a ‘brag’ file or letters of commendation or an end of year review that is positive and recent, take them with you and USE them.

It has been known for hiring managers to comment that James or Tania brought in a briefcase and never opened it!

Which left them wondering if they had missed something? No, but James and Tania missed the opportunity to demonstrate yet another validation of why they should get the role.

Remember to use everything at your disposal to position yourself as the logical choice.

3. Practical Logistics

With the best will in the world, we can all misjudge time. Double check the time and location of the interview, as well as the name of the hiring manager.

If you haven’t already been to check out the venue, prepare your route by car or train leaving plenty of time to get there in case you end up experiencing one of those annoying traffic jams that come from nowhere.

Let’s be frank, interviews are stressful enough, so there is no point adding to that unnecessarily by getting lost and certainly not by turning up late. Hint: hiring managers dislike latecomers.

Most people reading this post understand dress code and how what you are wearing does have an impact; you do, don’t you?

I will explore this briefly in a minute.

Firstly let’s talk about confidence and what you wear. I am not suggesting you head out and buy a new outfit or shoes. Instead, think about the outfit that always makes you feel good.

I have a few outfits I love, and I always wear them if I want a boost of confidence. Perhaps you have had this experience too?

No matter how many presentations you have given, or appearances in court; never underestimate interview nerves and their unexpected impact.

Finally, remember the goal of the interview is to leave the interviewers talking about your skills, attitude, and law experience and potentially how well you would fit into the team.

A fascinating fact I discovered last year is that over half of the population has a visual preference and a keen sense of smell and though we all like to think we don’t judge, we sometimes do.

The last thing you want to have your interviewers chatting about at lunch is how strong your perfume was or questioning if you smoked, or crikey how did you manage to walk in those heels?!

If you follow the steps in this post you have a template to impress the hiring manager with the depth of your knowledge in the company, and how confidently prepared you are.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are looking for your next career move, we can help.
Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would more help on preparing for your interview download our interview checklist here.

Share This Post

banner image

What is your interviewer actually looking for?

  • July 18, 2018

Over the past few months, we’ve given a considerable amount of advice on how to write a CV that will make a hiring manager sit up and take note and how to nail a job interview amongst various other things. However, we’re regularly asked what a job interviewer is actually looking for and what they’re thinking when they meet a candidate.

It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous and slightly uneasy in an interview, after all, it’s an important process and one that could shape your career prospects for years to come. Getting a job, as we all know, can change lives – particularly if it’s one you’re desperately keen to get – so it’s hardly surprising that for many people, interviewing can be highly stressful.

However, it helps to get inside the head of an interviewer and put yourself in their shoes. If you were hiring for your own company, what traits and skills would you be looking for?

Are they who they say they are?

This may sound obvious, but you’d be blown away by the number of people who openly lie on their CV. It’s easy to make yourself sound employable on your application if you just lie and any experienced hirer will likely want to run through your CV to clarify that you are who you say you are and that you’ve done what you’ve said you’ve done. They’ll probably want to throw a few open ended questions at you to allow you to talk through your CV in your own time and – as long as you are telling the truth – this should come naturally. It’s important to remember to consider how your past experiences can help you carry out the role. So rather than simply stating what you did, try and use examples and make a link with what you’ve done in your past and how it could help you in the position you’re applying for.

Cultural fit

One of the hardest things for an interviewer to gauge is whether the person sitting opposite them will fit into their current line-up. There are two distinct schools of thought. Some people like building teams with ‘disruptive’ characters who can challenge the status quo and create results and innovation by being different. Others recognise the value of employing people who can get on with their current employees and won’t upset the apple cart. Unfortunately, there’s no golden solution to this and if the employer doesn’t think you’ll work at their company for whatever reason, they’re unlikely to take you on. Your best bet is to be yourself. Your true personality will reveal itself further down the line and putting on a persona only raises the risk of you not actually being well suited to the organisation.

Are you up to the job?

Finally – and perhaps most obviously – the interviewer will want to know whether you’ve actually got the skills to do the job. This is where pinning examples to things you’ve done in your past really becomes valuable. If you can actually highlight times when you’ve made a difference to your former employer it saves them the task of linking your skills with the job specification and working out whether you’re cut out for the role. Others will do it in their interview and if a hiring manager has an obvious fit for a role, they’re hardly likely to think about other candidates quite so much. It also doesn’t come down to what you just say. If the role involves a lot of interaction with senior partners or associates then you’ll want to consider your speech patterns and ways of communicating. In addition, you should consider any obvious reasons why the company wouldn’t hire you and don’t let the interviewer jump to their own conclusions (which they will). If your CV shows signs of job hopping, for example, then provide reasons for why you’ve done so ahead of being asked.

For more insights from the team visit our blogs page or get in touch with the team for more career tips and tricks. 

Share This Post

banner image

How to answer the interview question: “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

  • July 9, 2018

When an interviewer asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” many interviewees find themselves flummoxed. They haven’t thought that far ahead. All they know is that, right now, they want this particular job. Where it will have taken them in 1825 days is anybody’s guess. And, after all, how can they possibly say what they’ll be doing then when they don’t even know what they’ll be doing this weekend?

So, why do interviewers like asking this question? The aim of the interviewer is, of course, not to test your psychic ability, but to dig deeper and find out more about you as a potential employee. In particular, they want to find out what your mid-term career goals are to see if they align with both the role and what they are able to offer you as employers. Will you be satisfied with the position and prospects, work hard and stay in their employment for a long time? They want to hire someone who is genuinely excited about the job and who sees it as a great career move.

Let’s start with what not to say.

  • Don’t joke about wanting to do your interviewer’s job. Nobody wants their own job prised from them by a competitive new hire.
  • Don’t go into a very detailed plan about how you will get promoted. It can look over-confident and inflexible.
  • Don’t mention unrelated dreams such as writing a novel or owning a business. An employer is interested in what you will do for them. Don’t joke about winning the lottery and retiring, either.
  • Don’t ponder for ages, suggest a few
    different things or – worst of all – say that you haven’t thought that
    far. It will make you look directionless.
  • Don’t make any references to their rivals. Some interviewees think that mentioning an aspiration to gain the skills to work for another notoriously selective or popular employer makes them look ambitious, but why would any firm invest in you just so
    that you can go to a rival?

When you give your response, the ideal answer will portray you as ambitious but not entitled; forward-thinking but adaptable; realistic but aspirational. The main thing to do is show that you are excited about this position and what you will learn over the next five years: you have a desire to succeed and be the best you can at it. The interviewer will be looking for evidence that this job will meet your goals for several years and that you will stay in it long enough to repay any investment – of both time and money – in you. Then, rather than focusing too much on where you want to go next, present a vaguer and more flexible desire to progress and develop, should opportunities arise. If you can do a bit of research into your employer’s long-term goals and show that your personal career goals align with them, even better. They’re looking for nurses to mentor new staff as part of a recently introduced induction programme? Great – that suits your ambition to guide and eventually train others.

Finally, be prepared for one or two follow-up questions which might be used to see if your answer is a rehearsed one or if it genuinely reflects who you are.

Read our blog about requesting interview feedback here. For more interview advice from the team, check out our posts here.

Share This Post

banner image

Stage 2: Nailing your interview

  • July 5, 2018

You may have seen our previous blog on creating a great CV, but how do you nail the next stage to secure your dream job. You might think that now you’ve passed through the gatekeeper that the hard part is over, but the interview really gives you the chance to strut your stuff in front of the key decision makers. So what should you keep in mind?

Be punctual, but not too punctual

Arriving early for the interview is important, after all it doesn’t exactly set a glowing precedent for what your time working there will be like if you’re late. However, don’t make the mistake of being too early as you’re more likely to look desperate more than anything else. A good rule of thumb is to be 15 minutes early, stick to that and it gives you plenty of time to compose your thoughts as well as demonstrating your good timekeeping skills.

Practice, practice, practice

Ensure you conduct some thorough research on the organisation that you can drop throughout your interview to highlight your knowledge and proactivity. Go over some standard interview questions as well as some role specific ones with a friend or family member and you’re likely to feel much more prepared and less stressed when the day comes around.
However, it’s a thin line to tread between being ready and sounding like you’re reading off a script, so try to keep things as natural as possible.

Give examples

Rather than just reeling off a list of your top attributes, look to form an evidence based argument about why you should get the role you want. You need to show proof that you are what you say you are and highlighting your achievements build a more compelling case for why the organisation should choose you. If you can show examples of when you’ve
saved your previous employers time or money or simplified any overly complex processes, you’re likely to stand in good stead.

Interview your interviewer

This isn’t just an opportunity for the organisation and its staff to learn about you, it’s also your chance to learn about them so try and turn the situation into a conversation, rather than an interview. Don’t go over the top, you do still need to answer the questions you’re being posed, but look to send some back in the other direction.

Prepare questions in advance

Along similar lines it’s also crucial to prepare a series of questions to ask at the end of the interview and not having any rarely tends to leave a favourable impression. Good examples include asking about time frames, when you’re likely to hear back from them and if the firm has interviewed many people for the role. A good question to get real insight into the organisation is asking them what they like about working there. There are no definitive rules, but it’s certainly much better to have something ready to ask.

Close the interview and follow up

Finally, look to close the interview yourself by asking whether there’s any other information that they would like to know about you or if there are any areas of your CV or application that they have questions over. It’s also well worth following up your interview with a quick email or phone call to say thanks as this is likely to make you stand out from the crowd when they review applications.

What factors do you think are important to nail an interview? Share your thoughts with us below.

Read this blog to read what you interview is actually looking for. Also, check out our other blog posts here.

If you are still on the hunt for that dream job, call the office on 01772 259121 to see how we can help. Or check out our current jobs here.

Share This Post

banner image

The top five interview mistakes

  • July 1, 2018

You’ve applied for a series of new jobs, and finally secured the all-important interview for your dream role. While it may seem like you are just steps away from hearing the words ‘you’re hired’, the hard work starts now. You need to be fully prepared for the interview to ensure you have every chance of success. Often candidates will have worked really hard on job applications but let themselves down at the interview stage by either not preparing adequately or presenting a bad image. So what are the top five interview mistakes you need to avoid?

Not doing your homework

With the internet at your fingertips, there is absolutely no excuse for not doing your homework before an interview. Despite this, however, clients often tell us that a candidate didn’t get the job because they didn’t know even the basics about the company and role they applied for despite having all the skills required. Take the time to thoroughly research the business – look at the website for information about the history, values, and culture. Seek out information on social media to glean an insight into the type of work and activity the business does.
It’s also worth researching the person who will be interviewing you – you will be able to source information about their role and length of time at the business which will help you establish a rapport at the outset.

Too much talking, not enough listening

Another big mistake candidates make – often due to nerves – is talking too much and not listening to the questions being asked. Take the time to really take in each question and, if you are unsure of how to answer, ask the interviewer to repeat it. This will buy you some time and enable you to prepare an answer better. Candidates often go wrong by responding too quickly and going off on a tangent which means they haven’t given the interviewer the information they are seeking. Often this happens due to a combination of nerves and a failure to prepare. If you have researched properly you will not only be less nervous, but you will likely be able to answer the questions asked.

No questions

Another big no no is not asking any questions yourself. Almost every interviewer will factor in time at the end of the meeting for the candidate to ask anything about the role and company. Don’t make the mistake of not preparing questions in advance. Think about what queries will demonstrate that you are serious about the job and your progression within the company. Could you ask about the training and development opportunities or about the team you will be working with, for example? Don’t, however, make the mistake of asking about when your first pay rise will be or how many sick days you are entitled to!

Moaning about your current employer

Most interviewers will ask you about your previous role and employer. And regardless of why you left the company never make the mistake of criticising the people or business you worked for. No prospective employer wants to hear a potential staff member bad mouthing people they have worked with before – not only will it cause concern that you might do the same at their business, but it will also almost certainly move your application to the no pile!

Wrong attire

Even if you know that, if you secure the role, you won’t be expected to be suited and booted every day, don’t turn up to the interview in jeans and a t-shirt. Don’t however, go to the other extreme and turn up looking like you are about to go on a night out!

The interview is often the last stage of a lengthy application process. Don’t ruin your chances of securing the role you deserve by making the mistakes listed above. Preparation is key and remember, if you have been invited in for interview, it is because you have already demonstrated your suitability for the role. Good luck!

For more advice from the team, check out our other posts here. Or if you wish, call the office on 01772 259121 or email

Share This Post

banner image

Prepare, excel and get the job with our legal interview checklist

  • June 28, 2018

You’ve crafted a great CV, made a stellar application, and you’ve been selected for interview. Congratulations! You can rest assured that your personal brand is working well if you’ve been selected for an interview. But don’t be complacent. Now the work to secure you your ideal role really begins.

Performing well at interview is not about being a legal genius, it’s about the small practical things you can do that will give you the best chance at success. View the interview as an opportunity to enhance your personal brand further – our interview checklist will help you prepare for the challenge and to secure the best outcome.

Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know.


First of all, arrange time off with your current employer. Don’t just go AWOL on the day, as you want to retain good relations with the firm that is currently employing you. Gather all of the relevant information from the recruiter – the who, what, when, where and format of the interview. Allow plenty of time to reach the destination and factor in time to find a parking space if the office is in a busy city centre location.

Research, research, research. The best way to ensure interview success is to be clear what the job involves, and what is being asked of the candidate. If it’s a multi-stage interview process, ensure you have plenty of examples to showcase your skills as repeating the same anecdote will risk you sounding like a one-trick pony. Breadth and depth of experience is much more impressive to partners and hiring managers than a solitary moment of high achievement.

The interview

While progress may be slower than in the business sector, the legal profession is becoming more diverse. From the number of solicitors working in-house in corporate roles to the ways in which law firms choose to structure their practice, the landscape is changing. That’s why it’s important to be flexible and open to different ways of working – and your interview is the ideal place to show those qualities off. Look the firm up online, take time to understand the role and prepare for questions you may be asked ahead of time. Just make sure that you answer the question you’re asked on the day, and you’re not just shoehorning what you want to say into the conversation.

If you have a phone interview initially, speak slowly and clearly. You may well be on a speaker phone in a meeting room – not favourable acoustics at the best of times – and you want to make sure that everyone in the room hears you.

Whatever interview stage you’re at, bear these tips in mind:

  • Hone in on your skills and have the job spec in front of you – or at least review it before your interview. Relate your past experience to what the new firm is looking for.
  • Be specific when talking about your experience. The STAR method helps you to answer questions fully while staying focused. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Explain the situation you were faced with, the task that needed to be done, what action you took, and the end result.
  • Asking about development opportunities is fine, as this shows that you want to stick around, but do not ask about salary or benefits!
  • Your reasons for leaving may be a question the interviewer asks, so have a professional answer prepared. It’s OK to be honest but do frame it in a positive light – saying that the firm was moving in a different direction to where you wanted to go, or that you feel you’ve achieved all that you can in the post will be sufficient.
  • Don’t talk down your current employer. Following the previous point, this is absolutely vital. Any unprofessional or personal comments will not win you brownie points with the interviewer.
  • Ask the interviewer questions, for example: the legal specialisms of the firm, how they plan to grow, or where the partners want to take the firm. It’s important you show an interest in the firm you may work for.

Popular interview questions still revolve around the topics of: teamwork, business development, planning and organisational skills, client focus, initiative, and motivation/drive for results. Consider these interview questions and how you might answer them. We’ve put some tips and tricks to give you a head start:

1. Tell me about one of the toughest groups you’ve had to work with. What made it difficult? – What did you do?

Talk about why the group was tough, without talking down other people. Was there a deadline, or a challenging area of the law you had to address, for instance? Focus on your actions, not other people’s.

2. Tell me a situation in which you were able to turn around a negative client? – What was the issue? – How did you accomplish the turnaround?

Again, don’t vent about the client. Explain how they came to be upset. Demonstrate that you took positive actions, like listening and being patient, to resolve the situation.

3. Give me an example of when a mistake you made provided you with a learning experience?

This isn’t a trick question – we all make mistakes, so don’t say you haven’t! Focus on how your rectifying the mistake resulted in a better way of working for you, the team or firm.

Celebrations and learnings

So, you excelled at the interview and have been offered a position – great news! However, if you didn’t receive an offer this time, don’t panic! You can still take a lot away from the experience. Ask the interviewer or your recruitment consultant for feedback – understanding areas where your interview performance could have been better gives you insight into what to change next time.

Our interview checklist for legal candidates is full of practical tips and information to help you make the best of an interview. From preparation to the actual interview, it has everything to help you land your dream legal job. Visit our website or call 01772 259 121 to request your free copy.

And if you enjoyed this blog, you may also like to read our blog top tips for your first few weeks. Don’t forget to have a look at our recent job vacancies too.

Share This Post

banner image

Interview feedback: how to request it and how to use it

  • July 18, 2017

After the interview: what went wrong?

If you are interviewed for a job that you really want and are unsuccessful, it can be very disheartening. It’s tempting to replay the interview in your head, trying to work out what went wrong. You weren’t late and had dressed smartly. You’d prepared by doing plenty of research into the role and employer. You thought the interviewer seemed happy with your answers. So, why did they to decide not to hire you and how can you avoid it happening again?

Why you should ask for interview feedback

Instead of guessing the answers to these questions, it’s important to ask for feedback so that you understand which area of your interview technique needs developing. Don’t just chalk it up to experience and simply keep applying elsewhere. Most of us have an unsuccessful interview at some point, and it isn’t a waste of time if you view the experience as one from which you can learn and develop. Try not to let it knock your confidence: feedback might highlight aspects that you wouldn’t have considered; being mindful of them could directly result in you securing the next job that you apply for.

How to ask for feedback

How you ask for feedback will depend on the way in which you find out that you have been unsuccessful. If your recruitment consultant gives you the news, spend some time discussing the interview with your consultant who will be able to pass on any feedback and offer you tips on how you can improve your technique.

If you are telephoned by the company, ask there and then; if they email you, reply within 24 hours so that the interview is still fresh in their mind. And how do you word the request? Always begin by thanking them for the opportunity to be interviewed. Whatever you do, don’t suggest that the employer made the wrong decision. This graciousness is important because you never know when you might have to deal with the interviewer or company again in the future.

Then, rather than asking ‘why didn’t I get the job?’ or ‘what did I do wrong?’ – both of which put the interviewer on the spot and sound rather defensive – ask if they would mind letting you know what you could do to improve next time. Which area do they think that you could develop most?

If you disagree with any feedback, don’t allow your feelings to get the better of you or protest. Instead, focus on moving forward with a new insight.

What to do with interview feedback


Some feedback will be very easy to address. For example, if you are told that you responded to a particular question in a way which lacked detail, you can prepare a more thorough response should the question arise again. Other feedback may require more thought. Could you film yourself responding to key questions and review the way that you come across? Do you have a friend or recruiter that could conduct a mock interview with you? Would more research into a company help next time? If you are given a number of areas where you could improve and it seems daunting, aim to address one or two key ones.

So, see interview feedback as invaluable positive guidance which helps you to develop the way that you present yourself professionally and, consequently, enables you to have a successful career.

For more job interview advice from the team, check out our other posts here or call the office on 01772 259121 to speak to one of our experts.

Share This Post