Questions You Might Ask
The questions you ask during an interview are critically important – some interviewers tell us they are more important than almost any other part of the interview. You want to ask questions that demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the employer, and show that you are not just interviewing randomly. You want to ask questions that show your analytical ability, your thoughtfulness, and your personality. And, of course, you want to ask questions that will help you to get the information you need, to clarify the nature of the position and to decide whether this is a desirable situation for you, given your own personal goals and preferences.
Prepare by doing thorough research about the employer using the relevant resources listed at the beginning of this section under “Learning About the Organization.” Talk with any personal contacts that may have inside information.
Read carefully any information provided by the employer, and make sure that you do not ask for information already covered there. Rather, use the information provided as the basis for further specific questions. Interviewers will appreciate your asking for clarification or further elaboration of the information they provide.
Interviewers also appreciate interesting and original questions. Remember that interviewers see many candidates, day after day. Often interviewers hear the same questions repeatedly. If you do know people with connections to the organization, use this to help you develop stimulating questions. For example, “Janie Higgins, a 2L student at my school, worked in your summer program last year. She suggested that I’d make a great match here at the firm in light of my insurance background and the firm’s coverage work. Can you tell me about that department?”
We list below a number of general questions that you might want to ask at an interview. Again, make sure that the questions are not answered in literature you receive from the organization.
General questions about the organization:
- How would you describe the organization?
- What makes it different from others that provide the same services?
- How do you determine your priorities?
- How do you get your clients?
- What do you see as future areas of growth for the firm?
Do your research. Carefully read an employer’s web site before your interview! In particular, questions about what it is like to work at the organization may be answered for you on the site. Employers will be impressed if you refer to the fact that you read about a particular topic and are able to ask further questions expanding on the information you read.
Questions about what it is like to work at the organization:
- How does the firm determine the work assigned to a new associate?
- How is a new lawyer supervised?
- What is your evaluation process for new lawyers?
- How do you train new lawyers?
- Are there formal in-house training programs?
- Do new lawyers attend outside seminars?
- When does the decision to specialize in one particular practice area occur?
- What are the criteria for advancement?
- How do you get feedback after completing an assignment?
- How does the organization convey the overall direction of a case to an associate who is working on a small assignment or project?
- When you have a tough case, how do you look to involve your best junior lawyers? What traits do these lawyers usually share?
- To what extent is the development of new clients a prerequisite to advancement?
Questions about the interviewer’s personal experiences:
Remember that almost every lawyer enjoys speaking about him or herself. Here are some questions to help get them talking.
- How did you select this organization?
- What is your specialty or practice area?
- What type of work do you do on an average day?
- How long have you been with the organization?
- Did you work somewhere else before joining the organization? If so, why did you make the switch?
- How many clients have you worked for in the past year?
- How much of your time is spent working for particular partners? Do you like this mix?
- Can you describe your most interesting project to date?
- How satisfied are you with the variety of your work?
Questions about the organization’s hiring practices:
- Do specific departments extend offers to specific candidates? For the summer program or permanent hires?
- How many participants (1Ls and 2Ls) does the organization anticipate having in its summer program?
- Is there a difference in the work assigned to 1L and 2L summer clerks?
- What percentages of those participating in recent years’ summer programs have accepted their offers?
Note: the NALP Directory will tell you the number of offers made to eligible candidates by NALP employers, but not the rate of acceptance of those offers.
Questions concerning a formal summer program:
- How are summer interns assigned work?
- How is that work evaluated?
- Are the results of that evaluation periodically communicated to the participant?
- To what extent does the summer program involve activities other than research?
Questions that combine your knowledge of the organization with information you would like to have:
- I understand that the organization is involved in the xxx litigation. How is that moving forward?
- I read that the firm has recently acquired NationsBank as a client. What type of work will the firm be doing for them?
- I see that the firm takes pride in its Intellectual Property work. Can you explain how those cases are assigned?
Questions that are NOT appropriate to ask during an interview:
- How much money will I get paid?
- How many vacation days do associates get?
- What is the benefits package?
- What is the current financial state of the firm?