The knowledge and expertise a well-qualified paralegal can offer a law firm are indispensable in providing excellent legal services. In the initial part of this series, we reviewed questions to help law firms identify the personal attributes of candidates. In the second part of this series, we explore questions designed to help a law firm showcase a candidate’s technical expertise, job-related skills, and relevant experience.
If you are a law firm in the process of hiring a paralegal, below are the top ten paralegal interview questions you should ask to help get a full picture of the applicant’s legal skills.
1. How are your legal research skills? How do you check the accuracy of your work?
A paralegal needs to have excellent legal research skills in order to access the most current large volume of data and research databases. This could be an opportunity for a paralegal to showcase a specific example of legal research skills. Strong attention to detail, good focus, and the ability to use editing tools to ensure grammatical and spelling accuracy are necessary to avoid serious and costly mistakes.
2. What areas of law interest you most?
It is important to know why a paralegal is seeking employment with a specific law firm – whether motivated by the size, location, firm’s values, or other criteria. It is helpful to understand if the applicant is passionate about a particular area of law or if they are open to learning about various legal services. This paralegal interview question reveals if the paralegal is interested in the area of law the attorney practices. It is also an opportunity for the paralegal to offer previous work examples and relevant coursework.
3. How do you stay updated in the legal field in general and the paralegal profession?
Knowing the individual’s motivations for pursuing a paralegal career is helpful. Gaining insight into whether the person has further educational aspirations, such as attending law school or specializing in a particular area of law. Asking about continuing education goals will showcase the candidate’s openness to continue learning. It is important to inquire whether the applicant reviews legal blogs and publications, reads law reviews, attends law conferences and webinars, and other ways the applicant stays well informed.
4. What legal management support software have you used in the past? Any preferences?
With technological advances, a paralegal must be capable of mastering myriad legal tech apps. This question helps ensure that a paralegal is proficient in using advanced legal case management software and recognizes the importance of technology for your firm. Knowing a paralegal is confident in making technology decisions for a firm is helpful. It is also important to know if an applicant has the flexibility to transition to a new software program quickly and seamlessly.
5. What does your typical day as a paralegal entail?
It is important for a paralegal to emphasize effective organizational skills, efficiency, and the ability to multitask. A paralegal must be competent in creating and managing a legal calendaring system, following up on tasks, keeping track of court dates, and ensuring tight deadlines are met. A paralegal has to be flexible and willing to shift priorities while remaining accurate and professional. The ability to maintain organized electronic or paper files is imperative.
6. What legal tasks have you been responsible for in a previous or current position?
A paralegal has a plethora of job responsibilities which include the following:
- Conduct investigations about case facts, including statistical and legal research.
- Complete client interviews during client intake and maintain contact with clients.
- Draft legal documents and write correspondences and pleadings.
- Write, file, attend and summarize depositions, interrogatories, petitions, and testimonies.
Allowing a paralegal to highlight job tasks requiring organization, interviewing skills, and legal research will help showcase a paralegal’s strengths.
7. Describe what you believe are a paralegal’s operational duties and activities. Elaborate on the prior question by describing specific duties in more detail. Include examples where you are confident in answering leading questions
A paralegal can essentially be delegated job duties completed by an attorney, as long as an attorney supervises the work. A paralegal must be thorough and prepared. A paralegal can review and organize client files, conduct research, prepare documents for legal transactions, and prepare discovery notices. A paralegal can interview witnesses and clients while maintaining client relationships. A paralegal can help at trials and closings. A paralegal needs to be competent in answering leading or rephrasing questions to more open-ended questions and be cautious not to provide legal advice to clients.
8. Take Us Through Your Process of Making Complex Legal Decisions.
Professional responsibility and complex decision-making are required of paralegals. While the decision-making role is often challenging, when working with law firms, the decision-making process is more complex because of the following factors. In this paralegal interview question, evaluate the following:
- Necessity of considering a tremendous amount of information.
- Consideration of the various rules and regulations.
- Importance of evaluating the potential impact of your decision-making on people’s lives.
There are many steps to making a complex legal decision, which can vary depending on the situation.
9. Have you answered discovery requests before? If so, explain your process.
As a paralegal, answering discovery requests is an important responsibility that requires thorough preparation and careful consideration. Below is an example of the recommended process.
- Thoroughly review the file, which can include medical records, client statements, photographs, and other important documentation.
- Schedule a meeting with the client to gather necessary information. Fastidiously confirm the information with the clients as the responses will be binding and difficult to change at a later time.
- Review any objectionable questions with the attorney to ensure privileged or irrelevant information is not released.
Processing discovery requests require the paralegal to be targeted and willing to pay close attention to detail.
10. What kinds of legal documents have you drafted?
A paralegal is trained to draft a multitude of legal documents. For example, a paralegal can prepare interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admissions, and bills of particulars, to name only a few documents a paralegal can prepare.
If you follow these top ten paralegal interview questions as an outline, you will likely find a qualified paralegal who will be an excellent match for your firm.