A paralegal is an intermediary between the lawyer and client, lawyer and courthouse and even the lawyer and other staff in the law firm. With responsibilities paramount, prepare for tough questions to be thrown your way. Interviewers do not expect a perfect answer, rather they want to see how you handle yourself in a high intensity atmosphere.
You have to ensure that nothing is lost in the shuffle when working with legal documents. With furloughs and holidays, you must know the courthouse hours to ensure that documents are filed on time. Interviewers expect top candidates to have a calendar system, filing system and working knowledge of court filing timelines. Be prepared to discuss any software and folders you use to manage your workflow. Typical questions may include:"What is your organizational style?" or "How do you manage your time?" or "Which tasks would you prioritize and why?" or "How does a lawyer's calendar factor into your work flow?"
Whether interviewing a witness or digging up the dirt on the opposition's key witness, a paralegal must possess research and analytical skills. In his book "Paralegal Today," legal specialist Roger Miller points out that a paralegal needs to keep detailed notes on research methods so the attorney can double check work and identify any gaps in the research trail. A law office HR department understands that research skills can make or break a case, so they may ask you: "What databases do you have experience using?" or "What is your public records research method?"
In an interview on Paralegal.net, paralegal instructor Tricia Ellis Griggs emphasized the importance of communication skills in a law office setting. She states that the ability to interact with lawyers, clients and co-workers and to understand one another are essential to the job. Law firms seek candidates who are effective at summarizing pages of records research. A sharp attention to detail and ability to analyze evidence for pertinent facts are key to success as a paralegal. The interviewer may inquire about experiences related to your ability to understand and communicate complex information and may ask, "Can you describe a time you interviewed someone about sensitive information?" or "What is your communication style?" or "What interview techniques do you use?"
Lawyers work unconventional hours so expect to be asked about your schedule and flexibility. The person interviewing you may probe for home obligations and other responsibilities that would prevent you from picking up additional hours as needed. Lawyers desire paralegals who place the firm as their top priority; when clients' money and lives are on the line, lawyers want to know that their cases are being handled by dedicated paralegals. Questions could include: "What type of schedule are you looking for?" or "How do you feel about overtime hours?"
- Paralegal Today: The Legal Team at Work, 6th ed.; Roger Miller
- Paralegal.net: An Interview with Tricia Ellis Griggs
- American Bar Association: Paralegals, Profitability, and the Future of Your Law Practice
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