Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

Paralegals are often responsible for coordinating, organizing, and even analyzing discovery proceedings such as depositions. No matter which tactics they use, the paralegal’s goal should always be to provide their attorneys with a manageable means of accessing the resulting transcript—while spotlighting the most crucial details.

What to listen for

  • Proven experience identifying the highlights of a deposition—and describing why they’re important.
  • Evidence that this candidate can master clear, concise, and helpful written communications.

Why this matters

A litigation paralegal may need to coordinate the design and preparation of exhibits—photographic, graphic, video, or otherwise—and other evidentiary materials for use at trial. Effective paralegals can handle this role with ease.

What to listen for

  • A strategic approach to the preparation of visual evidence.
  • Willingness to learn new skills and technology in order to better prepare attorneys for trial.

Why this matters

Paralegals are often asked to perform case research using legal databases, historical records, and more. This includes identifying relevant case law, statutes, legal articles, and the like. It’s important that they come to the table knowing how to locate information, weigh relevance, and summarize.

What to listen for

  • A solid familiarity with the databases most relevant to your jurisdiction(s).
  • Examples of strong impact on the case they choose to discuss.

Why this matters

Good paralegals understand the kind of 11th hour support that trial attorneys need. Since every trial is different, this question doesn’t ask for an exact forecast of needs: it probes for the existence of a framework or checklist the candidate has used in the past.

What to listen for

  • Indications the candidate can anticipate an attorney’s needs and have the ability to solve problems without direct supervision.
  • Strong candidates point to having “thick skin” when it comes to abrupt, short-tempered attorneys with looming deadlines.

Why this matters

As technology advances, so must a paralegal’s ability to master spreadsheets, databases, e-filing, presentation software, and more. If a candidate is capable of making technology decisions for their lawyer’s firm, they bring a competitive edge to your marketability.

What to listen for

  • Proficiency with leading litigation support software.
  • The ability to onboard onto a new platform quickly and seamlessly.

Why this matters

Organizational skills are vital to effective paralegals. They facilitate their ability to create and manage calendar systems, track court dates, and meet filing deadlines. Successful paralegals invest much time in making their work flow smoother—while being able to shift priorities at the drop of a hat.

What to listen for

  • Creativity, assertiveness, and professionalism, even in the face of a chaos.
  • Emphasis on being organized, efficient, and able to keep the front office running smoothly.

Why this matters

While all paralegals play a similar role in the legal system, daily duties can vary greatly—depending on the practice area. Here, you’re looking for evidence that the candidate will feel fulfilled working for your firm.

What to listen for

  • Are they interested in the more detailed aspects involved in finance and banking law, or the more rewarding nature of helping people?
  • Note whether the candidate’s personality seems to coincide with the area of law they’ll be practicing with your organization.

Why this matters

In many ways, paralegals are at the beck and call of one or more attorneys, who may be under pressure. Your candidate must have the ability to use constructive words as feedback—and a potential avenue for improvement.

What to listen for

  • Note whether the candidate seems uncomfortable with seemingly undeserved critiques.
  • Evidence your candidate can defend their work or actions when necessary.

Why this matters

Naturally, law firms and in-house teams want their paralegals to have a great breadth of legal knowledge. This question will provide some insight into the candidate’s learning agility and sense of curiosity. It may also reveal their preferred learning style and their resourcefulness when it comes to seeking assistance from others.

What to listen for

  • References to specific law journals, blogs, and publications, as well as the conferences or webinars regularly attended.
  • Enthusiasm for adding to a personal knowledge base.
  • Evidence the candidate pursues self-improvement, especially when encountering unfamiliar concepts.