The best questions to ask are those that you really would like to know the answer to, rather than those you can find in books on interview skills. If you research the company well enough, you will find a number of questions naturally arising that you wish to be answered.
You should, though, concentrate on questions that show your interest in, and motivation to do, the job itself, rather than the rewards it will bring. So, for example, you should ask about training and career progression in preference to pay and pensions!
Some examples of questions you could reasonably ask at interview:
"What are other recent training contract students now working on?"
"Are there any particular types of client which I might expect to work with when I first begin work?"
"Are there any key developments planned for the firm over the next few years?"
"How do you market the firm?"
The interviewer is likely to be interested in the broad picture - not just in any law-related placements you may have done. This could include paid or voluntary work, travel or dissertations. Think about all your past experiences and which aspects of them might be relevant to the work of a solicitor.
Consider the skills you could demonstrate from your vacation time. These could be:
Planning events and activities
Organizing others to do things or go to places
Helping others in difficult circumstances
Offering advice to friends or relatives
Making decisions on different vacation opportunities.
Many graduates apply to City firms because of the possibility of international work - this question will help to sift out those who do not have a realistic appreciation of what it would be like to work in an English law firm's foreign offices. Again, the firm's website or brochure should give some insight into this work. Focusing on the type of client and the nature of the advice they will be seeking would be a good place to start.
This often happens in solicitors' firms, especially in the City - you need to show that you can be flexible and adaptable and that you don't panic.
Describe some of the things you may have to do in such circumstances. These might include:
Delegation of less pressing work to others in your office
Negotiation of the new deadline, just in case there is any leeway
Taking additional work home with you
Seeking help from others on the case that has been brought forward.
An assessment of what can reasonably be done in the time available.
"The last time I had to hand in an essay" will probably be the most common answer - if you can come up with anything more original it will probably be appreciated! This is an opportunity to give an indication of your ability to plan your work, organize your time and handle several competing priorities - more essential skills for a solicitor.
Consider including in your answer:
Any restrictions or limitations that risked your meeting the deadline
Your effective prioritization of tasks which enabled you to be on time
The need for initial planning and organization
How you handled conflicting demands from other sources
The need to be focused on the task at hand.
A question to test your common sense, integrity, persuasive and diplomatic skills. Questions like this may require some thought before answering and it is quite OK to take a minute or so to think it through.
You may feel you need more input from the interviewer regarding what type of a case it is. Beware asking for too much additional information, however. This may turn a single hypothetical question into a long and drawn out discussion.
A question to test whether you have done your background reading. Even if you are not a law student, law-related issues frequently make it out of the law reports sections of the daily papers and into the main news pages, and you should certainly have read these. Your answer may depend on the type of firm, such as whether it specializes in legal aid or corporate law.
Be prepared for quite detailed questioning and challenging on your answers to questions of this type, and don't be afraid to argue your point of view - the interviewer will want to test how well you can think on your feet, stand your ground and make a well-reasoned argument.
You may not even have applied for this course yet, as many firms will interview for training contracts in September and applications for the LPC open in October. However, you should be aware of where the course is available and give reasons for your favored option, academic or personal. You may want to ask if the firm has any preference.
Consider the following reasons for choosing a course in your answer:
Quality of course/institution
Recommendations of others
Research you have undertaken.
It is OK to say that you have applied to others - not to have done so would indicate either a lack of interest or gross over-confidence. But make sure that the ones you mention are of a similar type to the one interviewing you -the interviewer will be looking for a commitment to their type of practice and for a methodical approach to applications.
You could mention other firms with similar:
Types of clients
Numbers of staff
You have probably applied to a number of firms, using broad-brush criteria such as type of practice or location. It is OK to mention these, but you also need to say something more specific about what attracts you to this firm among all the others that you have applied to. You may mention what you have read on the firm's website or in the legal press, or what you have heard from previous years' graduates in the legal profession or from academics.
Highlight positive, developmental factors such as the in-house training provided or specialized areas of law within the firm into which you hope to gain an insight, rather than the convenience of the location or the range of social activities.