1. Tell me how have you helped to control costs or reduce outside spending in the law department?

As companies increasingly focus on efficiency, they place more emphasis on in-house legal counsel, unbundling services, using smaller firms more often and keeping a close eye on alternative fee arrangements, according to a 2013 CEB trend report.

Your next General Counsel hire should offer strong recommendations in this area based on practical experience. The right candidate is well aware of ways to reduce spending and may even use benchmarking practices to compare spending at the company to legal spending elsewhere.

2. Tell me what will be the reporting structure for this role?

The answer to this question could indicate the level of responsibility of the role, depending on who you would be reporting to, i.e. the GC, VP or CEO. If you are interviewing for a senior level position, it is critical for you to understand the line of reporting. Once you know who you would be reporting to, it could be a good idea to request meeting with that person, if possible.

3. Tell us what is your time frame for making a decision on this role and what are next steps?

This is the perfect question to wrap up your interview, as it solidifies your interest and shows that you want to be prepared going forward. Typically, companies have a standard interview/hiring process, so if they give you details about their next steps, it will probably be a good indicator to you whether they actually plan to move forward with you or not.

5. Please tell me a difficult project and how you overcame it?

Shipbuiding agreement. Try to negotiate and modify the terms to protect the company as much as I can.

6. Explain me the most complicated project or complex task you have encountered. How did you tackle it?

When asked a more “open” question of this sort, make sure that where possible you choose
(a) one of the most relevant examples, and
(b) one of the more recent examples.

7. Tell me why have you chosen [name of firm], and what do you know about us? What are you looking for in a firm? Which other firms have you applied to?

Employers tend to prefer candidates that have a more focused approach to their job search. If you have applied to legal firms that seem quite different, it may be worth considering what they have in common.

8. Tell me what types of matters require you to seek outside counsel?

Although the workload has increased, legal department budgets have largely remained stagnant. Some are even shrinking. Your next General Counsel needs to make the most of your in-house resources and set appropriate priorities for delegating responsibility to outside counsel when it's most cost-effective.

The ideal candidate follows an established framework for determining when to hire outside counsel. This may include matters that require highly specialized regulatory expertise or a substantial risk. The candidate should be mindful of the department budget, understand how to source appropriately and use technology such as electronic billing wherever possible to reduce legal spending.

9. Explain me how is the legal department structured within the company?

This question will give you a good idea about the size of the legal department, as well as the individuals you will be working most closely with. Your interviewer may also give you information regarding support staff and whether you will be dealing with outside counsel. This could be especially relevant if the company is global, so you will know exactly who you might be dealing with under various circumstances. You will also be able to determine whether your prior experience is a true fit for the role.

10. Tell me is this a newly created role, or was it held previously by someone else? If it is the latter, why is that person leaving the role?

This question is another good way to find out more about the company's culture and why the previous person left. If the interviewer is candid, you may get some real insight about the role, including some challenges or difficulties faced in the past.

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11. How do you evaluate success in Legal Counsel?

Success is met when the legal group supports the business objectives, supporting business growth and minimizing legal expenses.

12. Tell us what have you done to further your own professional development in the past 5 years?

Read a lot on business, find new legal areas to expore. E. G., real estate.

13. Tell me about your professional life?

One of the most common questions – and one of the biggest pitfalls. Open questions can lead to the least focused answers on occasion! It is unlikely they really want to know about your pro bono work, hobbies or school achievements at this stage – focus on the most relevant aspects of yourself as a candidate for this specific law job.

14. Tell me where do you see yourself in 3/5/7 years?

As always, consider what the interviewer is looking for here. Some can be wary of applicants that seem to lack ambition and do not aspire to make partner in a reasonable time frame. Others, on the contrary, can be conscious of the extent to which they can realistically accommodate a further partner in the short or medium term.

15. Tell me if you could be any superhero, who would it be?

To gauge how candidates think on their feet, throw a curve ball. Off-the-wall interview questions have now expanded beyond tech startups and have joined the ranks of lawyer interview questions. Glassdoor offers some real examples from other fields:

☛ If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?
☛ If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?

If you're not comfortable going quite that far, take a leaf out of Microsoft's book. Their interviews require candidates to shift gears and display logical thinking on unexpected, abstract topics, using questions such as: “If you were a brick in a wall, which brick would you be and why?” Candidates' answers can give you a sense of their poise and critical thinking when taken by surprise, which is a valuable characteristic, particularly for litigators.

16. Tell me why are you looking leaving your current law firm?

This is something that will almost invariably come up. Think about what reasons they will want to hear – the reasons that show you are making the right, well thought-out move.

17. Explain me about your most successful leadership experience?

M&A projects, leading multi-disciplinary teams throughout the company, reporting to steering committees. Problem: internal man-hours. Solution: Clear communicaiton, regular reporting, building confidence.

18. Why should we hire you as Legal Counsel?

I am a business partner, who couples risk management with business promotion. People enjoy working with me as a result of my open and confident style.

19. Tell me are there opportunities for growth and advancement here?

This question emphasizes your desire to progress and that long term growth within the company is important to you. It shows that you will be committed to the company and conveys dedication and determination. The answer will also give you some insight as to what the company's general feeling is on internal promotion.

20. Tell us what is your risk tolerance? Have you made a legal decision you have come to regret?

The General Counsel must be unafraid to face the fallout of difficult decisions, whether they involve dealings with regulators or simply taking a stance unpopular within the company. Someone who has been in the industry long enough has no doubt faced these stressful situations.

If the candidate offers a specific example, he or she should be able to demonstrate an important lesson learned from that situation and show that it resulted in change. A candidate who has no regrets may not be taking an honest inventory of the impact of his or her decisions.

21. Explain me the most complex legal issues you have faced. What was your strategy for solving the problems and what was the outcome?

You need to gain an understanding of how the candidate will handle potential issues at your company.

Examine how the candidate works with key stakeholders to develop a strategy. While the candidate should take an authoritative stance on the matter, it can be problematic if he or she makes important decisions without seeking input from others. If the topic was unfamiliar, how did the candidate research it? No legal professional has all the answers, but any competent professional knows where to find them.

22. Top 50 Legal Counsel Job Interview Questions:

☛ 1 Where do you see yourself in five years time?
☛ 2 Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
☛ 3 Tell me about yourself?
☛ 4 What is your major achievement?
☛ 5 What do you consider yourself good at doing?
☛ 6 What sort of person are you?
☛ 7 What are your strengths?
☛ 8 What are your weaknesses?
☛ 9 How would you approach this job?
☛ 10 How do you get things done?
☛ 11 How would you decide on your objectives?
☛ 12 How do you manage your day?
☛ 13 What motivates you?
☛ 14 How do you cope without motivation?
☛ 15 How long were you at your last job?
☛ 16 Why did you leave your last job?
☛ 17 How have you changed in the last five years?
☛ 18 What contribution do you make to a team?
☛ 19 How do you react if you find that someone you work with does not like you?
☛ 20 Have you ever experienced such a problem during your working life?
☛ 21 If so, how did you cope and how did the matter resolve itself if it did occur?
☛ 22 What would your peers say about you?
☛ 23 Describe your ideal work environment?
☛ 24 Describe your worst work environment?
☛ 25 Tell me about a time when you successfully handled a situation?
☛ 26 Tell me about a time when you felt that you dealt with a situation inadequately, and how has that changed how you would approach the same situation?
☛ 27 What do you think you can bring to this position?
☛ 28 What do you think you can bring to this company?
☛ 29 How do you see this job developing?
☛ 30 What sort of salary are you expecting?
☛ 31 What was your last salary?
☛ 32 If you did not have to work what would you do?
☛ 33 What decisions do you find easy to make?
☛ 34 What decisions do you find difficult to make?
☛ 35 Do you like to work in a team or on your own?
☛ 36 What would you do if you don't get this position?
☛ 37 If offered the position, how long do you plan to stay at this company?
☛ 38 On taking this job, what would be your major contribution?
☛ 39 How do you get the best out of people?
☛ 40 How do you respond under stress?
☛ 41 Can you provide a recent example of when you were under stress, and how you coped?
☛ 42 What support training would you require to be able to do this job? If not, why not? Explain.
☛ 43 What would you look forward to most in this job?
☛ 44 In your view, what are the major problems/opportunities facing the legal industry?
☛ 45 What will be your key target in this job if we appoint you?
☛ 46 What makes you think you can be successful with us?
☛ 47 How does the job sound to you?
☛ 48 Which subjects did you enjoy during your qualifying degree?
☛ 49 Why do you want to be a solicitor?
☛ 50 Have you always wanted to be a solicitor?

23. Typical Legal Counsel Job Interview Questions:

☛ Why should we hire you?
☛ How do you evaluate success?
☛ Why do you want a career as an assistant general counsel?
☛ What kind of supervisor gets the best work performance from you?
☛ Tell me about your most successful leadership experience.
☛ What is your philosophy towards work?
☛ What decisions are easiest for you to make? What are the most difficult?
☛ What three words would you use to describe yourself?
☛ Have you ever been overloaded with work?
☛ What have you done to further your own professional development in the past 5 years?
☛ How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?
☛ Tell us about the last time you had to negotiate with someone.
☛ What are the steps you follow to study a problem before making a decision?
☛ What have your achievements been to date?
☛ Describe a difficult project and how you overcame it?
☛ How do you handle stress and pressure?
☛ What major challenges and problems did you face at your last position?
☛ As an Assistant General Counsel, what do you believe is your best asset?

24. Common Legal Counsel Job Interview Questions:

☛ When you are doing work that you don't enjoy, how do you approach and get through it?
☛ How do you approach prioritising work?
☛ Describe a situation where you were able to positively influence your colleagues to a desirable conclusion.
☛ What strategies do you use to cope with pressure?
☛ Have you had experience of writing articles, presenting at seminars/conferences? How did this come about?
☛ Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult client and how you handled it.
☛ Does your firm encourage cross selling, if so, what part have you played in this?

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25. Difficult Legal Counsel Job Interview Questions:

☛ What interests you about this legal department or law firm? About this particular position?
☛ If you could design the perfect legal job for yourself, what would would it be? Why?
☛ As a legal professional, how would your colleagues describe you? How would the general counsel or your supervising partner describe you?
☛ What can you do for this law department or firm that no one else can?
☛ How do you structure your time?
☛ What do you like about your current job? What would you change about it?
☛ What are your three most significant professional accomplishments? Interview Questions for Legal Recruiting
☛ Describe a situation at work in which you had to delegate responsibility. How did it turn out?
☛ Describe a time when you took initiative with respect to a particular project.
☛ What is the best constructive criticism you've ever received? Why?
☛ Tell me about a time when you made a mistake or regretted your decision. How did you handle it?
☛ Describe a time when you set specific career or project goals for yourself. How did things turn out?
☛ How do you typically handle stress at the office? Describe an example.
☛ Can you describe a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty for a client?
☛ Imagine it's six months after you started this job. What criteria will determine whether you've made the right choice?