Paralegals play a crucial role in supporting attorneys and ensuring the efficient functioning of law firms’ processes and workflows. They assist in preparing legal documents, coordinating work with courts, clients, and witnesses, doing legal research, and organizing case files.
Evaluating the skills of candidates is crucial in determining whom to hire. A resume alone may not provide a comprehensive understanding of paralegals’ experience and knowledge.
Instead, incorporating skills tests in your recruitment process to evaluate skills such as legal research, communication, and time management, coupled with strategic interview questions, can be instrumental in identifying the best-fit candidates.
To help you prepare for the interviews and evaluate the skills and experience of candidates, we’ve prepared a list of the best 34 interview questions for paralegals, along with sample answers to 20 of them.
Posting a well-written job description and screening the resumes you receive is not enough to assess an individual’s skills – especially when hiring a paralegal. Using pre-employment skills tests instead of sifting through resumes enables you to quickly identify your best applicants and decide whom to invite to an interview.
This method allows you to evaluate candidates objectively based on their practical abilities and proven skills. By using skills tests before you meet with candidates, you can focus only on the most qualified individuals, which helps make the hiring process faster and more efficient.
Some of the skills tests you can use when hiring a paralegal are:
Legal Research: Find candidates who know how to do legal research quickly and efficiently.
Reading Comprehension: This is an essential skill for many roles – and especially for paralegals and legal assistants.
Attention to Detail: Are candidates able to pay close attention to details and spot the tiniest errors and discrepancies? Find out with this test.
Computer Literacy: Paralegals need to use different legal databases and software tools, so it’s essential they have the right computer skills.
Communication: Check whether applicants know how to communicate well in a professional setting with this test.
Time Management: Find out whether candidates are capable of managing their time well and prioritizing tasks efficiently.
Critical Thinking: Paralegals need to be able to evaluate information critically and draw conclusions based on the data they have.
Once you identify the best candidates with the help of skills tests, you can invite them to an interview. Combining skills tests and interviews enables you to:
Streamline the paralegal recruitment process
Gain deeper insights into candidates’ strengths and weaknesses
Assess applicants’ real-world knowledge and skills
Save money – skills-based hiring helped 74% of employers reduce the cost-per-hire, according to our latest research
Below, you’ll find our selection of the best interview questions for paralegals, along with sample answers to help you evaluate candidates’ responses.
If you’re hiring for a junior role, this question might not be necessary, but if you’re looking for someone who has extensive experience, it’s worth enquiring about it.
Do candidates have experience with different types of documents, such as:
Drafts of motions and pleadings
How do they make sure each document is clear, precise, and tailored to the client’s needs? Do they double-check documents’ formatting and compliance with legal standards? Do they have a system that helps them speed up the process while maintaining accuracy and efficiency?
Look for candidates who have a systematic and thorough approach to legal research. For example, they might start by mapping out key issues and identifying the most authoritative sources. They might then compare a few different sources to make sure their information is accurate and up-to-date.
The best applicants will explain how they synthesize the results of their research into a coherent legal strategy.
Candidates might mention different types of software. Here are some examples:
Document management: Concordance and CaseMap
Case management: Clio, MyCase, and PracticePanther
Legal research: Westlaw and LexisNexis
Regardless of the specific software tools they mention, look for candidates who are open to learning new ones and adapting to your tech stack.
You can use this as a follow-up question for the previous one. Candidates might mention databases like Westlaw, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law, and Fastcase – or specialized databases related to the type of law they’re experienced in.
The best paralegals might know how to leverage different databases to cross-reference information and make sure the results from their research are comprehensive and error-free.
If you expect candidates to get up to speed quickly, you might look for those of them who have experience with the specific area of law your firm is specialized in, be it corporate law, real estate law, trademark law, family law, or civil litigation.
You can then use follow-up questions to gain a better understanding of candidates’ specific experience and see whether it aligns with your requirements.
If, however, you’re open to providing a more extensive onboarding process, you might consider applicants who have experience in other areas of law.
Handling confidential information correctly is fundamental in the legal field. Make sure applicants understand all privacy laws and ethical guidelines that apply to their work – and know how to store information securely, be it with the help of encryption, 2-factor authentication, or a physical lock and key.
The best ones might mention that they have experience with conducting regular audits to ensure compliance with data protection and confidentiality regulations.
Candidates might explain that they start by checking all deadlines and client requirements and then prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance; for this, they might use tools like Trello, Asana, or Google Sheets. Skilled professionals will then explain that they communicate regularly with attorneys and other team members to ensure everyone’s aligned on what’s most important.
Accuracy is a non-negotiable in law. Look for candidates who have a methodical approach to sourcing, double-checking, and analyzing information and making sure each document is error-free.
Strategies candidates might mention include:
Reviewing all background materials and information
Cross-verifying details to make sure everything is accurate
Using checklists to ensure they’re not missing anything
Working with other team members to spot oversights
Revisiting their work after a break
Using software tools to minimize human error
Skilled candidates will explain that they have developed a comprehensive system for categorizing, filing, and retrieving documents efficiently. They might also have experience with converting paper documents into electronic files and making sure everything is properly categorized and easy to access.
The best ones might mention that having an intuitive system for organizing documents helps the entire team be more efficient and find what they need without any hassle.
Problem-solving is an essential part of legal work; this question will help you find out whether candidates have the right skills to identify and resolve issues.
Candidates might mention that they first make sure they understand the problem at hand and then move on to identifying different solutions and approaches to it. They might also consult with other team members to get different perspectives.
They might also give you a specific example of using problem-solving skills in the workplace, such as having helped their team resolve a particularly challenging contract dispute.
Managing large volumes of discovery materials requires a well-thought-out strategy. Candidates might explain they use e-discovery software and categorize documents based on their relevance, which makes their retrieval easy. The most skilled paralegals might know how to use data analysis tools or even generative AI to identify key information and improve the chances of a positive outcome.
Effective communication and critical thinking are essential when paralegals assist multiple attorneys. Some candidates might have a prioritization system that enables them to categorize tasks by their urgency and importance; others may share their calendars and to-do lists with attorneys to keep open lines of communication with them at all times.
Look for candidates who show they are able to juggle between a few important tasks at once and keep everyone updated on their progress.
Not everyone will have experience with contract negotiations, but if you expect your next paralegal to review and analyze contract terms frequently, you can use this question to see whether candidates’ experience aligns with your requirements.
Here, experienced paralegals might explain how they’ve identified potential issues with contracts in the past and made sure terms were in their clients’ favor. They might also explain what they’ve learned from this and how they plan to leverage their experience in the future to mitigate contract risks and help their clients achieve better outcomes.
This is a tough question; candidates’ answer to it will depend on their specific experiences. Look for answers that provide specific examples of cost savings or improved profitability that candidates helped achieve. For example, they might have identified a workflow that could be improved, thus improving attorneys’ efficiency, or they might have renegotiated a contract with a large supplier to get a better deal.
This question can help you assess whether applicants have the necessary legal research and analytical thinking skills for your role. Have they helped improve attorneys’ approaches to specific cases in the past? Are they able to make sure that the team has all the information they need? Do they know how to analyze precedents and identify potential legal challenges?
Working on high-stakes cases can be very demanding, so look for legal assistants who’re able to handle this kind of stress. They might give examples of specific strategies they utilize in such instances, for example using checklists to make sure they’re not missing anything or double-checking all documentation and deadlines.
Have candidates been involved in learning and development initiatives at previous workplaces? If yes, this experience might be invaluable if you have a large team and onboard new employees often.
Expert paralegals might explain that they plan training sessions in advance and use regular one-on-one meetings to follow junior staff’s progress and share their feedback. Look for candidates who find it rewarding to help others grow in their roles.
Ethical dilemmas are sometimes a part of a paralegal’s work. Candidates must demonstrate that they have a strong moral compass and a deep understanding of business ethics by giving a specific example. Look for those who are aware of the impact their decisions might have on the entire company and its reputation.
If you’d like to gain deeper insights into candidates’ understanding of professional ethics, you can use a Business Ethics and Compliance test.
Effective communication is crucial for a legal team’s success. Look for candidates who understand the importance of clarity and professionalism in all their interactions – and who aren’t afraid to ask clarifying questions if they need additional information.
The best paralegals will also know how to explain complex legal issues in simple terms to clients, ensuring they understand the legal processes and the next steps.
Paralegals might sometimes need to deal with difficult clients.
Are your candidates able to use empathy and show clients that they take their concerns seriously? Do they understand the importance of active listening when talking to clients who are anxious or angry? Do they know how to manage clients’ expectations and provide assurance without compromising workflows?
Looking for more questions you can ask during the interview process? Below, you’ll find 14 extra paralegal interview questions.
How do you approach networking as a paralegal?
How do you align your work with the strategic goals of your legal department?
Can you tell us about a time when you identified a potential improvement to a process and implemented it?
A client contacts you with information that might actually be detrimental to their case. What do you do?
How do you evaluate the risks and benefits of a legal strategy?
How do you approach cost management in your projects?
Can you give an example of how you contributed to client retention?
Describe a project where you had to analyze data. What insights did you gain from it?
How do you approach cases that have no clear precedent?
How do you manage risk when dealing with complex cases that have an uncertain outcome?
Tell us about a time when you had to make a difficult decision without much guidance from superiors.
How do you stay organized and maintain accuracy in record-keeping?
You notice you made a mistake in a document you filed and you have the possibility to correct it without anyone noticing. What would you do?
A client is frustrated with their case’s slow progress and threatens to find another attorney. How do you handle the situation?
To hire a skilled paralegal, it’s important for recruiters and hiring managers to create a well-rounded evaluation process that identifies the most competent candidates in their candidate pool quickly and accurately.
Hiring the right person is critical for the success of any legal team. By incorporating TestGorilla’s skills assessments into the hiring process, coupled with strategic interview questions like the ones above, you can make more informed decisions – and find talented professionals who are able to contribute significantly to your legal team.
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