This article has intentionally neglected to provide stock answers to some of the questions you are likely to be asked at your interview. We instead provide guidance on how you can apply yourself and formulate your own answers to these questions.
In writing this article, we spoke to junior lawyers from different types of law offices across Nigeria to get a sense of the type of questions they were asked at their NYSC interview. See our top 7 below.
- Tell me about yourself
The first thing to note is that when an interviewer is asking this question, he is looking for information relevant to the role you are applying for. So, please spare him the “I was born to the family of Chief and Deaconess Egoanyanwu” chronicles.
Give a short summary of your CV and cover letter; summarize your education history, your career goals, work experience, etc. Your objective here is to tell them about yourself in a way that shows you are qualified for the job.
Also be mindful not to babble endlessly. Provide sufficient information, but be succinct.
- Why do you want to work with us?
If you have already prepared a cover letter as advised on Legally Engaged, you already have your answer to this question.
Focus on qualities that distinguish the firm from its competitors. If you have had personal encounters with the firm or its employees, now is a good time to mention these.
- Why should we hire you?
Again, you are selling yourself and showing the firm how your past experiences can add value to them.
- Where do you see yourself in X years?
Like “tell me about yourself”, this is another question that causes aspiring lawyers to fumble.
What the firm is looking for here is (a) an understanding of how a law firm works and the progression opportunities (b) how your ambition fits with the firm’s (c) how you define success (d) commitment to the law profession and the firm; very few firms want to hire someone who they know for a fact will be out in a year or two.
- Hypothetical questions
These are designed to test how you would react under certain circumstances. The interviewer understands that you may not have encountered some of those scenarios before, so is not looking for a perfect answer. He is simply trying to test your common sense, integrity or ability to think on your feet.
Examples may include “what would you do if…”
- your direct supervisor and his own boss both gave you different tasks with a similar tight deadline – whose task do you prioritize
- your supervisor or a client gives you a deadline which you believe to be virtually impossible to meet
- you are alone in the office and you get a phone call from a client asking for immediate advice on a topic you are not very familiar with
How to respond – before you respond, the first thing to think about is how your proposed solution may impact your firm and its reputation, your co-workers or the client. Diplomacy is crucial, and your integrity and the reputation of your firm should always be priority.
Be honest and polite and do not be afraid to defend your answers. Interviewers would also be testing your ability to stand by your decision or defer to a better suggestion. Be confident!
- Competency questions
These are designed to test your soft skills e.g. leadership, teamwork, etc.
A popular example is “give me an example of when you have worked as part of a team to solve a difficult problem”.
How to respond – this largely depends on the question you have been asked, but preparation is vital here. Before your interview and in preparing your CV, you should enumerate the skills required to be a lawyer and how you have been able to demonstrate this at work or at school.
- Technical questions
These are designed to test your knowledge of the area(s) of law the firm specialises.
Examples may include “how is a merger typically structured”, “what is your understanding of the role of the CBN in the financial sector”, “what is the limitation period for an action for breach of contract”.
How to respond – prepare in advance. If you have an idea what the organisation does, you might be able to anticipate some of the questions you are likely to be asked. Keep your knowledge of your law school curriculum fresh and read articles on the area of law you are interested in.
She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.
She also seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers, and make better career decisions.
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