5 Common Paralegal Interview Questions with Answers


When preparing for an interview for a paralegal position, anticipate questions to be directed towards your organizational, research, writing, decision-making and analytical skills. In addition, equip yourself with examples of your experience handling confidential and sensitive information, time management techniques, and work ethic.   


Below is a list of commonly asked interview questions for paralegals. I have given general answers that can be tailored to your experience.  Go into specifics with your interviewer. For example, instead of mentioning that you use " legal software" to track hearings and depositions, mention the name of the software,  what it does, and how you utilize it so that the interviewer is made aware of the various skills you have. 

1. The legal profession can be very stressful at times, and you may often find yourself dealing with attorneys or clients who are behaving in an angry or unreasonable way. Please describe how you would deal with such a situation.
                    
I take pride in my ability to present a calm and professional demeanor even in tense situations. Along with this, I do my best to find constructive solutions to the issue that is causing the problem. When employers and clients see that I understand the urgency of their problem and am doing my best to resolve it, this often defuses the situation. My approach is to do the best job I can under all circumstances. (Staying calm under pressure is important in the legal field!)

2. What steps do you take to keep up to date with legal developments in your field?

As a real estate paralegal, I make sure to peruse the relevant rulings in our local law journal. In addition, I regularly pursue professional education opportunities, including conferences and webinars. If, in the course of my job, I do encounter a concept I am not fully familiar with, I make sure to educate myself as soon as possible.  (This can be adapted to any niche you are working in.)

3. What are some ways in which you have contributed to the efficiency of your firm’s operation?

At my previous place of employment, I assembled a set of sample document packets for various types of cases and stages of litigation, from initial filings to trial preparation. This has enabled other paralegals and attorneys to reduce the amount of time spent writing up a document in which large parts consist of fairly standard language. At the same time, I reviewed the sample documents to ensure that they are of high quality and up to date in order to avoid the problem encountered in many firms where older document samples continue to be passed along without review or modification. (Make your answer your own and really show off your accomplishments in the efficiency arena.)

4. Can you tell me about a time when you had to interact with a difficult client?

One incident that comes to mind is when a client was very unhappy with the way his attorney was handling the case but not unhappy enough to leave the firm. This client would constantly look up legal information on the internet, which often proved inaccurate or incomplete, and would insist that the attorney use it to handle the case. As the paralegal, it often fell to me to interact with this client and explain why his attorney’s recommendations made the most sense. I had to employ a lot of diplomacy in order to ensure that the client felt heard and understood, while at the same time persuade him of the correct course of action. Eventually, the client came to trust his attorney’s handling of his case and was ultimately satisfied with the outcome. (Solving difficult situations is an important part of a paralegals job, and its a skill we use in several situations.)

5. What steps do you take in order to manage your workload and meet deadlines?


I use paralegal software to organize my cases and make a timeline for deadlines and priorities for each case. At the beginning and end of each day, I take a few minutes to review my current workload, add any changes and input new tasks. This allows me to constantly have in mind the total picture of my work obligations and ensures that tasks or projects do not fall through the cracks. (Be sure to tell the interviewer how you personally manage and track your time.)

Be Ready for Trial! 10 Top Trial Preparation Tips for Paralegals

How often have we thought to ourselves that we needed to be better prepared before the first day of trial?  When your attorney announces the case is not going to settle and you will be responsible for various tasks, will you be prepared? 

1. The best advice is, in the beginning, is to get your trial  team on board and have a meeting to discuss deadlines and division of labor as to who is the responsible team member to coordinate the various tasks.  

2. During the course of the case,  (and especially helpful to do at the conclusion of discovery) you should begin creating a list of potential trial exhibits.  I would suggest you save an electronic version of each potential trial exhibit in a folder on your internal drive (it will make it easier to electronically label as a trial exhibit as the trial date gets closer). 


3. After the Rule 26(a)(2) disclosures are filed begin drafting a witness list for trial using similar information you included in your Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures.  Often times there are late disclosures before trial so you will have a draft list that may need to be tweaked before it is filed, disclosed and attached to a Trial Management Order.


4. Sometimes in the Pre-Trial Order a certain date is provided for the filing of a Trial Management Order, in addition to other deadlines related to Rule 16 requirements affecting the trial.  As the case proceeds through discovery begin drafting the TMO using the information available and update as the facts change, pending motions fully briefed have been decided and damages asserted in the lawsuit increase or decrease.


5. Immediately get deadlines docketed in an Outlook calendar or in the docketing program that your company or law firm has to track deadlines listed in the PTO and TMO.  Pre-planning by scheduling is helpful to all members of the trial team and will avoid last minute surprises and stress!

6. Prepare a chart with the names of witnesses, with current contact information and availability for a trial preparation sessions to be conducted either during a telephone conversation, video-conferencing or in-person.  It is always helpful if the witness has been deposed to provide a copy of his/her transcript with related deposition exhibits to assist with a smooth and efficient preparation session.  For expert witnesses it is a good idea to review with them their report and supporting documents they relied upon for their opinion. 

Frequently (particularly if a trial date has been continued a few times) an expert report may have been prepared a few years before the case is actually heard by the Court—thus it is important to have a trial preparation session close to the time of their actual testimony in court to review their opinions.


7. Immediately upon learning of the trial date, it should be placed on your radar screen to begin investigating hotel accommodations and travel arrangements for out-of-town witnesses and clients.  Many times conventions book blocks of rooms at hotels during your trial, and it may be a challenge to obtain lodging for all of your witnesses.  Contact the visitors’ bureau and convention center in your area and inquire whether any large group will be in town during your trial.  If you need to set up a war room in a hotel suite you may be able to arrange for complimentary sleeping rooms.  Based on past experience pre-planning is crucial to insure your guests have a place to stay!



8. Another common request from the trial attorneys is obtaining a daily draft transcript of the testimony elicited by witnesses during the trial.  In some state courts there are no court reporters and the trial proceedings are audio recorded which often times precludes a court reporting transcription service from producing an accurate record of the elicited testimony (thinking ahead, you want an accurate copy to preserve a right for appeal).  Many court reporting services (after getting the Judge’s approval) will allow parties to bring in their own private court reporter for the duration of a trial so that a daily transcript and/or realtime can be made available to all parties.  Again, it is best to coordinate this request as soon as possible to insure the court reporter can be present for the duration of the trial and that you are provided a draft transcript in the evening.  In Federal Court the request may be easier to facilitate because generally live court reporters are present to transcribe the testimony during the course of a trial.  Usually court reporters will require advance payment for their services.


9. It is a good idea to schedule a visit to survey the courtroom to meet the court staff and access the limitations related to electrical wiring for the technology you will be using during your trial. Take your IT person with you if you will be using an electronic trial presentation program to insure she/he has the proper equipment, including extension cords for the courtroom.  The day before trial coordinate with the court staff to set up and test the equipment (it’s helpful if parties share the equipment─less clutter in the courtroom) to avoid any last minute glitches.  Many courthouses advise that you bring your own equipment while the Federal Court system has the equipment in the courtroom and you simply plug-in and you are ready to go!


10.  It is important to determine the location of your war room at trial.  Location may be the most important ingredient to having a functional and successful war room. If you are in trial in your hometown coordinate with your office personnel as soon as possible for the necessary space that you will need, including witness preparation rooms in addition to the war room.


If you are on the road you need to determine whether the hotel you are staying at is close enough to the courthouse so that you can easily access materials during the trial day from your war room.  Generally, most large hotel chains have suites available that work well for war rooms to house equipment, including computers, printers, copiers, fax machines and office supplies.  Word of caution─inquire at the hotel whether your opposition is also staying at the same hotel on the same floor as your war room!  Ask the hotel management about the stableness of the hotel internet connection.  Plan to bring a Wi-Fi card to have access to firm email and internet browsing in case your documents are stored on a cloud.


Plan for the worst and expect the best─you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  Paralegals are the cheerleaders for the trial team as well as the conductors of the logistical symphony of orchestrating a smooth transition from theme to theme of the case.  Success is measured by the pre-planning and organization skills you provide in support of the trial team.  Regardless of the outcome of the trial, a paralegal is often the unsung hero on the trial team!

Paralegal Career Option: Finding Your Niche As a Legal Document Preparer

My career path has been a winding road that has led me back on the path of my destiny. As a result, making a career choice to be a Legal Document Preparer (for non-lawyers), Virtual Paralegal and Blogger (for attorneys in good standing with the state bar), and Bankruptcy Petition Preparer (non-lawyer bankruptcy) required extensive research and expertise. 



A person may be thinking that you are simply typing legal forms so what is the difference? Before someone chooses a career in any or all of the above document preparer services, it is important to understand the difference between the titles in order to be in compliance with your state's laws.

By law, individuals who type legal forms are restricted from using certain titles under certain circumstances. Each title requires specific qualifications which are regulated by statute and the state bar association. Also, each specific title is for a consumer's protection to ensure that each consumer understands who they are dealing with for services.

Using the wrong term or advertisement language may lead to a 3rd degree felony with the charge of the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). As a result, it is imperative that a website be set up with the intention to be in compliance with Federal and State law no matter which state you plan to do your business.

WHEN TO USE THE TITLE OF LEGAL DOCUMENT PREPARER

In some states, the title for non-lawyer document preparers of legal forms is called a Legal Document Preparer. When the Legal Document Preparer title is used it informs the consumer that the Legal Document Preparer is not supervised by an attorney. The title is intended to inform the consumer that the individual is a non-lawyer.

For example, in some states, before a Legal Document Preparer can begin inserting the information in a state's approved court forms for a dissolution of marriage, he or she must:

Have the client sign a Disclosure from Non-lawyer form. In the state which I reside in they require a Form 12.900(a) to be executed before beginning to fill in the forms.

In some states, a Legal Document Preparer needs to obtain a hand written client intake or questionnaire that was relied upon to fill out the Court-approved forms.

NO legal advice or recommendations regarding choice of legal forms for a consumer to choose is to be provided. Otherwise, it is construed as the unauthorized practice of law (UPL).

Fill out the nonlawyer section of each document that was prepared by the Legal Document Preparer.

Retain a copy of all legal documents prepared for 6 years.


PARALEGAL TITLE REQUIREMENTS

When the Paralegal title is used it informs the consumer that the document preparer is working under the supervision of a licensed attorney authorized to practice law in the state of the business. Therefore, in certain states an individual may only use the Paralegal title when working for lawyers. In a law office setting, with supervision of an attorney, you may identify yourself as a paralegal in most states.

If you decide to start your own document preparer business without attorney supervision, you may be required to clearly inform the consumer that you are a Legal Document Preparer and not a Paralegal in some states.

BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER TITLE

When the Bankruptcy Petition Preparer title is used it informs the consumer that the petition preparer is a non-lawyer. Notice that there is no reference to the word "legal" in the title. A Bankruptcy Petitioner Preparer is defined as: "[B]ankruptcy petition preparer means a person, other than an attorney for the debtor or an employee of such attorney under the direct supervision of such attorney, who prepares for compensation a document for filing." 11 U.S.C.  110(a)(1).

You may not advertise using the word legal or advertise under the title of legal services.

As with any business venture or career move, it is a good idea to do some of your own research. For certain people this type of career is lucrative while for others it may be a means to support their family while working from home.






Susan M Signer Services is a multi-service company located in Florida providing Legal Document Preparer services for nonlawyers, notary public services, wedding officiant, web designer, and article writer. If you need any assistance you may go to [http://www.signerservices.com]Susan M Signer Services site. 
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