Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Asking your interviewer good questions during the interview is absolutely necessary. Asking questions shows that you have researched the employer, and it demonstrates your genuine interest in the organization and the position. Different types of questions are appropriate at different phases of the interview process. If appropriate, you may ask questions during the course of your interview. You don't need to save all questions until the end. Interviews are more successful if they are more conversational. However, be sure to have a few of these questions prepared for the time when the interviewer asks "Do you have any questions?"

Some examples of good questions to ask your interviewer include:

  1. What does your firm look for in a candidate?
  2. How are decisions made regarding work assignments?
  3. What is the attorney/summer clerk evaluation process?
  4. Are summer associates ever made permanent offers?
  5. What are some of the qualities of your most successful summer associates?
  6. To whom will I report?
  7. How would you describe the "personality/culture" of this organization?
  8. I was impressed with the list of your firm's clients. Does a single client or industry dominate the firm's work?
  9. In what ways do you anticipate your business growing?
  10. In which departments do you anticipate the greatest growth during the next 5/10 years?
  11. What are your expectations regarding associates developing business for the firm?
  12. What types of outside activities do attorneys participate in on behalf of the firm?
  13. When will I begin to have client contact?
  14. What kinds of activities are considered "billable"? Recruitment? Bar associations? Is pro bono work counted in the billable hour target?
  15. Do most associates achieve their billable hour target? Do most associates exceed that target?
  16. After the initial minimum salary, are increases standard for all associates or is there an "award" system? If there is such a system, on what basis is the "award" made and by whom?
  17. What is the overall atmosphere of the firm? What are the firm activities? Do most people attend?
  18. If the firm has new areas of practice, how did those areas get started?
  19. What is special about this firm?
  20. What are the advantages to working for a firm this size?
  21. Describe the summer program, organized social events, how many 1Ls and 2Ls, official rotation.
  22. I see that your firm/organization uses a rotation program to train new associates. How is a permanent departmental assignment made?
  23. How are projects assigned, are the interests of the summer associate taken into account, is the summer program run by one person or more?
  24. What activities are firm members involved in that are not law related?
  25. For what reasons were summer clerks not extended offers?
  26. Why did you (the interviewer) choose this employer/city/practice area?
  27. Ask a young associate who participated in the summer program how many people he/she met over the summer.
  28. Ask a more senior member of the firm how many of the summer associates he/she met over the summer.
  29. What attributes do you see among the most successful lawyers of your firm/organization?
  30. As an attorney with your firm for 10 years, what are the most dramatic changes you have seen during your tenure?
  31. What training do summer associates receive during the summer program?
  32. Can I participate in pro bono activities over the summer?
  33. Does the firm have a training/rotation/mentoring program for new attorneys?
  34. What does the interviewer like about the firm, the practice of law or life in the city?

The following are examples of questions and topics that you should not broach:

  • Information you can or should be able to easily obtain from your research of the firm's Web site and/or other readily available material.
  • Generic questions about the summer program, practice areas, etc., as they reflect poorly on your preparedness.
  • Questions about benefits and compensation (How much money will I make?). Wait until you receive an offer before you ask, or find the answers from the firm's Web site or through other resources.
  • Questions about work/life balance for associates. Work/life balance is a benefit the firm may advertise, but it's a topic for them to address.
  • Questions that shed the firm in a negative light or questions that may put the firm on the defensive. Avoid asking why the firm does not compare to other firms in terms of pro bono, minority partners, etc.