You want to be a legal librarian, you’ve polished your resume, your best suit is pressed and you hold an MLS/MLIS degree. You’re thrilled to get your first interview at a law firm, until reality strikes and you’re hit with panic and self-doubt. What if you blow it?
The key is preparation, preparation, preparation. Of course, it goes without saying that you must diligently research the firm, their practice area specialties and the types of clients they serve. You must be able to articulate how your skills and education will match their needs, and how you’ll fit into their culture.
Typical job interview questions
While certain questions will be specific to the opportunity itself, some interview questions are pretty universal. These often center on career goals, results, how you work with other people and how you handle various situations that can arise on a job. They typically go something like:
- “Why do you want to work here?”
- “Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?”
- “What are your greatest strengths?”, followed up by the dreaded,
- “Describe your biggest weakness.”
Every job seeker must be prepared with ready responses for these general questions, not to give answers that will sound scripted and artificial, but to help you be more confident and relaxed in the moment.
Typical law librarian interview questions
Of course, every law firm interview process will be unique. The questions asked will be specific to firm needs and library or information center expectations. And while the process for interviewing associate lawyers is more rigorous than most support staff, you can still expect to be interviewed by multiple people, including the library or research director, HR and perhaps one or more attorneys.
Aspiring law librarians can also expect some variation of the following questions:
1. What is your favorite legal research platform and what do you see as its pros and cons?
This refers to Westlaw and LexisNexis and similar types of products. Your work in school or as a librarian in another field should help inform your answer. Try to think of specific examples from projects you worked on. Highlight your adaptability and aptitude with all the databases and programs you’re familiar with, and your ability and willingness to learn new ones.
2. What internet tools and resources do you rely on, and why?
Again, think of the tools you used in your school work. Be prepared to come up with something more than Google. Interviewers will expect you to be versed in, or at least knowledgeable of, the most current internet resources, such as LibGuides and online court resources, especially those most relevant to the firm’s clients and practice areas. There are also a number of free, publicly accessible legal research sites sponsored by universities and other organizations.
This is also a chance for you to play up your social media savvy, not only on popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, but finding and using more obscure networks. Social media is an important resource for legal and business research and skills in this area are in demand.
3. What are your best practices for approaching and completing a research request?
Interviewers are looking for a response that shows you have sound training and skills to uncover and find the most relevant, reliable information as quickly as possible. In addition, they will want to know that you are customer service-focused.
Qualities you can stress here are:
- Thoroughness and orientation to detail.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Collaborative skills and ability to work with lawyers or other requesters.
4. How do you keep on top of the latest legal technologies?
This can be difficult as technology is evolving at breakneck speed. You are not expected to be a master of all, but it’s important to that you are aware of them. Stress the fact you keep up with state of the art tools by:
- Reading professional publications and websites.
- Participating in professional organizations.
- Attending continuing-ed trainings and seminars.
5. What would you rank as your top research/information skills?
In addition to software and other technical skills, think of skills that are useful in any professional setting, such as multitasking, prioritizing and project management ability. If you have subject matter knowledge in a particular area that could be relevant to the firm, communicate that.
6. Can you provide some examples of research/library processes you’ve been able to streamline or automate to make more efficient?
Here, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never worked in a law firm. They want to know that you are proactive, innovative and capable of maximizing resources. Discuss the library and information services experience you do have and how it will translate to the position. If you are a recent graduate, reference any situation where you were able to identify and assess needs or challenges and find a better way to get them done.
7. Tell me about a challenging research request you had to work on.
Again, think of any practical experience you have or a difficult classroom assignment you completed successfully. As with question #3 above, interviewers—especially law library and research directors—are looking to assess your ability to uncover and find the most relevant, reliable information as quickly as possible. They want to rule out the possibility that you are overstating or misrepresenting your abilities.
8. Describe a time that you successfully managed and resolved a difficult encounter with a colleague.
This type of question arises in nearly every kind of interview; it’s some variation of how you deal with difficult coworkers or clients and how you handle conflict. In the law firm context, your “clients” would be the attorneys and other people within the firm, like business development teams, who need librarian support.
Be prepared ahead of time with a few specific examples of how you resolved an issue. If you can’t think of any, describe how you would deal with such a situation. Strong points here are:
- Ability to keep your composure and remain professional.
- Patience, communication and listening skills.
Final tips to prepare for the interview
Interviewing for a law firm library position can be intimidating, but no matter what questions are thrown at you, always be truthful. And remember to smile and make eye contact, project confidence and most importantly, do your homework on the firm beforehand. Treat it like your first research challenge for the firm, your new employer.
LAC Group created LibGig especially for LIS job seekers, including an online job board, career publications and helpful blog articles. We hope you bookmark our website as one of your library career and professional development resources.