Interview Guide – Legal Assistants and Clerks

The legal profession is vast, and this set of interview questions could not cover all areas of law.  It covers the fields we work with most frequently and will provide a great starting point.

Interview Questions by Legal Specialization

Initial Questions
  1. What areas of law have you specialized in and for how long?
  2. What areas of legal work interest you the most? Why?
  3. What type of firm do you have experience working in (i.e. national, mid-size, small)?
  4. How many lawyers did you support and in what capacity? Were they a Named Partner, Senior Partner, Junior Partner, Senior Associate, Junior Associate, Patent and Trademark Agent, etc?
  5. Did you maintain corporate records such as minute books, resolutions and corporate filings?
  6. What type of confidential or sensitive information did you work with? Please explain.
  7. To what extent have you been involved in opening and closing a legal file? Have you worked on a file from start to finish? Please explain.
  8. To what extent have you been involved in everyday file maintenance (i.e. Bring Forward System, filing, following-up with clients, following-up with the lawyer)?
  9. What file load are you used to managing? How did you prioritize assignments?
  10. Do you have experience managing calendars, scheduling appointments and / or booking domestic and international travel?
  11. Did you track agreements, and if so, how did you keep track of them?
  12. How much experience do you have with billings, invoicing and preparing expense reports?
  13. Did you draft, revise or proofread correspondence or agreements?
  14. Can you give me an example of where you demonstrated exceptional attention to detail?
  15. Do you have experience time docketing For yourself or for the lawyer you were assisting?
  16. How much experience do you have with dictation and transcription?
  17. In your previous role(s), how much interaction did you have with clients?
  18. What qualities should a Legal Assistant or Clerk have when dealing with firm clientele?
  19. Have you ever conducted legal research? If so, to what extent?
  20. Are you flexible when it comes to hours of work? How has overtime been compensated for you?
Case Scenario
You arrive to work and have a message from a client stating they have an urgent matter that needs to be discussed as soon as you get in. You also have a note on your desk from a lawyer saying he/she needs to discuss something with you ASAP and documents that need to be filed with the court for a 9am deadline. Describe the order in which you would tackle these tasks and explain your reasons why.
Litigation
  1. What areas of litigation are you familiar with (i.e. corporate commercial, construction, tort, personal injury—insurance defense or plaintiff)?
  2. How familiar are you with the Rules of Civil Procedure? Please explain.
  3. Explain your familiarity with court practices and procedures.
  4. How much experience do you have liaising with the court? Have you filed documents? Do you have experience working with process servers?
  5. What courts do you have experience with (i.e. small claims, superior, appeal, supreme)?
  6. How much experience do you have with drafting and preparing court documents (i.e. pleadings, affidavits, motion records, affidavit of documents, bill of costs, mediation briefs, factums)? Please explain.
  7. Have you ever had to assist with locating absent parties? If so, what methods did you use?
  8. Have you ever liaised with field experts to obtain reports? Please explain the process.
  9. Describe your experience with trial preparation. Explain your experience preparing charts, chronologies and summaries of documentary evidence for use on discovery or trial.
  10. Do you have experience preparing undertakings, following-up and answering undertakings? Please explain.
  11. Describe the ways you would track a limitation date (It’s important to gauge the candidate’s organizational skills—management of a limitation date is essential).
  12. Please describe a time you have provided litigation support prior to and during an examination, hearing or trial (i.e. organizing attendances of witnesses, preparation of document).
Corporate / Business Law
  1. Are you familiar with OnCorp and / or Industry Canada filing procedures?
  2. To what extent are you familiar with the Business Corporations Act (Canada) and Business Corporations Act (Ontario)?
  3. Describe your experience drafting documents in support of a corporate / commercial transaction.
  4. Describe your experience organizing and maintaining corporate minute books?
  5. Do you have experience preparing amendments, amalgamations, continuances and dissolutions for Federal Corporations?
  6. How much experience do you have with respect to assisting a lawyer with corporate transactions? Please explain.
  7. Explain your experience with incorporations, share transfers, purchases / sales, reorganizations, annual resolutions / renewals.
  8. Have you been exposed to Canadian Securities regulations, and if so, in what provinces or territories? What about IPO’s and board governance?
  9. Do you have experience assisting and preparing documentation relating to a merger or acquisition? Please elaborate.
  10. Explain how you edit and track changes with respect to corporate contracts or documentation.
  11. Describe your experience with insolvency or bankruptcy files.
  12. Do you have experience closing and supporting a lawyer during a closing? If so, what tasks did you assist with (i.e. obtaining due diligence, undertakings, summarizing documentation, preparing closing book of documents)?
  13. How would you prepare a file and organize documents for a closing or corporate transaction file?
  14. In the context of communications and media, do you have experience with privacy, libel, slander and defamation?
Real Estate Law
  1. How familiar are you with Conveyancer and / or Teraview?
  2. Is your background in commercial or residential real estate?
  3. Do you have experience in Landlord and Tenant law?
  4. What files do you enjoy working with more, purchases or sales? Please explain.
  5. Describe a time when a closing did not go smoothly. What happened / how did you deal with it?
  6. Do you have experience with mortgage refinancing?
  7. Do you have experience with condominium law?
  8. How many real estate files did you assist with closing per month during the busy season versus the slow season?
Family Law
  1. How familiar are you with the area of Canadian Family Law including divorce and separation, annulments, spousal and child support, custody and access, division of property and adoption?
  2. Tell me about what you’ve learned about the Marriage Act and Divorce Act in our province. Have you relied on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines as a tool? Please explain.
  3. To what extent have you assisted with drafting agreements such as separation, marriage, co-habitation agreements?
  4. What have you observed about how matrimonial property is divided, and conflicts that arise?
  5. Are you familiar with drafting and assisting with separation documents such as child custody /access, support, and property division?
  6. Describe your experience with drafting and assisting with divorce applications.
  7. Do you have experience working with or coordinating mediation services for a file? What methods did you use to do so?
  8. Do you have experience obtaining legal documents including marriage certificates, birth certificates?
  9. Describe a time you assisted with a difficult /sensitive family law file. How did you interact with the client?
  10. How familiar are you with DivorceMate?
Employment Law
  1. Are you more experienced assisting on employer or employee files?
  2. To what extent have you assisted with drafting employment policies and procedures?
  3. Do you have experience preparing, drafting and editing employment contracts and termination agreements?
  4. Did you have the responsibility of doing research, and if so, what was the nature of the research? How did you present your findings?
  5. How familiar are you with the Human Rights Code,and the Employment Standards Act in our province? Do you have experience dealing with files concerning pay equity or discrimination issues?
  6. Do you have experience dealing with and preparing documentation with respect to Human Rights Claims, and mediation?
  7. Have you had exposure to employers or clients relying on foreign workers, and have you addressed Labour Market Impact Assessments to retain them?
  8. Explain your understanding of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
  9. How familiar are you with the Occupational Health and Safety Code?
  10. Do you have experience assisting on files concerning Workplace Safety and Insurance Board issues?
  11. Do you have experience assisting on files concerning union grievances?
Intellectual Property Law
  1. Explain your experience with patent, trademark, copyright and anti-spam legislation.
  2. How would you define a trade secret and the role your legal team plays to protect them?
  3. Have you observed an increase in demand for legal counsel in music rights and content licensing? What about technology and software licensing?
  4. Do you have experience preparing and filing intellectual property correspondence to patent offices in Canada and U.S. under the Patent Corporation Treaty?
  5. Are you most familiar with manual or electronic filing systems?
  6. Describe your experience liaising and reporting with foreign associates / clients.Explain how you approach extensive searches.
Wills and Estates
  1. Do you have experience filing estate documents?
  2. How familiar are you with passing of accounts?
  3. Do you have experience with will and trust interpretations?
  4. Have you ever assisted with the drafting and proof reading of wills codicils and powers of attorney?
  5. Explain your experience with drafting estate administration documents ](i.e. applications for certificate of appointment, asset inventory, and distribution of estate assets).
  6. Do you have experience with drafting trusts? If so which types (i.e. inter vivos, testamentary, family, cottage, after ego, henson, insurance, spousal)?
  7. Did you ever have to attend on clients to act as a witness for wills and / or powers of attorney?
Software Knowledge for Legal Assistants
  1. What legal software are you familiar with?
  2. Explain your familiarity with the following legal operating systems: PCLaw, Quicklaw and Hummingbird DM.
  3. Explain your proficiency with the following: Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  4. Which specialized legal software are you familiar with? Please explain for each.
  • Conveyancer (Real Estate)
  • Teraview (Real Estate)
  • Estate-a-Base (Estates)
  • DivorceMate (Family)
  • Fast Company (Corporate)
  • Summation iBlaze (Litigation)
  • Others not listed?
Other Areas of Law in Canada
  • Aboriginal Law
  • Bankruptcy and Insolvency
  • Constitutional Law
  • Entertainment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • International Law
  • Personal Injury
  • Sports Law
  • Taxation
  • Technology and Science