37 General Counsel Interview Questions (and Sample Answers)
A general counsel is a company’s or government agency’s chief attorney or legal representative.. She advises a management team on matters such as legal rights and laws, reviewing contracts and providing legal advice to senior leaders. Knowing the questions a hiring manager might ask during an interview for this position will help you prepare strategic answers.
In this article, we review 37 common counsel interview questions you’re likely to hear from a hiring manager and provide some sample answers to help you prepare your own.
Common Interview Questions
Here are some common questions you may hear at the beginning of a general counsel interview:
- tell me about yourself.
- How would your manager describe your work ethic?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- Why did you want to pursue this career?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell me about your working style.
- How do you deal with work-related stress?
- What’s your favorite part of being a general counsel?
- What is your favorite part of being a public advisor?
- How did you hear about this job?
- What do you hope to get out of playing this part?
- What do you hope to get out of playing this part?
- What made you quit your last job?
- When can you start?
Questions about experience and background
Consider these questions you might hear about your education and work history:
- Where did you graduate from?
- What class best prepared you for this job?
- What are the key responsibilities of a general counsel?
- What are the three most crucial competencies for this position, in your opinion?
- Tell me about your experience in business development initiatives.
- Which of your qualifications best prepares you for this role?
- Do you have experience in mergers or acquisitions?
- How do you keep up with the most recent legal news?
- What is your most proud moment as general counsel?
- Have you ever talked about legally correct decisions?
In-depth interview questions
These questions help hiring managers assess your technical skills. For example, they may ask questions about how you can handle any situation at work. Knowing your answer will help them determine if you have enough knowledge to handle the job. A hiring manager might ask these deeper questions:
- Describe a situation when you and your management disagreed. How did it unfold?
- As a general tip, tell me about a time when you successfully used your problem-solving skills.
- Describe what this position requires in terms of strategic thinking.
- How do you ensure you lead a cohesive team?
- Have you ever given a senior executive unpleasant news?what happen?
- Tell me about the person who most influenced your career.
- What do you consider to be the biggest legal challenge our firm may face? Why?
- Tell me about a challenging legal issue you overcame as general counsel. What happened, and what were your reactions to it? what did you learn
- Tell me about a time when you gave strategic advice on taking legal action.
- Have you ever overruled a CEO when it was important to do so? Tell me about it.
General Counsel Interview Questions with Sample Answers
Before your interview, consider the answers you want to give to a hiring manager. Preparing your responses to common interview questions will help you provide strategic and informed answers. Read these interview questions with sample answers to think about how to craft your own responses:
1. Describe your management style when dealing with lawyers.
General counsels often supervise different attorneys. In this role, it is important to demonstrate a specific leadership style that helps set a certain tone for the department or agency. When hiring managers ask this question, they want to know how you manage a group of lawyers. List your management philosophies, highlight your leadership and legal prowess, and discuss your prior management experience in a position similar to this one in your response.
For instance, “When managing a team of attorneys, I remain active. I think it’s important to stay up-to-date on their current tasks so I can provide useful guidance while giving them the ability to work independently.”
2. What do you do when you have to reject a specific decision from the management team?
In some cases, you may have to say no to the management team’s actions. As a general counsel, it is important to suggest alternative solutions. Hiring managers are looking for a response that indicates your capacity to uphold your legal knowledge and guidance without jeopardising business contacts and communications.. In your answer, discuss your ability to understand corporate needs and the legal system. It is also important to highlight your ability to cope with stress in these situations.
For instance, “Even if I have to reject some options, I make sure I can try alternative approaches to come up with a solution that’s more digestible to the management team.”
3. Do you keep the work in-house or outsource it?
Some lawyers prefer to practice or work outside of their department or agency. This is a question that hiring managers may ask to help them decide whether to hire outside legal advice or keep your own attorneys on staff. They are also better able to comprehend your hiring standards. When you answer, highlight your ability to stick to a budget and emphasize your ability to solve problems related to budget constraints. It will also help to discuss your knowledge of local law firms and your experience hiring outside of your agency.
Example: “Even though I’m aware that working with an outside company would provide me access to more knowledge, I prefer working internally because it saves money and allows us to stay within budget. When I hire outside counsel, we consider and manage our financial situation effectively.”