How to Answer “Why Did You Decide to Pursue a Legal Career?” was originally published on Vault.
Whether it is during a job interview or a conversation at a networking event, chances are that every law student and lawyer will be asked at least once (or 30 times) why they pursued a career in law. The question seems simple enough on its face—everyone has some reason for heading to law school (even if it is just that they weren’t sure what else to do after undergrad). The key is providing a memorable response that sets you apart from other applicants and connects you to the employer or new connection. In other words, avoid providing generic responses or droning on about your life’s history. Follow one of the below approaches to plan a detailed, yet brief, response ahead of time.
1. Make It Personal.
Your reasons for becoming a lawyer will seem genuine if you mention a specific moment in your life that influenced your decision. Consider discussing how you discovered your passion for the law, whether it was through a college professor who piqued your interest with an assignment or volunteer work that opened your eyes to a legal career path. If you use a concrete moment from your life, your answer will be unique to your own experience and most likely resonate with the listener. Don’t forget to include some specifics about why exactly this moment set you on your current path—and take the further step to describe how your experiences since have drawn you to this particular employer or a specific practice area.
2. Select a Practice.
Your answer does not have to be a profound “Aha!” moment. Perhaps you gravitated toward law due to your interest in a practice area. If so, describe why that practice area stood out to you and what experiences in your education or career have led you to this point. During job interviews, be sure to link your goals to the employer’s work in this area, including specific types of matters and tasks they handle.
3. Focus on Your Legal Career Goals.
Another angle is to discuss what you hope to achieve in your legal career and how these goals have put you on this career path. For example, are you focused on advocating for a specific group or spearheading policy change in a certain area? Sometimes the best answer is not something that has already happened, but rather one that you are determined to accomplish. This answer will convey to the listener that you are goal oriented and also will allow you to tie your future goals to the interviewer’s own work.
Your reasoning for pursuing a legal career says a lot about you to interviewers and new connections. Take time before your next interview or event to think about your reasons for entering the legal field. Prepare a response that genuinely conveys your motivations and goals with enough detail to make the response personal to you but not so much detail that you lose your audience. Then, practice answering the question out loud several times so you are comfortable responding at interview time.