15 Legal Research Interview Questions and Answers

Prepare for the types of questions you are likely to be asked when interviewing for a position where Legal Research skills will be used.

When it comes to the legal field, research is key. After all, lawyers need to be able to find the right cases and statutes to support their arguments. That’s why employers want to know that you have the research skills necessary to do the job.

If you’re interviewing for a legal research position, you can expect to be asked questions about your research methods, strategies, and skills. You may also be asked questions about your experience using different legal research databases.

To help you prepare for your interview, we’ve compiled a list of sample legal research interview questions and answers.


1. What is Legal Research?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of the legal research process. It also allows you to show how you can apply your skills in a professional setting. When answering this question, it’s important to be clear and concise with your answer.

Example: “Legal research is the process of finding information about laws and regulations that are relevant to a case or situation. This involves searching for cases, statutes, codes and other documents that provide insight into the issue at hand. I find that using multiple resources when conducting legal research helps me gather more information than if I only used one resource.”

2. Can you explain what a legal citation is?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of legal research. They want to know that you understand the basics of how to conduct a search and cite sources correctly. In your answer, define what a citation is and give an example of one in your own experience.

Example: “A legal citation is a reference to a source where you can find more information about a topic or case. It includes the name of the author, title of the document, publisher, date published, volume number, page numbers and sometimes other details like the state or jurisdiction.” I have used citations many times during my career as a paralegal. For example, when I was working on a client’s divorce case, I needed to find out if there were any prenuptial agreements between the couple. I searched for the names of both parties along with ‘prenuptial agreement’ in Google Scholar and found a PDF file from a law journal that listed all of their previous cases. The court then used this information to make its decision.”

3. What are the different types of sources that can be used in legal research?

This question is a great way to show your interviewer that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform legal research. When answering this question, it can be helpful to list several types of sources and explain what each one is used for.

Example: “There are many different types of sources that can be used in legal research. Primary sources include court cases, statutes, regulations, codes and other documents that were created by government agencies or organizations. Secondary sources are books, articles, journals and other publications that discuss primary sources. Finally, there are tertiary sources, which are summaries of secondary sources.”

4. How does case law differ from statutory law?

Case law and statutory law are two different types of legal research. Case law is the interpretation of a statute by a judge or court, while statutory law is the actual text of a law passed by a legislative body. Your answer should show that you understand the differences between these two types of laws and can apply them to your work.

Example: “Case law differs from statutory law in several ways. First, case law is created when a judge interprets a statute, while statutory law is written by a legislature. Second, case law applies only to the specific situation it was created for, while statutory law has broader application. Finally, statutory law is binding on all courts within its jurisdiction, while case law is not.”

5. What’s your understanding of secondary authority and how it differs from primary authority?

This question is a test of your legal research skills and knowledge. It’s important to show that you understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, as well as how they’re used in the law library.

Example: “Secondary authority refers to any source that isn’t a court decision or statute. These include treatises, articles, books and other publications by experts in their field. Primary authority includes all official documents such as case decisions, statutes and regulations.”

6. Is it possible to use websites as a source for legal research? If yes, then which ones are reliable?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of legal research and how you apply it. It also allows the interviewer to see if you have experience with using websites for legal research, which can be an important skill in this field.

Example: “Yes, there are many reliable websites that provide information on legal research. Some of my favorites include FindLaw, Cornell Legal Information Institute and Nolo. These sites offer valuable resources for finding case law, statutes and regulations as well as other useful information about the law.”

7. What do you understand by “legal precedents” and “stare decisis”?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of legal research. It also allows you to show the interviewer that you understand how these terms apply to the law and can use them in your work.

Example: “Legal precedents are previous court decisions that set a precedent for future cases with similar circumstances. Stare decisis means ‘to stand by things decided.’ This principle refers to the idea that courts should follow prior rulings on similar issues when making new decisions.”

8. What is an opinion letter? When is it used?

An opinion letter is a document that provides an attorney’s legal opinion on a specific matter. It can be used to provide information about the law, how it applies to a situation and what actions should or shouldn’t be taken. Your answer should show the interviewer that you understand what an opinion letter is and when it would be appropriate to use one.

Example: “An opinion letter is a written statement from an attorney that explains their interpretation of the law and its application to a particular case. Opinion letters are often used in situations where there isn’t a clear-cut way to interpret the law. For example, if I was working for a company who wanted to know whether they could legally fire an employee for taking time off work due to illness, I might write an opinion letter explaining my understanding of the relevant laws and providing advice on how to proceed.”

9. Can you explain what administrative law is?

Administrative law is a branch of the legal system that deals with government agencies and their regulations. Administrative law also includes cases involving public officials, such as police officers or judges. This question allows you to show your knowledge of administrative law by explaining what it is and how it works.

Example: “Administrative law is a branch of the legal system that deals with government agencies and their regulations. It also involves cases where public officials are involved, such as police officers or judges. In my last role, I was responsible for researching all relevant case laws when dealing with administrative law issues. For example, if an individual had a complaint against a police officer, I would research previous court decisions on similar complaints to determine how we should proceed.”

10. What is the difference between substantive and procedural laws?

This question tests your knowledge of the legal system and how it works. It also shows that you understand the differences between different types of laws, which is important for a legal researcher to know. When answering this question, define what each type of law is and give an example of each.

Example: “Substantive laws are those that govern people’s rights and duties. Procedural laws are those that regulate the process by which cases are heard in court. For instance, substantive laws would be things like freedom of speech or due process. Procedural laws would include rules about when trials can take place and who can hear them.”

11. Can you give me examples of some commonly used secondary authorities?

Interviewers may ask this question to see if you can apply your legal research skills in a variety of situations. In your answer, try to provide examples of secondary authorities that you have used in the past and explain why they are important for lawyers to use.

Example: “In my previous role as an associate attorney, I often had to find information about cases that were similar to ones we were working on. Secondary authorities like case law reporters, treatises and encyclopedias are great resources for finding information about other cases because they include summaries of court decisions and explanations of how those decisions affect current laws. Case law reporters are also helpful because they organize all relevant information into one place.”

12. What do you know about LexisNexis? When would you recommend its usage?

LexisNexis is a legal research tool that many professionals use in their daily work. The interviewer may ask you this question to see if you have experience with LexisNexis and how you would apply it to your job. In your answer, try to show the interviewer that you know how to use LexisNexis effectively. You can also mention other legal research tools that you are familiar with.

Example: “I’ve used LexisNexis for several years now. I find it to be an effective resource when looking up case law, statutes and regulations. It’s especially useful when researching cases that involve multiple jurisdictions because of its ability to search across all 50 states. However, I prefer Fastcase as my primary research tool because it has more user-friendly features.”

13. What do you think is the best way to get accurate results when using WestlawNext?

This question is a great way to assess your research skills and how you apply them. It also allows the interviewer to see if you have experience using WestlawNext, which is an important skill for this role.

Example: “I think it’s important to use Boolean search terms when searching WestLawNext. This helps narrow down results so I can find exactly what I’m looking for more quickly. Another thing that helps me get accurate results is making sure I understand the case law I’m researching. If I don’t fully understand the context of the case, I may not be able to accurately interpret the information I find.”

14. What do you understand about Boolean logic and how does it relate to legal research?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of Boolean logic and how it applies to legal research. You can answer this question by explaining what you know about Boolean logic, including the different operators that are used in Boolean logic.

Example: “I understand that Boolean logic is a system for searching through databases using keywords. I also know that there are three types of Boolean logic operators—AND, OR and NOT. These operators help me search for information more efficiently because they allow me to narrow down my searches based on specific criteria.”

15. Why is it necessary to cite cases correctly?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of legal research and citation. They want to know that you understand the importance of citing sources correctly, which is a vital skill for any legal researcher. In your answer, explain why it’s important to cite cases correctly and provide an example of how you would do so.

Example: “It’s essential to cite cases correctly because if you don’t, you could be accused of plagiarism or copyright infringement. If I were conducting research on a case, I would make sure to include the name of the court where the case was heard, the names of all parties involved in the case and the date when the case was decided.”


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