11 legal operations interview questions and tips to land the job

Kara Wen | March 22, 2023 | Articles

According to the Association of Corporate Counsel, the number of corporate legal departments with at least one legal ops professional tripled between 2015 to 2022. As more companies realize the value that legal operations brings to the legal team and overall business, more job opportunities will continue opening up in the field.

This is great news for anyone considering a legal ops career or current professionals looking to change companies. And with the majority of in-house attorneys surveyed by the American Bar Association working fully remote or hybrid, you can expect similar flexible work arrangements available.

Like interviewing for any role, you’ll have the greatest chance of landing your dream legal ops job when you take the time to prepare thoughtfully. Whether you’re a seasoned legal ops pro or just starting in the field, our list of legal operations interview questions will give you the confidence you need to ace this critical conversation.

Common legal operations interview questions

1. What interests you the most about working in legal operations?

This question is a staple across industries and is designed to gauge your genuine passion for the field and how you’d use your unique skill set in the role.

Highlight the legal ops responsibilities that most appeal to you and how they connect to your own strengths. For instance:

I love the variety that comes with legal ops work and that I can help lead and support others in different ways each day. I can apply my foundational skills, like project management, while continuously honing newer ones, like data analysis. And I’m most excited about the spend management element, as it ties right to my background in accounting.

This is also a good time to tie back to larger legal ops trends and growth and how you plan to support the industry’s evolution.

2. What best practices would you use to optimize legal spend?

Controlling legal spend is a fundamental component of a legal ops role. In fact, Bloomberg Law found that “outside counsel spend” is the top metric used to measure the value of legal ops. And mastering this responsibility will be even more critical amid a looming global economic recession.

Highlight a combination of hard and soft skills, including:

  • Data analysis and reporting. Tracking objective spend data means you can base decisions on facts instead of educated guesswork. This is especially helpful for law firm benchmarking, allowing you to make the most cost-effective vendor hiring and work allocation choices.
  • Cross-department collaboration. Working with teams like finance and procurement gives you additional insights to help optimize legal spending, including where to ask for alternative fee arrangements or hire an alternative legal service provider.
  • Software proficiencies. Leveraging legal spend management tech to automate accruals management and enforce billing guidelines saves time and money.

3. What experience do you have using legal technology?

Following the previous bullet point, legal ops teams are ramping up their use of comprehensive legal tech to deliver greater business value. Gartner predicts that legal software budgets will triple from 2020 to 2025.

Legal ops professionals must be comfortable learning and using new software, including platforms that may incorporate legal artificial intelligence.

Explain the different legal management solutions you’ve used and for what functions, like e-billing or reporting. Walk your interviewers through the pros and cons you experienced with each system and the capabilities you’d love to see in a platform.

If you’ve never used dedicated legal ops software, talk about the types of tech you’ve used in other business areas. Tools for customer relationship management (CRM), accounting, and project management have similar functions to many legal ops tech solutions. Do a little research to see where those skills overlap. For instance, using project management software to allocate workloads, monitor project progress, and set clear KPIs are functions also present in a vendor management platform.

And emphasize your willingness to participate in tech training and the benefits you believe legal tech can bring to a department.

4. Can you tell us about an instance when you had to work with a difficult vendor, client, or co-worker? How did you handle the situation?

You’ll work with many different external and internal partners as a legal ops professional. Strong communication and conflict-resolution skills are critical to maintaining effective working relationships.

Before your interview, make a list of past work situations where you had to tackle a tricky problem involving other people. Clearly explain the issue you faced, the actions you took to resolve it, and the end result. For example:

  • Issue: After reviewing vendor data, you discovered that one firm had significantly longer matter lifecycle times than another retained firm handling similar work.
  • Action: Scheduled a call with the vendor, explained the data, and agreed on a 2-month window to improve their speed.
  • Result: The vendor continued to work at the same pace, so the decision was made to end their contract and consolidate work to the other faster firm.

Also consider discussing anything you’d have done differently in the situation, such as having a discussion in person instead of through Slack. This shows a growth mindset.

5. How do you solve problems that involve other internal teams?

Strengthening internal collaboration is just as important as maintaining strong relationships with outside counsel. Cross-department partnerships help build greater trust with the overall legal team and boost company productivity. This is key for helping legal ops scale.

Describe examples of difficult projects or last-minute challenges that you were able to rectify through proactive teamwork. Also, highlight why you believe collaboration makes legal ops stronger.

6. Can you describe your best practices for legal project management?

Legal ops professionals keep the corporate legal department humming along. Focused attention to detail and organizational skills are key to stay on top of different moving project parts and deadlines.

Highlight any productivity tools you use to track your day-to-day workload (e.g., Trello, ToDoist). Additionally, explain how you leverage tech to improve workflows, from automatically notifying invoice reviewers to how you track project KPIs and hold vendors accountable if they miss the mark.

It’s also important to explain how you maintain transparent, timely communication and project updates across teams. Check out our legal project management post for more tips.

7. What experience do you have with creating or revamping department processes and materials?

Nothing in legal ops is ever considered static. The team is always striving to evolve and scale to deliver more business value. And as responsibilities change and skills grow, you need clear, accessible materials that are updated in tandem.

Emphasize your legal knowledge management skills, including:

  • How you ensure accuracy and consistency across documents
  • How you involve different team members in knowledge management
  • How you store and categorize documents (i.e., what digital tools do you use?)
  • How you determine access levels across departments
  • How you communicate new or updated processes to vendors and support them in the transition

8. What are the biggest challenges facing legal operations teams today? How would you approach them?

These questions allow you to demonstrate your broader industry knowledge and problem-solving skills.

Combine your industry insight with your unique experiences and talents to show how you’d help support department progress.

If you’re unsure of which challenges to highlight, consider one of the following common pain points:

  • Process inefficiencies from manual tools
  • Getting everyone up to speed on data analysis
  • Choosing and onboarding new legal tech

For example, you could explain how the growth of legal AI is changing legal tech. To get the best ROI, teams must understand these capabilities and how they meet their unique needs before selecting a new legal management solution.

Bonus: 3 questions to ask your interviewers

9. Are there any wide-scale initiatives in which the organization wants legal ops to get further involved?

Companies want legal operations and the entire corporate legal department to function more as strategic business partners instead of a siloed legal team. In-house legal teams are being asked to step up in broader areas like data privacy, environmental social governance, and diversity.

This question will show that you’re not just thinking about your role in the legal department, but also about the department’s role in the larger business.

10. What tools does your team use most often? Are you planning on investing in any new ones in the near future?

It’s good to get an idea of the types of tools your future team uses in their day-to-day operations so you know what to expect. For instance, if they spend a lot of time in Excel, you may decide to take a refresher course in advance so you can hit the ground running on your first day. Or you may find that they rely on a custom, in-house solution that you’ll need extra training on.

It’s also helpful to get a sense of the company’s perspective on what they want their tool stack to look like in the future. This way, you don’t waste too much time and energy trying to ramp up on something that will soon be obsolete. Asking about future upgrades will also give you a feel for whether the company sees the value in new tech and broader, more modern business changes.

If the team does currently use legal software, ask about the training process. Bloomberg Law found that just 53% of legal ops respondents felt they were “sufficiently trained” on their legal technology. That’s a big loss for ROI.

11. What opportunities does your company offer to further advance my career as a legal operations professional?

This question shows you’re invested in your career path—and you should look for a business that is equally invested in helping their employees grow.

Positive signs include a dedicated learning and development department, continuous training beyond onboarding, 1:1 or group mentoring, discounts on external courses or certifications, and more.

Use the SimpleLegal Learning Center to prep for your legal operations interview

Besides getting ready to share your expertise and unique perspectives in an interview, it also helps to do some extra homework on the industry.

We’ve got you covered with our free legal ops content library, which has tons of resources on everything from cost control and the latest in legal tech to legal diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Start with our Top Trends Influencing Legal Operations in 2023 whitepaper to wow your interviewers with insights on how to help legal ops scale into the future.