All students are at a slightly different stage of their journey of transition from being a student to the world of work – even those in the same academic year. So when I was involved with graduate recruitment at my old law firm (mainly as a trainee), I found it really interesting to be on the receiving end of students’ questions, and never quite knew what to expect. (By way of background, I used to attend careers fairs and present at milk round presentations / drinks, and particularly enjoyed going back to my old university, Edinburgh.)
What impressed me most were those students that used the air time with lawyers and trainees to take another step in their journey, by being honest and inquisitive, and most importantly listening very carefully to the answers. By contrast, for me, the worst question is one that is artificially trying to show off some knowledge without the person actually being interested in the answer; something so obscure perhaps that the person might not even know the answer – e.g. how many new offices the firm plans to open in South America over the next few years.
I also don’t think that this is the place to try to e.g. reveal any major differences between the magic circle firms – although do let me know if you find any from a trainee’s perspective. And be careful not to ask the type of binary question that should or could already know e.g. how many trainees do a seat abroad or how many seats is your training contract.
As an undergraduate, it’s OK to not be sure that you want to be a lawyer – and if that’s the case, here is my personal favourite: “What type of person do you think makes a good solicitor?” – very useful to try help you find a fit between your skills / likes and a job – and it’s amazing how many different answers you get to this type of basic question. What’s also good about this one is that the trainee or lawyer will answer this by telling you all of the positive attributes about themselves – which makes them feel good, and they’ll have a positive impression of you for asking! If so, just don’t forget to make sure that they remember your name.