in Careers Advice, Interviews

Legal Job Interview Question and Answer – Describe a project or situation where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal?


This is a question involving the STAR technique and another example of a question where you need to have specific projects and incidents stored in your brain ready to be adapted to answer these questions.

The author of this article thinks that this approach to interviewing is not particularly good or effective.  The technique requires the person being interviewed to have practised answering such questions and to have examples ready in their head.  If you practice sufficiently at something you can get pretty good at whatever it is you were doing, but it does not necessarily make you particularly good at the job you are applying for. Yet many local authorities and large businesses, HR departments, concentrate specifically on competency based interview which is what this is. 

The key issue here is to focus on different leadership styles.  We are sure there are plenty of managerial handbooks containing descriptions of different leadership styles and if you are applying for jobs that involve an understanding of these it is important to use the correct terminology.

For everyone else though you need to think of a situation where you have needed to manage people within a team in different ways.  An example of this would be in our own business, Ten Percent Legal Recruitment.  Over the years we have had different consultants working for the company, some of whom thrive on performance and achievement and others who are more keen just to get the job done and see contented candidates and clients when a placement is made. It would be no use our managers trying to incentivise the consultants who really would not react at all to being incentivised, whereas the consultants who thrive on achievements and their own performance compared with others need constant pushing in order to get them to perform to the best of their ability.

Do not forget the STAR approach to this question, Situation, Task, Action and Result.

Example Answer

“We had a recent drive as a company to improve our efficiency and reduce our overheads.  I was tasked to lead the group and to deliver the targets across the company at all levels.  This involved delicate negotiations at senior and middle management level and implementing the plans at a junior level.  My leadership style when dealing with middle management and senior management was a marked difference to when handling the efficiency savings at base level. Both ways were extremely effective and as a company we managed to identify cost savings amounting to £3.5 million and as a result of my varied leadership style we were able to implement these without any interruption to the operation of the company.”

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at