How NOT to screw up your vac scheme assessment day

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By Law Vicissitudes on

The anonymous trainee solicitor-to-be behind the hugely popular Twitter account @LawVicissitudes shares the wisdom he gleaned from multiple assessment day fails — and, eventually, one success.

I remember my first assessment centre at a very shiny and expensive firm in London. The offices were beautiful with state of the art toilets, meeting rooms, a library, gym, squash courts, and even a swimming pool. I had never seen anything like it before. It’s safe to say that when I first arrived I felt exactly like this:


Depending on the firm, most assessment centres consist of: introduction/presentation about the firm, chat with trainees, psychometric tests, group exercise and partner/HR interviews. It’s a gruelling day.

Here are five tips that I’ve learnt from my SEVERAL assessment centres and interviews with law firms, which eventually helped me to bag a training contract:

1. Preparation. Preparation. Preparation


I cannot stress this enough. Be blisteringly well prepared to talk through every competency you can think of and every unique thing about the firm. Be ready to critique recent economic policy, or a business’s strategy. And be able to discuss the recent work of the firm. You should be so well prepared that no matter what is thrown at you can still hold your own. You might want to talk to friends and peers who have interviewed at this firm, or ask the university careers service for some coaching. You will have already researched the firm in depth in your application, so now it’s time to focus on the day itself.

2. Be confident


It’s easy to be intimidated by the partners pulling in millions of pounds, the other candidates with their amazing credentials, and the firm itself with boardrooms like on The Apprentice. But this day is YOUR day; the law firm invited YOU. It doesn’t matter that the other candidates have first class Oxbridge degrees, or that they did internships with the UN. If YOU perform well and show that you’ve got what it takes to become a top lawyer, YOU will get an offer. Do whatever it takes to motivate and inspire yourself for the day; get pumped up. It’s not every day that you get to interview at a law firm.

3. Be professional


Be polite and courteous to everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the partners. Dress the part. Look the part. Feel the part. You are interviewing to become a top lawyer, so you better start feeling like one.

4. Be yourself


This follows on from the last tip. You got invited to interview out of thousands of applicants because you have the potential. The right firm will want to hire YOU not just another corporate clone. Try to show some personality in your interview and engage with the interviewers, it will make you seem much more appealing as a candidate. Remember that interviews are a two way process — so you are assessing the firm to see if it is right for you.

5. Take control


In the interview you will be able to tactfully guide the discussion to talk about what you want and what makes you stand out, such as gap years and modules you studied. It’s easy to be pushed around by the interviewer, but remember this is your interview and you are showcasing why you will be an awesome lawyer. So open up a little and don’t be scared to discuss that case you read about. This will show confidence and an ability to articulate complex ideas under pressure.

Remember, this advice comes from my own experience of several assessment centres. I know how tough the process is. Whatever you do, don’t give up. I wish you all the very best!