Law firm assessment centres: everything you need to know

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By Legal Cheek on


Video interviews, aptitude tests, group tasks and more

After sending out application upon application and refreshing your inbox incessantly, you finally get that email inviting you to a video interview or assessment centre. Yay! But the happiness is soon taken over by worry as you start to question what it’s going to be like and how you can prepare. If this sounds familiar, then read on to get your questions answered about a range of post-application assessments.

Aptitude tests

Most firms send out an aptitude test after you’ve submitted your application to complete an initial sift. You should be able to get an idea of what to expect on this from the firm website. Some types of tests, like the Watson Glaser test, can be practised prior to be taken, while others do not offer this option. Regardless, these tests typically test candidates’ critical thinking, analysis, literacy and numeracy skills — so if there isn’t an option to practice the test, make sure to keep these in mind as a rough guide of what to expect.

There are also often situational judgement tests, where candidates are presented with a range of scenarios they would likely face as a trainee solicitor and asked how they would tackle these. For instance, what would you do if you’re given an urgent piece of work last minute by your supervising partner and don’t know how to approach it? What if you’re confronted with a frustrated client asking for updates on a matter you don’t have yet? What if there’s a deadline you can’t meet because another more pressing issue has come up?

Video interviews

These are sometimes an additional sifting stage before the assessment centre. Rather than being faced with an actual interviewer, these take the form of candidates providing recorded answers to questions, with some platforms allowing candidates to re-record their responses a certain number of times and others not providing this option. Firm websites might provide an idea of the kinds of questions you can expect to receive on these video interviews. If that isn’t the case, it would be good to prepare by knowing your CV well. Also try having bullet point responses planned out to likely questions such as why you’re interested in working at [insert firm name] and examples of instances where you’ve demonstrated certain key attributes — time management, team working and other such skills.

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Assessment centres

 While these can take a variety of forms, broadly speaking, they can be thought of as comprising two aspects — a general, or competency-based element and a skills-based element. These can be tested through a range of methods — partner or graduate recruitment interviews, group tasks (such as a negotiation exercise, for instance) and individual case studies (oral or written) are some examples.

The competency aspect of the assessment centre is essentially trying to test whether your skills and personality are suited both to a career in law more generally and to the law firm you are applying to in particular. So be prepared to have very clear answers to both of these, as they are likely to come up. It also helps to know the kind of skills that the firm is looking for in a trainee solicitor, something which a lot of firm websites include on their graduate recruitment page. Make sure to be ready with an example of where you’ve demonstrated each skill during university or in your career to answer questions about why you’d be a good fit at the firm.

The skills-based aspect tends to test candidates’ legal skills, such as writing, analysis and commercial awareness, whether in an individual or group setting. It’s important to have a really good idea of the kind of work the firm does and the market developments impacting its practice areas the most. Make sure to keep an eye on the amount of time you have if completing a written task and try to have a clear structure to your piece with headings and signposts. It’s also a good idea to make notes if doing an oral case study or group task, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify something you’re not sure of in the scenario you’re given.

Finally, it’s always worth trying to find out who you are going to be interviewed by — it never hurts to drop graduate recruitment a quick email and ask! Also use the assessment centre and interviews as an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about what it’s like to work at the firm or find out more about a given practice area, as this is always a good indicator of genuine interest.

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