Getting a Training Contract: Part 3 – Preparing for Interview
This is the third part of my series with tips for getting a training contract. This part explores the dreaded interview process. Students often seem to struggle when preparing for interview so hopefully these tips will help provide some focus to your preparation.
Once again, research the firm really thoroughly:
- Think about what the firm’s marketing image is – what are the ‘buzz words’ that they will want to hear from you;
- Find out who the managing partner is and who is likely to interview you – what departments do they sit in and what recent deals have they done;
- Also look generally at any recent deals the firm has been involved in;
- Find out about who their top clients are and research them too;
- Look for news stories relating to the firm – what events have they hosted/attended and what events do they have coming up;
- Consider again all of the reasons why you chose them (your preparation for filling out the application form will help here).
- Make sure you are up to date with news in general, (read the papers every day etc.) but be on top of the commercial news in particular. Try not to focus purely on mainstream information – look like you have actually read the paper and not just the headline stories.
Commercial awareness will be an important issue with all firms. Law firms provide a ‘service’ to their clients and therefore client care is absolutely key and you need to show that you are aware of this. So try to think about what client care means to you and make sure you can demonstrate an awareness of how to keep clients happy, for example; answering enquiries quickly, being available and personable, showing integrity, being able to tailor your communication style to different clients to make them feel comfortable with you, etc. etc.
It is important in practice to be able to view your client as a whole rather than focussing specifically on the issue you are instructing them on. Often there are many opportunities to cross-sell across departments when a client has issues that arise on a tangent from their main enquiry. Expect to have to deal with client based scenarios at interview, for example how to prioritise between clients who all want things doing at the same time. Think back to the examples which you used for your applications of any experience you have in dealing with people.
Don’t forget that ultimately law firms are a business and the economic climate is tough. You will be expected to understand that and to be able to answer a question along the lines of “what challenges do you think law firms face at the moment and how might they address them?”
Re-read your application form. If you have said you have a particular interest in something make sure you can expand on it when questioned. Also be careful not to be liberal with the truth in your applications. This can backfire if you get to the interview stage when you have to have an awkward discussion about something you have said you have done or are interested in.
Be prepared to discuss your weaknesses, whether it is to do with your grades or if you are questioned on what your biggest fault is. The negative/positive trick is timeless here, i.e. “I sometimes find it difficult to delegate work because I am such a perfectionist!”
Consider all of your answers carefully. Don’t feel rushed into giving an answer, stay calm. Don’t panic if your mind goes blank and don’t be afraid of asking if you can have a moment to think about a question. Also don’t be afraid of asking for a question to be repeated or rephrased if you don’t understand what you are being asked. Often real strength is shown by being able to admit that you don’t know the answer to something, and people will respect that. If you really don’t know the answer to a question after having considered it calmly, then say so. It is much better than trying to blag your way out of something and making yourself look silly. In practice, professional negligence claims are to be avoided at all costs!
Be professional, but be honest and be yourself. This is important. As I have said you need to be able to work at the firm and if they don’t want you for who you are, then you most likely won’t be happy there.
REMEMBER – Do not be discouraged by rejection. Law is so competitive and you need to keep trying. Focus on why you are doing all of these things and trust me when I say that it is worth it in the long run.
I have been at Michelmores for 7 months now and I love what I’m doing. The firm is everything that I hoped it would be. I get a lot of client contact and real responsibility in my work – I’m not just used as a skivvy to make tea and do photocopying. Having clients rely on you and trusting your capability and advice is a real buzz.
Most importantly, the support I have received from my teams and my supervisors has been incredible. I am never afraid to ask for help or clarification regarding the work that I am doing. On a more personal level, I love having a job where people really care about my professional development within the firm.
So good luck and if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you, or if you prefer you can contact me direct at email@example.com or via my Twitter feed…@Pippa_Allsop.