legal careers guide

9. Preparing for assessments

Assessments are common in the legal recruitment process. In this Step we look at what you could be asked to do, and how you should prepare.

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What to expect and what recruiters are looking for

Some of the most common exercises are:

Case study materials

While not a test in itself, case study materials frequently form the basis of other tasks such as group work, presentations or written assessments, and may consist of a set of documents relating to the activities of a client.

3 things a recruiter looks for in your use of the materials:

  • Technical understanding and whether you have understood the contents
  • Whether you can apply and use the information constructively
  • The ability to extract the most important information using your analytical skills.

Group work

These involve group discussions and/ or decision making, and tend to cover either hypothetical scenarios (e.g. survival scenarios) or business decisions. The recruiter will be looking for:

  • Teamwork - whether you contribute to the whole team effort
  • Communication skills - whether you listen, acknowledge and speak clearly and confidently - summing up or recapping can be useful
  • Interpersonal skills such as using each person’s name
  • Leadership - although there is a difference between leading and dominating
  • Assertiveness - if the team is going off topic or running over time, can you bring the group back to focus on the task in hand?

Presentations

You may be given advance notice and several weeks to prepare or a presentation may be sprung on you on the day. The recruiter will be assessing:

  • Communication skills - be clear, use appropriate language, tone and pace
  • Public speaking - be confident, use eye contact, remember to smile
  • Logic and structure - keep it focused and easy to follow
  • Key facts and issues - identify the main points and answer any questions
  • Time management - stick to the time allotted without rushing
  • Use of visual aids - use them appropriately, do not turn your back on your audience to look at a screen or bury your head in a script.

Written assessments

However, more commonly you are asked to write a letter of advice to a client or write a report or memo for a senior member of staff (often based on a bundle of case study materials).

You will be assessed on:

  • How you write - spelling, grammar and clarity of expression
  • Your tone - is it appropriate? Are you persuading, advising or informing?
  • Detail – you understand who the recipient is and their likely level of knowledge
  • Analytical ability – you can identify the relevant issues
  • Time management - you complete the task in the allotted time
  • Client focus - do you put the client’s best interests first?
  • Professional obligations - you have considered and fulfilled them
  • Commercial awareness - you give commercially minded advice

E-tray or In-tray exercises

For this exercise you may be given an in-tray or email mailbox, with the objective of dealing with its contents as efficiently and effectively as possible. The recruiter is assessing:

  • Analytical skills and the ability to get to the heart of the matter
  • Organisation and planning
  • Working under pressure
  • Business acumen - realising the importance of certain tasks or information
  • Common sense which will be demonstrated by your prioritisation and decision making
  • Ability to write when responding to an item in the in-tray.

Psychometric tests

The most common psychometric tests in legal recruitment are:

  • Verbal reasoning - how you understand information and make use of it
  • Critical thinking - understanding how you think and reason
  • Numerical reasoning - fairly straightforward mathematics with the focus on whether you can make sensible use of numerical information.

You may encounter other types of assessment:

  • Personality tests or questionnaires - insights into your personality traits, motivations and preferred working style.
  • Situational judgement tests - how you respond in common sense situations.

Activity – Example Assessment Task

Download this example assessment task to practice for assessment centres.

Frequently Asked Questions

At my interview I have to do a psychometric test. What can I do to prepare?

There are many standard psychometric tests used by employers available free online for you to practise with. Prospects has information on testing and links to a number of practice websites.

Not everyone is gifted with natural confidence and public speaking ability, but it’s something you can improve. Come and see our Employability Team for advice on presenting and dealing with nerves. During your course you will get used to presenting back to your fellow students.

In the meantime, here are a few tips:

  • If you’re able to choose your topic, make it a relatively simple one so you’re not worrying about difficult terminology or content. For example, a 5 minute presentation on ‘How to make the perfect sandwich’ can be interesting and engaging if done well, without the worry of stumbling over legal jargon.
  • write out your script, read it aloud, and then re-write it so that it follows normal speech patterns
  • write out the main points of your presentation on flashcards in case you forget your next point during the presentation
  • Practise as often as you can so that you know the content really well and can concentrate more on your delivery
  • Stand up when you’re practising - it’s a different experience speaking on your feet and it gives you more confidence.

On the day of the presentation, don’t admit to anyone (fellow candidates or employees of the firm) that you’re dreading the presentation. You don’t want to highlight that you’re anything less than 100% confident in your ability.

Content is only one of the factors the assessors will be interested in. They’re also looking at your confidence levels, communication skills and ability to build rapport with and engage an audience.

Remember to smile occasionally, make eye contact with everyone and slow down your speech to appear more confident.

The goal is to appear friendly, confident but not arrogant and most of all show that you are interested in the firm and its people.Most people like talking about themselves, so it can be a good ice breaker to ask an employee about what they do. Ask a trainee which seats they have undertaken, what work they have been involved in and what level of client contact they have. For an associate, ask whether they trained at the firm, what their area of specialism is and what they enjoy most about working at the firm. At partner level, you could ask how they would describe the culture of the firm.

You should assume that someone is assessing you from the minute you enter the law firm to the moment you leave. So don’t immediately talk loudly about your experience on your phone just outside the building, as someone is likely to pick up on this.

Make sure you greet all the panel members politely and when answering a question, respond primarily to the interviewer who is asking the question, but also engage the rest of the panel by glancing around the group to make them feel included in your answer.

Usually the panel of interviewers have divided up a pre-prepared series of questions between them before the interview. This may make it feel like certain interviewers are asking more difficult questions than others or being negative. However this isn’t the case as an interviewer may simply being trying to challenge you to understand how you would behave in a difficult situation, giving you the chance to show what you can bring to the table.

Next step: 10

Go to step 10 in the Student Employability Programme.

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