Survive Training Contract Interviews; Questions & Prep.
All firms conduct training contract interviews differently. You could be being interviewed by one solicitor or even several partners.
Keeping a cool head and planning in advance is always going to be good advice regardless of the interview setup.
After all, even if you’re being interviewed by several people, they can only ask you one question at a time.
Know the firm
You can be sure that you’re going to be asked questions about the firm at the interview, so you better know some key facts. You don’t need to know the entire history or anything but ideally you should be able to answer the following questions.
- Which areas of law does the firm specialise in?
- What is the approximate size and reach of the firm (including other locations in the UK / internationally).
- Who are the firms competitors? This is especially important to know this if you’re applying to a firm which specialises in a niche area.
- What makes the firm different from their competitors?
- What are some recent changes the firm has undergone?
The answers to these questions can usually be found on the firms website, you should also search Google News for the latest stories about the firm. If a story has made it into the news then it’s worth knowing about. Another good piece of advice is to follow them on twitter and facebook. Larger firms should be sharing their most recent initiatives and promotions so it should give you a glimpse into the current thinking of the partners.
Knowing this sort of information can be invaluable; it can really set you apart from everyone else. Yes it takes effort – but getting a training contract isn’t easy. Seeing what firms are currently tweeting about should also improve your commercial awareness.
Check out our guide on fully researching a firm.
You don’t just need to research the firm; you need to know your own CV & abilities. You’re going to be asked to go into further detail on a number of things on it – you need to know it off by heart. There’s nothing worse than the interviewer referring to something off your CV and you not knowing what on earth they’re talking about.
Make sure you take all the chances the interviews give you to talk yourself up. They may mention how your CV says you like to read the Financial Times and the Economist – this is a great chance to talk about commercial awareness and how it’s a strength of yours. The interviewers aren’t always against you! They will give you ample opportunity to prove yourself and may even help you do so through their questioning.
Make sure you can answer the following questions about yourself and your skills:
- Which qualities would make you a good solicitor?
- How have you demonstrated (leadership/teamwork/initiative) in the past?
- What are your biggest achievements?
- What are you (strengths/weaknesses)?
- What are your main hobbies and interests?
Know the legal sector
While you probably won’t be quizzed on specific legal issues, it is necessary to have a good general understanding of the British legal sector (this infographic may help with some facts). You should understand all of the different roles that make up a firm and understand the basics of how it functions as a business. You should also know what it’s like to work in law – this is where work experience is crucial.
In addition you should understand some of the political and economic pressures on the legal sector.
Make sure you can answer these questions:
- What recent legislation is relevant to law firms? (e.g. the Legal Services Act)
- Why do you want to work in law?
- What are the current challenges facing law firms?
- What’s the most important quality a solicitor should have?
Remember that your answers aren’t the only things being tested. Your communication, composure and body language is also being examined. Be nice and slow with your answers – you have more time to think, you’re more likely to be understood and your words should have more of an impact.
Think of some of the greatest speeches of all time – they’ve not been rushed through have they?
Your turn to ask
Think of one or two questions that you can ask your interviewer. Even if you think you know everything! Think of this question beforehand. Don’t make it generic and don’t make it a question that someone would never be interested in asking. Make sure it’s something that you should know as a potential future employee. Perhaps ask how active the firm is socially or if they support any local charities.
A good question to ask in regards to your application is this:
Do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?
If they answer “no” to this then great! They have just said out loud that you’re a great candidate. If they say “yes” then this gives you the chance to alleviate their concerns. It could be that they have misunderstood something you’ve said. Or maybe you forgot to mention a key detail. This will give you a chance to set things straight.