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Husnara Begum, owner & careers consultant

Assessment centres are used by almost all large commercial law firms as part of their trainee solicitor recruitment process. A typical law firm assessment centre includes a combination of psychometric and / aptitude tests, case studies, group exercises and presentations followed by a panel interview.

Knowing how to behave at an assessment centre can be a challenge for some aspiring solicitors, particularly in relation to group exercises with many unsure as to how much they should dominate / lead their fellow candidates. I’ve therefore set out below my do’s and don’ts for surviving assessment centres.

Dos

DO plenty of advance preparation, including thoroughly reading any advance materials that are sent to you. Additionally, properly research the law firm and its competitors. Also, remember to keep an eye on the latest business, economic and political news. Indeed, keeping up to speed with current affairs, including sports and entertainment news are great conversation starters. Particularly stories such as the controversy over Novak Djokovic’s entry into Australia or Molly-Mae Hague’s now infamous appearance on the Diary of of CEO podcast.

DO practice tests. For more tips on the most common tests used by law firms click here.

DO allow plenty of time to arrive at the assessment centre. Alternatively, if you’re participating remotely test all your tech in advance and ensure devices are fully charged. Also, remember to let your flatmates know what you’re up to so they don’t inadvertently appear in the background in their PJs.

DO look the part. Like it or not most first impressions are formed based on your appearance. And though work attire is now more casual than ever before I recommend playing it safe and opting for a suit or dress and blazer. As well as your outfit, pay attention to personal grooming. For more tips on how to look the part check out this video blog I recorded with future Skadden Arps trainee Robert Greene.

DO remain polite and courteous throughout the day, including when talking to current trainees and the early talent team. Almost everyone you meet will be asked to share their feedback on you.

DO come armed with plenty of questions. Asking intelligent, well-researched and targeted questions will really impress the assessors as it demonstrates your commitment to a career in law and joining that particular firm as a trainee solicitor. When planning which questions to ask do ensure the answers can’t be found by doing a simple internet search. Also, ensure questions are put to the relevant person. Questions about the structure of the firm’s training contract are best raised with the early talent teams whilst those relating to the law are more appropriate for partners. A question that is universally suitable for everyone you meet at an assessment day relates to a law firm’s culture. The more people you ask about culture the better as it will give you a clearer indication of whether a firm is right for you.

DO be yourself and enjoy the experience. Authenticity is crucial when it comes to assessment centres and job interviews, after all nobody warms to a fake.

Don’ts

DON’T dominate group exercises. Even if you take on the role of leader during a group exercise it’s important to encourage your fellow candidates to contribute. A strong leader will seek and consider different ideas / opinions by inviting all team members to speak. A strong leader is also an effective listener and will never speak over others.

DON’T be a wall flower. The polar opposite of over-dominating a group exercise is not saying anything at all. If you’re naturally an introvert a clever way to contribute is offering to take notes during the discussion and then offering to summarise at the end.

DON’T catastrophise if part of your day doesn’t go to plan. The key here is to get back on the saddle and carry on. We are our worst self-critics and often end up fearing the worst when in reality we did perfectly well. With that in mind, try not to over analyse either.

DON’T leave a lasting negative impression because you were the one candidate who turned up late, played the clown or asked an inappropriate question.

Good luck!