Chapter 15 Guidance to answering the practical exercises

Making yourself more employable

Q1. What kind of personal characteristics would you like your colleagues to have? Consider ranking these attributes in order of importance, starting with those which you consider essential. Do you think you have these characteristics yourself? If so, are you able to show others that you have them?

Section 15.1 sets out the characteristics which are valued by professional employers. It is a good exercise in self-reflection to consider how highly you rate them, and to identify which you may have and which you may need to develop. Evidencing these characteristics is clearly important in the application and interview process, and chapter 16 considers how you can do this effectively, including showcasing your transferable skills (see 16.4.3). Personally, I appreciate colleagues who are capable, open, enthusiastic, energetic, creative, resilient and who have a sense of humour, and who are able to demonstrate these attributes not only when everything is going right (which many people can do), but also when things are not going to plan.

Q2. What role do you tend to take when working in a group? Is this the role you like to take? What other role do you think you might flourish in?

This question asks you to reflect on the issues raised in 15.4.2. Self-awareness about how you perform in a team will help you during the application and interview process, as it is a skill which professional employers require from their employees. You will be expected to refer to your teamworking skills in your application for a professional role, and it is typical for employers to put you in a position where you need to actually demonstrate these skills at interview and they will observe you doing so. If you have the opportunity to take a Belbin or Myers-Briggs assessment, take it and file the results for future reference. The results are a good way to evidence self-awareness and provide the language with which to discuss team roles, strengths and weaknesses. As 15.4.2 mentions, there is free, useful information on their websites which you can find in the ‘Further reading’ section of chapter 15. Section 15.4.3 explains that your tutor may help you to develop your teamworking skills during your studies, so make the most of any opportunity you are given to try your hand at team roles which are not your preferred role.

Q3.If today you unexpectedly happened to meet a lawyer who works for a law firm you want to apply to, what would you say to him?

This happens more frequently than you might imagine, and it is such a wasted opportunity to be struggling for small talk because you have not anticipated the situation and given some thought about how you might be able to impress outside of a formal interview scenario. 15.3.3 gives some guidance as to how to acquire commercial awareness, and if you can do nothing else at this stage, keeping abreast of the news would be my recommendation. For many professionals, student life was many years ago, and they can simply forget what it is like, and what they did or didn’t know at your stage in life. While they are unlikely to grill you on a legal topic in conversation, it is likely that they will feel that asking you about a current event is a good way of engaging you in conversation. If you have no idea what they are referring to, you will feel awkward and they will be surprised, and not in a good way. Social media makes this very simple; get into the habit now of checking the headlines during your commute or at breakfast (even if that is at 11am). 

Q4. Think of a famous brand. How do you know about it? What did the company do to market its brand so well? What can a junior lawyer do to promote the firm’s brand?

The first brand I think of is Apple. There are many articles which document what it did to make the brand such a success, such as this one from the BBC:

or from Time magazine (although from 2012, this still contains useful insights)

and also many articles on what makes a successful brand (which includes service providers as well as those which sell products) such as this one:

The first thing a junior lawyer can do is read articles like these on clients, markets and branding. Firms often neglect training like this, and there is currently little in terms of management training for lawyers (although the Legal Education Training Review did identify this as an issue). However, firms do expect their lawyers to be actively involved in marketing. Junior lawyers will find themselves ambassadors of their firms and you will need to make sure you are aware of your firm’s strategy, values and aims or mission statement and that your actions are aligned to them. For example, Linklaters sets out its aims and values on its website here:

This article from the national press discusses the potential for junior lawyers to damage or enhance law firm brand, with reference to trainees from Clifford Chance. So you can see that this question raises perennial issues which could well be raised at interview.

or see

Q5. What current world events might you expect to be asked about at interview?

At the time of writing, early in 2020, Brexit in the features heavily in headlines worldwide. It is important that you keep up to date with the various and plentiful twists and turns as they happen, and that you can show your knowledge and understanding of both the legal and commercial awareness issues that arise. The sample interview question on Brexit provides guidance on how you can formulate an answer to incorporate discussion of these aspects; and some aspects of that answer are more likely to appeal to your particular areas of interest than others. This website, of the think tank, The UK in a Changing Europe, is updated regularly and will help you to keep pace with the current debate. In particular, it includes a framework for evaluating the economic impact of Brexit.

The ‘chunking down’ technique employed in chapter 15 and the sample Brexit question also provide a structure for you to begin thinking about any parallel issues arising in both the UK and the US at the moment. The Brexit question signposts some of these issues for you.

No doubt before the next edition of this book is published, there will be other events which law firms might wish to ask you about. Build into your daily routine a regular practice which suits you and will allow you to keep yourself up to date with the minimum of effort. Then think how you can ‘chunk down’ to identify the key issues you could discuss, in terms of law and commercial awareness. The Lawyer2b website has a commercial awareness page which will help you with this. (You can follow the Lawer2b on Facebook or Twitter).

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