The Complete Guide to Getting a Solicitor’s Training Contract

The Complete Guide to Getting a Solicitor’s Training Contract

Guest Blog by: Sarah Cave – 08.01.2019

There’s no doubt about it, securing a TC is not easy. Demand far outstrips supply. Even with all the luck on your side, only around 5 thousand TCs are registered each year from a pool of some 50,000 eligible hopefuls.

My book, The Complete Guide to Getting a Solicitor’s Training Contract will shorten your journey to qualification by giving you all the inside information you need. It will prepare you for what lies ahead, steering you away from some of the firms trying to keep you as a paralegal longer, where you bill more and earn less. This book will be your guide as you progress through the application process and your confidence going into any assessment center.

Set out below is a summary of one of the chapters, “Potential Interview Questions with Selected Question Analyses and Suggested Answers”. Well worth a read before a TC interview!

An overview

TC interview questions can broadly be divided into the following 7 categories:

  1. personal questions;
  2. questions relating to law as your career choice;
  3. questions relating to the firm;
  4. competency based questions;
  5. technical legal questions;
  6. commercial awareness questions; and
  7. scenario based questions.

Potential interview questions

1             Personal questions

The interview is likely to start with personal questions to ease you in. Whilst these questions may not have a right or wrong answer, your answers will be scrutinised in the same way as the more technical questions, so it makes sense to prepare in the same way. Many people fail to do this and underperform unnecessarily.

An example question might be “Tell us about yourself”. The challenge with questions such as this is that it is difficult to know where to start and when to stop. Most candidates speak relatively incoherently about a wide range of things which ends up confusing the interviewer.

Prepare a few key points in advance that you want your interviewer to remember you by that set you apart from other candidates. Don’t waffle. Be confident to stop when you have said everything you wanted to say.

2             Questions relating to law as your career choice

These questions are certain to come up regardless of whether you read law at a university or not. You need to show that you are committed to a career in law, and importantly, a career in law with this firm in particular. If you didn’t read law at university then you need to come up with compelling reasons why you are sure that law is the right career for you.

An example question might be “Why law?” If you have not read law at university make sure that you highlight the legal work experience you have done and think generally about your transferable skills that could add value to the firm; teamwork, leadership skills etc.

3             Questions relating to the firm

These questions provide the perfect opportunity for you to show off your in-depth, firm specific research. Preparing how to answer these questions will test your understanding of that research and will really help you to remember it.

The question “Why have you applied to this firm?” will definitely come up in your interview. A blanket, generic answer that could be applicable to any firm just won’t cut it. Think about what attracts you to the firm and what makes this firm stand out from its competitors. Is it the size of the firm or the reputation of particular practice areas or the value of the deals?

4             Competency questions

Each firm has a set of core competencies they want future trainees to possess. Competency questions are designed to allow candidates to demonstrate that they have these skills. Your research of the firm will reveal which core competencies they would like you to show. Note that different firms value different skills.

Competency questions require you to draw on real life experiences to prove that you are adept in a particular area. Don’t answer these types of question generally. They are looking for specifics.

Listen carefully to the question and try to ascertain exactly what the interviewer is getting at. Take the question “What is your greatest weakness?” as an example. In a literal sense, the interviewer is simply asking where you fall short but they are also assessing your honesty and integrity and how you perceive and appraise yourself.

5             Technical questions

Technical questions may relate to issues, widely reported in the media, which concern, in some way, the practice areas of the firm. You must show that you are up to date with these issues and that you are thinking about their potential impact on the firm.

These questions will also require you to think about how a particular issue might cross over different practice areas within the firm. For example, “Tell us what practice areas might be involved should our client’s supermarket business take over another supermarket chain?” If a client is thinking about merging with another company you not only need to think about the merger but the staffing issues (employment law), marketing issues, IP issues, potential disputes. The list goes on.

Alternatively, technical questions could be to do with a particular statute. You’re more likely to be asked these questions if you have worked as a paralegal.

6             Commercial Awareness Questions

It’s one thing to show your interviewer you know how businesses operate and that you keep up to date with issues in the business world. You also need to persuade them that you can anticipate how these issues might impact both on their clients’ businesses and the law firm itself. Then you will be streets ahead of your competition. An example question might be “What are a law firm’s main expenses?”

7             Scenario-based questions

These questions are designed to test how you would react when faced with a range of hypothetical situations. Some questions will contain problems or awkward situations for you to work through; others will be more to gauge your personality and whether you would fit into the culture of the firm.

Whilst there won’t often be a clear right or wrong answer, the objective is to persuade your interviewer that you can engage in a sensible thought process and present a comprehensible and articulate analysis. Your answers should avoid you engaging in any behavior that would negatively impact on colleagues, clients or the reputation of the firm.

An example question might be “If you won the lottery what would you do?” Put simply, they are asking you 3 things: 1. to demonstrate your commercial awareness; 2. to disclose something of your interests outside of work; and 3. if you take away the need for a pay packet, how much value would you then place on working? Your answer should include a sensible and diverse investment plan as well as showcasing how important both your hobbies and work (whether in law or not) are to you.

If you found this helpful and you would like to check out Sarah’s book: 

The complete guide to getting a solicitor's training contract 2017/18 Click ‘Here’ 

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