May 18, 2016

Assessment Centre – hints and tips

The RWK Goodman assessment centre is made up of two stages, both with different tasks designed to determine your compatibility with the firm. At the first stage, you will have an interview, a group exercise, a written task and some testing. If you progress to the second stage, you will then give a presentation before a final panel interview.

Below are some hints and tips to help you succeed and get the most from your assessment centre.

Be self aware
Problem: Interviews can vary widely. If your preparation strategy is to guess what questions are going to come up and plan an answer, you risk being thrown massively off track especially if the panel asks a question you weren’t expecting.

Instead: Go back through your academic, work and extra-curricular experience and create a list of examples which show off your competencies. The phone call you had with an angry customer in a part time job five years ago might not otherwise come to mind under the pressure of an interview, but if you’ve thought about such examples before hand hopefully they will.

Commercial Awareness
Problem: You have a good understanding of legal principles from your academic studies, but when asked about how you would advise a client on a specific issue, you can only mention the strengths and weaknesses of the legal arguments.

Instead: Focus on what else will be important for clients. Most disputes don’t normally go to court anymore – litigation is an expensive, often drawn out procedure. Money, time and reputation are factors which might be more important than trying to get an “outright win” in court.

Problem: You are understandably nervous. You get into the waiting room, splutter out your name and then sit with your head down trying to get ‘into the zone’. However, you have failed to interact with any of the staff or candidates around you and are now more nervous than you were before you entered!

Instead: Be friendly with everyone. I arrived early at my assessment centre and the Oscar Pistorius trial was on the waiting room TV. I chatted about this for quite some time with the receptionist, which helped me feel more at ease and ‘warmed me up’ for the later interviews.  It shows that you are the sort of person who will fit in well, helps you relax, and is also an excellent opportunity for you to find out what the firm is really like.

Group Exercise
Problem: You want to make an impression during the group exercise but getting the right balance can be difficult; you do not want to come over as aggressive and hard to work with, but at the same time you don’t want to sit quietly in the corner and say nothing.

Instead: Try to facilitate. Ask people what their opinions are. If one member of the group is struggling to be heard, ask them what they think. If one is being too forceful, try to calm the situation down tactfully and let other people join in.

Commercial reality of a law firm
Problem: Your knowledge of the law is good and you understand what clients want. This will make you a good solicitor. However, law firms are businesses too, and they are looking for potential future partners who will be able to increase profitability.

Instead: Know the structure of the firm you are applying to. Think about some of the following questions; How does it structure its departments and business units? How does this help to make profit? How does the firm or its different departments bring in clients and make money? What sort of marketing would be more successful for different types of client?

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