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law trainee tasks

May 27, 2023

Written By Charlotte Cheshire

What are the Common Tasks and Responsibilities of a Trainee Solicitor?

Whilst you have immersed yourself in the firm's culture, worked hard on your applications and researched all the firm has to offer for interviews and assessment centres, what about what happens when you finally get there? What do trainee solicitors actually do? What will your days consist of? What will you be responsible for? Part of the excitement of being a trainee is that no day looks the same, but there are some common tasks that most trainees will become accustomed to being asked to perform.

Legal research

This typically happens as a result of a client query or a unique technological issue that surfaces during a transaction. This will often require you to locate and digest legal precedents, statutes, technical notes, judgments, regulatory directives, and European Law guidelines. Your findings will have a direct impact on how the team answers the query or deals with the problem. As a result, trainees are given a great deal of responsibility here.

A top tip when approaching legal research is to ask the detail and depth required for the exercise. Some queries could be answered with a few sentences and an hour of reading, whilst others may take longer and result in a more in-depth memo that has been formulated over several days or weeks. If you feel it necessary, clarify any stylistic details or specific requirements prior to beginning the task and ensure to always cite sources, linking any websites or journals as you go.

Writing or presenting legal updates

Often, it will fall to trainees and more junior lawyers to assist in writing legal know-how pieces or presenting case updates to specific departments. This type of task is invaluable in helping to hone the legal research skills described above and ensuring that your commercial awareness is kept up-to-date. Make the most of being asked to do tasks like this.

Top tips for this type of work include: making a clear Powerpoint to help illustrate key ideas, putting only a few words on each slide and using concise bullet points.

Preparing trial bundles

Whilst perhaps not as glamorous as the court visits themselves and involving lots of standing around at printers and hole-punching, preparing trial bundles is a common and important task. As you must guarantee that all parties receive the most recent copies of the documents, you must be organised and communicate effectively. Trainees are also usually asked to take the bundles to court, both pre-trial and on the day of any hearings.

Top tips for preparing trial bundles include: triple-checking all numbering, contents pages and the documents themselves.

Taking attendance notes

Being a trainee, you rapidly pick up the habit of always carrying a notebook and pen. You will often be required to provide attendance notes of what was stated and agreed upon during key calls or meetings. These are very significant in ensuring there is always a record of case progression on file. These not only help everyone stay on the same page and understand what should be done in each situation after the event, but they also serve as proof of what was stated in the event that a disagreement should ever arise in the future.

Top tips when taking attendance notes include taking a transcript of what was said as quickly and efficiently as possible, focusing on key details. With many calls now taking place virtually, some platforms create an automatic transcript, although you’ll need to check this for any mistakes. Once you have a transcript, create a cover page detailing the date and time of the meeting, who was in attendance, a summary of the key points and a list of any agreed next steps between the parties involved. Always remember to upload this onto the file!

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Proofreading

Given the volume of drafting done by more senior lawyers, it is unsurprising that you will often find documents forwarded to you with an email asking for you to check the minute details. Your reaction to this may be one of dread, but take it as an opportunity to analyse and understand important documents.

Always try to proofread with a fresh head and, if you do proofread later on in the day, consider skimming over the document again first thing the following day, depending on the deadline given to you to complete the task.

Filing documents and liaising with different organisations

Depending on the team you are in, you may have to make Companies House filings or contact independent and government organisations such as the Financial Conduct Authority or the Department of Work and Pensions. Remember that you will often speak to the same people repeatedly, so be polite and build up a rapport - you never know when someone from Companies House could help with an urgent filing!

You will be asked to assist with many other activities, such as drafting engagement letters, opening up files on your firm’s bespoke system or attending graduate events to showcase what your firm has to offer. You are required to consistently put in a lot of work, handle competing demands, be responsive and enthusiastic at all times, and become educated in a number of practice areas.

Although the learning curve is likely to be steep, particularly if you have never been a paralegal or worked in a firm, remember that there are support systems (employee wellbeing programmes, newly qualified lawyers, supervisors) in place to help you.

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Created with Shearman & Sterling

49 tips candidates need to know before starting as a trainee solicitor

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By Shearman & Sterling on Oct 27 2021 11:49am

Courtesy of five trainees at Shearman & Sterling

law trainee tasks

Five current Shearman & Sterling trainees offer their insights on all things training contract related.

The below guidance, agreed between the trainees following a lengthy discussion of their meandering legal sector experiences, covers everything from networking, mastering law firm interviews, to surviving the two years of working life prior to qualification.

Networking tips

1. preparation.

Many students attend law fairs or presentations for the questionable freebies. However, if you go to a law fair having truly done your research, then you can leave a remarkable impression.

By way of illustration, if you generate a personable, enthusiastic, hard-working vibe to graduate recruitment, then the recruitment team may remember your name when your written application reaches their desk. Similarly, a trainee representative that has been asked countless generic questions all day will gladly provide extensive advice to your tailored issue. Furthermore, the trainee may even offer to mentor you, or to recommend you to colleagues for potential paralegal/internship positions. This positive feedback often occurs if you send a polite post-discussion follow-up email thanking them for their time and assistance.

Shearman & Sterling LLP UKGraduates

Therefore, when it comes to law firm networking, a failure to prepare means preparing to fail. Accordingly, please try to avoid statements that show a complete lack of research. Also, small efforts such as dressing smartly, being well-groomed and carrying a notepad can create a surprisingly strong impression.

2. Turn up early to events

For some people networking is a chore. Therefore, if the firm’s invitation says networking nibbles start at 7.30pm and the lecture begins at 8.00pm, they will creep in at 7.59pm. However, we would advise you to turn up to these events earlier. For one, your stress levels will be reduced as you will sidestep the worries associated with being late. Moreover, you will avoid being the person accidentally entering the conference room via the fire exit.

Also, a major reason for arriving sooner rather than later is that by arriving early you can easily form a group with other attendees. By being in a small group, you can be the friendly individual that welcomes others in to join the discussion. Plus, we personally felt from our experience that being in a smaller, naturally expanding group was less intimidating than interrupting five or six others who seem to be in mid-conversation.

3. You can network via social media

Platforms such as LinkedIn provide a valuable way to engage with law firms. For instance, Shearman & Sterling’s graduate recruitment team frequently post content on the firm’s deadlines, its diversity & inclusion initiatives and Shearman & Sterling’s big-ticket deals. Obviously, by engaging with these posts, you are giving the firm greater exposure on these important areas that they will value.

Furthermore, by liking and commenting on blogs on LinkedIn, your name will begin to be recognised by the relevant decision-makers. To demonstrate, a particularly effective method of using LinkedIn is when users tag writers or presenters following open day presentations or well-written research articles. This tactic, (if employed sincerely), can demonstrate genuine gratitude, showcase a real interest in the topic and offer evidence as to your business development skills and confident written communication.

4. “Push the car”

Staying on the theme of social networking, there are ways to contact trainee solicitors on LinkedIn for application guidance that are more appropriate than others. Asking an individual for IP advice when they have never worked in IP is not a wise strategy. Similarly, spelling the lawyer’s name wrong and not responding promptly to their replies can appear unprofessional. Likewise, messaging everyone within the same trainee cohort a copy and pasted message or being overly informal are equally unproductive approaches.

Instead, tailor your response to the individual and ‘push the car’. To explain the metaphor, if you are stuck in your vehicle on the side of the road and beg for help — few people will stop. However, if you start pushing the car and showcasing substantial effort to continue your journey, motorists often get out and start helping you push.

Therefore, if you can imply from your LinkedIn message that you have undertaken considerable research on the firm or topic already (i.e. “pushed the car”) then lawyers will dedicate more time into assisting you with your informed queries.

At networking events (and generally at work), ensure that you listen to what is being said by others. To demonstrate, if nothing else, try to remember the lawyers’ names and their practice groups. Listening and remembering these details can make it easier to build a connection during any break-out networking session. Further, by listening to responses, this active engagement will make your subsequent questions more relevant.

6. Question why?

A useful technique is to be the candidate that expands upon a person’s answer to elicit that deeper level of analysis and connection.

For example, if a partner mentions the need for trainees to show initiative, can the partner provide an example of when they thought that a junior lawyer showed such initiative? This probing question has two benefits. The probable tight deadline scenario will be useful for interviews, assessment centers and Watson Glaser tests. Additionally, such information will be advantageous background knowledge to possess for when you enter practice.

Similarly, expand upon opening responses. Imagine, the partner suggests that solicitors need to be analytical and entrepreneurial. Perhaps, knowing that the lawyer is analytical and entrepreneurial themself, why did they choose a legal career, rather than say a start-up, venture-capital or investment banking career? Careers which also demand such analytical and entrepreneurial qualities.

This approach will demonstrate that you are listening to the person and it will assist you in answering the future “why law” interview questions. Also, the partner’s answer will provide tangible insight into how entrepreneurial, resilient, or analytical attributes manifest in a law firm context.

7. It is not always about you

Admittedly, some networking conversations can be hard work, particularly if you are struggling to find something in common. Also, given the professional setting of a law firm, you might desire to showcase your commercial awareness. Therefore, it can be tempting to steer the conversation towards generic topics or matters that you are familiar with.

However, please do not be afraid to let others speak extensively about areas of interest to them. Such an approach is likely to generate more rapport with that person. Moreover, networking in this way is more likely to give you valuable learning opportunities from experienced professionals and the other attendees.

8. Attend many and varied networking events. Plus, recognise other attendees

Although, you may have one dream firm, we would still recommend that you attend multiple law firm events, in part to gain comfort from repeated experience. Additionally, you will often hear points that are more relevant for other events, but that will enhance your overall commercial awareness.

For example, one of us attended a particular Legal Cheek event in summer 2019 at a law firm that they were not particularly knowledgeable about. During the talk, the panellists were asked for their views regarding the upcoming trends impacting the legal sector over the next few years. In 2019, most panellists stated Brexit or the prospect of a US-China trade war.

Interestingly, one lawyer worked remotely from Edinburgh. She simply suggested the small-scale growth of agile working was a trend that she had personally experienced. Her uncommon and undramatic answer proved valuable discussion at subsequent events and interviews. Furthermore, agile working was arguably the defining development impacting law firms in 2020 due to Covid-19. Thus, by broadening their networking event scope, attendees gained an early, unique insight that could differentiate them from other applicants looking for that big political or economic narrative.

Elsewhere, the more events that you go to, the more that you recognise other attendees. This familiarity can make you feel at greater ease in networking settings.

Please note, networking does not have to be a direct conversation. If you are writing a blog post, you are broadening your network. If you mention or praise the work of a firm or lawyer, the relevant stakeholders may discover the content and remember it. Similarly, if you appear to unproductively criticise an event, person or issue in a way that creates a negative impression, that impression will linger too.

Therefore, feel free to write about people and events that have assisted you in your training contract journey or that you believe are worthy of greater admiration. This can be a positive way to connect with firms and does not come across as desperate or disingenuous.

10. Failure is not permanent

Some individuals seem to have natural charisma and can navigate such networking events with relative ease. By contrast, many of us struggle with complete strangers, often feeling that an event was a waste of time. Hence, it is important to acknowledge that developing networking skills comes with time and practice. A conversation is not a one-way affair. If the other person is reluctant to talk or is having a bad day, even the friendliest welcome may be nonchalantly dismissed.

Therefore, do not let a negative — or even rude — reaction prevent you from participating in future events. Just remember there may be setbacks along the way. So, smile and dust yourself off. Now, start to look forward to all the fascinating people that you can meet at the beginning of your legal career.

Interview tips

11. anticipate feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

For most of the time, your interview will feel like a conversation, where many of the questions could have been easily anticipated. Yet, sometimes a trickier question can be thrown at you. This allows the interviewer to see how you react when thrown a little off balance whilst under pressure. That is why it is crucial to prepare a list of potential questions the interviewer may ask you. More specifically — be prepared to tell interviewers what you are good at, but also think about any shortcomings or challenges you may have faced and how you dealt with them.

12. But remember that interviewers are not trying to trick you

Do not worry about interviewers trying to trip you up — they want you to perform your best, and this should alleviate concerns that interviews are designed to be a scary experience. Interviews are a two-way street, and the firm is trying to impress as much as you are.

13. Current affairs are key

An understanding of current affairs (especially business or firm-specific news) will help at the interview. But it is unnecessary (and impossible) to read everything. Following news stories that genuinely interest you (and thinking about how they might affect a law firm) is a more valuable way to prepare than trying to know everything.

14. Understand the legal market

It is essential that you take the time to research a firm, but that you also take the time to understand that firm’s key competitors. This will help you understand what makes the firm you applied to different from others, and you will be able to use this knowledge to demonstrate to interviewers your genuine interest in their firm. Interviewers will be impressed that you took the time to understand how the firm differentiates itself from its competitors.

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9 Realities Every Trainee Solicitor Should Know

Throughout this article, ‘solicitor’ and ‘lawyer’ are used interchangeably.

An introduction to being a trainee lawyer

Congratulations on securing your first role as a trainee solicitor!

Being a trainee lawyer is an exciting and challenging journey that requires dedication, perseverance, and a passion for the law. As a trainee solicitor, you will embark on a path that will shape your future career. However, it is important to understand the realities of the trainee solicitor experience to navigate the legal labyrinth successfully.

During your time as a trainee lawyer, you will have the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals, gain practical legal skills, and build a network of contacts within the legal industry. It is a transformative period that will test your abilities but also provide invaluable learning experiences.

The realities of the trainee solicitor experience

1.  it is demanding.

As a trainee solicitor, you will quickly discover that the legal profession is demanding and requires long hours of work. The workload can be overwhelming at times, but it is essential to remain focused and organised to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality work. You will be exposed to various areas of law, including commercial, criminal, and family law, among others.  

The legal profession can also be highly stressful, with tight deadlines, complex cases, and high client expectations.  If you are experiencing prolonged feelings of stress, ensure you talk to a professional.

You can also read our top tips for managing stress as a law firm employee here . But it is important to remember that finding healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a trusted friend or mentor, can help alleviate stress and promote overall well-being and are key to success as a solicitor.

2.  Attention to detail is key

One of the key realities of being a trainee lawyer is the importance of attention to detail. Whether it is conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, or preparing for client meetings, your work must be meticulous. The legal profession is built on accuracy, and even the smallest errors can have significant consequences. Embracing this reality early on will set you up for success in your career.

3.  You will be dealing with multiple tasks at once  

There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end! Trainee solicitors often face the challenge of balancing multiple tasks and responsibilities. You may find yourself juggling various assignments from different Partners or Senior Associates.

It is crucial to prioritise your workload, communicate effectively with your colleagues, and manage your time efficiently to ensure that you meet all your obligations.

4.  You need to take time to balance your work and personal life as a trainee lawyer

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for trainee lawyers to avoid burnout and maintain overall well-being.  

The demanding nature of the legal profession can make it challenging to find time for personal pursuits and relationships. However, it is crucial to prioritise self-care and find ways to recharge outside of work.

5.  You need to set clear boundaries

To maintain the healthy work-life balance mentioned above, it is essential to establish clear boundaries between your work and personal life.

Set aside designated time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it is exercising, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing hobbies.

By creating this separation, you can fully engage in both your professional and personal life without feeling overwhelmed.

6.  The legal industry is competitive

The legal industry is known for its competitiveness, and trainee solicitors often face the pressure of standing out among their peers. It is important to acknowledge this reality and develop strategies to thrive in a competitive environment.

One way to overcome this challenge is by continuously seeking opportunities for professional development. Take advantage of training sessions, seminars, and workshops offered by your firm or external organisations.

This will not only enhance your legal knowledge but also demonstrate your commitment to growth and improvement.

7.  And don’t forget about networking

Networking is another crucial aspect of navigating the legal labyrinth. Building relationships with colleagues, mentors, and industry professionals can open doors to new opportunities and provide valuable guidance throughout your career.  

Attend legal events, join professional organisations, and engage in meaningful conversations to expand your network. The more you do it, the better you will become at it.

8.  You need to embrace a growth mindset

Approaching each task as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Be open to feedback, seek out challenging assignments, and continuously strive for improvement.

9.  You need to continuously learn and stay up to date

One of the best things you can do as a trainee solicitor is stay updated with legal developments.  

The law is constantly evolving, and it is crucial to stay informed about recent legal developments, cases, and industry changes. Read legal publications, attend seminars, and engage in ongoing professional education.

Navigating the legal labyrinth as a trainee lawyer  

Becoming a trainee lawyer is a challenging yet rewarding experience. By understanding the realities of the trainee solicitor experience, balancing work, and personal life, and embracing the competitive nature of the legal industry, you can navigate the legal labyrinth with confidence.

Remember, success as a trainee lawyer is not solely determined by academic achievements but also by practical skills, resilience, and a passion for the law. By following the tips provided and remaining dedicated to your growth as a legal professional, you can embark on a fulfilling and successful career in the legal field.

If you're a trainee lawyer looking for more guidance and support in navigating the legal profession, consider seeking mentorship from experienced legal professionals or joining professional organisations dedicated to trainee solicitors, LinkedIn can be a great place to do this.

Your journey as a trainee lawyer will be enriched by the insights and connections gained through these opportunities.

If your current firm isn’t fulfilling your goals as a trainee solicitor, take a look at our careers page to see who is currently hiring .

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CV, Interview and Job Application Tips

The MOST Common Trainee Solicitor Interview Questions (And Sample Answers)

July 19, 2023 by Mike Jacobsen

If you’re reading this, you’re probably gearing up for a Trainee Solicitor interview. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, we know it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

You’ve worked hard to get here, spending long hours studying and taking internships. Now, it’s time to bag the job that comes with a promising career trajectory. Who wouldn’t want to secure a position where the average salary is £39,000 in the UK and around $79,000 in the US? 💰

But to get there, you need to ace that interview. Not to worry, we’ve got your back! In this article, we’re going to walk you through the most common Trainee Solicitor interview questions and give you some sample answers to help you prepare. Let’s get started!

  • 1 Looking for More Questions / Answers…?
  • 2 Trainee Solicitor Interview Tips
  • 3 How Best To Structure Trainee Solicitor Interview Questions
  • 4 What You Should Not Do When Answering Questions
  • 5 “Why did you choose to become a solicitor?”
  • 6 “What area of law are you most interested in and why?”
  • 7 “Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult client or colleague.”
  • 8 “How do you handle stress and pressure?”
  • 9 “Describe a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it?”
  • 10 “Can you describe an instance where you had to use persuasion to convince someone?”
  • 11 “What makes you a good fit for our firm?”

Looking for More Questions / Answers…?

Then, let me introduce you to a fantastic resource: “Interview Success: How To Answer Trainee Solicitor Questions”. Penned by the experienced career coach, Mike Jacobsen, this guide is packed full of interview tips. This 100+ page guide is packed with over 100 sample answers to the most common and challenging interview questions. It goes beyond simply giving you answers – it guides you on how to structure your responses, what interviewers are seeking, and even things to avoid during interviews. Best of all, it’s available for instant download! Dive in and give yourself the competitive edge you deserve.

law trainee tasks

Click here to learn more and get your copy today

Trainee Solicitor Interview Tips

1. Know Your Role 🧐

Make sure you’re clear about what a Trainee Solicitor does. Understanding the responsibilities and requirements will help you tailor your answers and show you’re the right person for the job.

2. Do Your Homework 📚

Research the firm you’re interviewing with. Understand their values, culture, and the types of clients they serve. This will not only help you answer questions more effectively but also demonstrate your genuine interest in the firm.

3. Prepare for Behavioural Questions 🎭

Expect questions that assess your problem-solving skills, communication abilities, and how you handle stress or conflicts. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers.

4. Practice Law Specific Questions ⚖️

Review potential legal scenarios or questions related to recent high-profile cases. Be ready to discuss your thought process and how you would approach these situations.

5. Be Ready to Discuss Your Skills 💼

Identify the key skills you have that align with being a Trainee Solicitor, such as attention to detail, strong research abilities, excellent written and verbal communication, and good time management.

6. Ask Thoughtful Questions ❓

Having a few thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview shows you’re engaged and interested. They could be about the firm’s culture, expectations, or growth opportunities.

How Best To Structure Trainee Solicitor Interview Questions

Mastering the art of structuring your responses during a Trainee Solicitor interview can make the difference between securing the job or not. It’s about presenting your experiences and skills in a concise, yet impactful way, while demonstrating that you understand the unique demands of the role. That’s where the B-STAR approach comes in handy, a universally recognized method of structuring responses in a logical, coherent, and persuasive manner.

B – Belief 🤔

This is the opportunity for you to express your thoughts, feelings, and personal philosophy in relation to the legal field. For example, if you’re asked why you chose law as a profession, you might explain your belief in the importance of justice and your passion for problem-solving. Your beliefs can say a lot about your motivations and how you approach your work as a Trainee Solicitor.

S – Situation 🎭

In any question where you need to describe a specific experience or event, start by setting the stage. Describe the context or situation, but be concise. This could involve outlining a challenging case, a high-pressure deadline, or a complex negotiation scenario you encountered during your previous legal experiences.

T – Task 👤

This is about identifying your role in the situation. As a prospective Trainee Solicitor, it’s crucial to show that you can take initiative and actively contribute to solving problems. Describe the responsibility or task you were assigned, or the task you set for yourself in response to the situation.

A – Activity (or Action) 🏃

Now that you’ve set the scene and defined your role, it’s time to delve into the actions you took. This should form the heart of your response. Be detailed in describing the steps you followed and why you chose those specific actions. This gives the interviewer insight into your problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and professional judgment – all crucial skills for a Trainee Solicitor.

R – Results 🏆

Lastly, explain the outcome of your actions. This is where you demonstrate the effectiveness of your approach and the tangible impact of your actions. As a Trainee Solicitor, the ability to achieve positive results, whether that’s successful case resolution or improved client relations, is paramount. Where possible, quantify your results for added impact – maybe you were able to reduce research time by 30%, or perhaps your diligence in a specific case led to a successful outcome that significantly benefited your client.

Applying the B-STAR approach to your Trainee Solicitor interview responses can provide a clear and compelling narrative of your experiences, your professional philosophy, and ultimately, your readiness for the role.

What You Should Not Do When Answering Questions

Do not avoid the question.

Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).

Do not downplay the situation.

Do not overhype the situation.

Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.

Do not reject the premise of the question.

Do not have a passive role in the situation.

Do not give a one-sentence answer.

Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action.

Trainee Solicitor Interview Question & Answers

“Why did you choose to become a solicitor?”

Answer 1 can be seen below. Our new ‘Trainee Solicitor Interview Guide’ has 5 sample answers to this question. Click here to learn more.

The question “Why did you choose to become a solicitor?” serves as a platform to demonstrate your passion for law. What sparked your interest? Was it a particular case, an inspiring figure, or the allure of the profession itself? Your answer should convey your commitment and dedication to the law, reflecting a thoughtful and informed decision rather than a whimsical choice.

The decision to become a solicitor was a culmination of my personal interests, academic pursuits, and professional experiences. The catalyst for my interest in law came during my high school years when I joined the debate team. The process of examining issues from different perspectives, constructing compelling arguments, and advocating for them passionately was not only intellectually stimulating, but it also resonated with my innate sense of justice and fairness.

As I delved deeper into my undergraduate studies in political science, I found that my interest in law continued to grow. The intricate relationship between laws, society, and individuals fascinated me. The power of law in shaping societies, protecting individual rights, and resolving conflicts was profoundly compelling. This led me to take additional classes in constitutional law and human rights, further affirming my interest in pursuing a legal career.

Beyond academics, my internship experiences were crucial in solidifying my decision to become a solicitor. I interned at a renowned law firm during my junior year of college, where I was exposed to a variety of legal tasks – researching case law, drafting legal documents, and observing court proceedings. This practical experience demystified the profession, allowing me to appreciate both its demands and its rewards.

However, it was my pro bono work at a local legal aid clinic that truly cemented my decision. Witnessing the difference we could make in people’s lives through legal advice and representation was extremely rewarding. It showed me the practical impact of law, beyond theoretical concepts and courtrooms.

Choosing to become a solicitor was therefore an informed and deliberate decision. I was drawn to the intellectual rigor, the diversity of challenges, and the potential for impact. I believe in the power of law to promote justice, protect rights, and resolve disputes, and I am eager to contribute my skills and passion to this important endeavor.

Moreover, I was attracted to the solicitor’s role specifically, due to the client-facing aspect of the work. The idea of working closely with clients, understanding their unique situations, and advocating for their interests appealed to my interpersonal skills and desire to make a tangible difference.

Thus, the combination of intellectual stimulation, potential for societal impact, and client interaction made the solicitor’s role a perfect fit for my aspirations. I am excited about the opportunity to train under seasoned solicitors and learn the nuances of this profession at your esteemed firm.

“What area of law are you most interested in and why?”

When asked “What area of law are you most interested in and why?”, you’re expected to indicate your preferred specialization and justify your choice. This is your chance to showcase your knowledge in a particular field and demonstrate how your interest aligns with the firm’s practice areas. Remember, your response should reflect a balance between your personal interest and the firm’s needs.

My primary interest lies in Corporate Law, particularly in Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). This interest was sparked during my second year of law school when I took an elective course in Business Law. I was intrigued by the complex legal structures involved in corporate transactions and the profound impact these have on businesses, economies, and societies at large.

In subsequent years, I delved deeper into the field, taking courses in Securities Regulation, Corporate Governance, and International Business Transactions. These courses gave me a comprehensive understanding of the legal, financial, and strategic aspects of corporate law, reinforcing my interest in the field.

My internship experiences further cemented this interest. During my summer internship at a commercial law firm, I had the opportunity to assist with a cross-border merger. I worked closely with a team of solicitors to conduct due diligence, draft transaction documents, and navigate regulatory approvals. The experience was intense and challenging, but I found the process incredibly rewarding. The excitement of closing a deal, the satisfaction of resolving a legal issue, and the impact of our work on the client’s business was truly fulfilling.

However, my interest in Corporate Law goes beyond the technical aspects. On a more profound level, I am drawn to the role corporate solicitors play in shaping the business landscape. M&A transactions, for instance, can significantly influence industry competition, innovation, and employment. As a solicitor, I have the opportunity to facilitate these transactions, ensure their legality and fairness, and contribute to economic growth and societal wellbeing.

Moreover, I am intrigued by the strategic aspects of Corporate Law. Advising businesses on their legal structure, negotiating contracts, and facilitating transactions require not only legal acumen but also strategic thinking and business understanding. I believe this dynamic nature of Corporate Law would provide a stimulating and rewarding career.

Finally, I am aware that your firm has a renowned Corporate Law practice, particularly in M&A. I am excited about the possibility of joining your team and contributing my skills and passion to your firm’s success. I believe that this role would provide the perfect platform to pursue my interest in Corporate Law and hone my expertise in this field.

“Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult client or colleague.”

The question “Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult client or colleague” probes your interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Your response should highlight how you’ve handled challenging interpersonal situations, demonstrating your emotional intelligence, tact, and diplomacy. Such competencies are crucial in the legal profession where interactions with diverse people are routine.

Certainly, being able to effectively manage challenging interpersonal situations is an essential skill in a legal context. Over the years, I have developed a proactive approach to conflict resolution and communication, which has enabled me to deal effectively with different kinds of people and challenging situations. To illustrate this, let me share an experience I had during my final year at law school when I was involved in a pro bono clinic.

In this clinic, I had the responsibility of providing legal assistance to individuals who couldn’t afford professional legal representation. One particular client, Mr. X, stands out. He was seeking help to appeal a conviction, but was frustrated and mistrustful due to his previous experiences with the legal system. He was abrupt, refused to cooperate, and regularly expressed his dissatisfaction with the process, which made it extremely difficult to gather the necessary information to help him.

I recognized the need for a strategy to manage this situation effectively. As with any legal case, success would be determined by our ability to cooperate and communicate effectively. Here’s how I approached the situation:

Firstly, I tried to empathize with his situation. I acknowledged his feelings and frustrations openly, expressing that I understood his concerns and dissatisfaction. I tried to put myself in his shoes and thought about how I would feel if I were in his position. This helped me to better understand his perspective and communicate in a way that he could relate to.

Secondly, I established clear and regular communication. I ensured that he was aware of each step in the legal process and what was required of him. I also made a point of consistently updating him about the progress of his case. This provided reassurance and helped him understand that we were making headway.

Thirdly, I demonstrated commitment and reliability. I was always punctual for our meetings and prepared thoroughly in advance. This was to show that I was committed to his case and that he could rely on me. In a situation where trust was lacking, I felt it was important to show, through consistent actions, that I was trustworthy.

Over time, Mr. X became more cooperative. Although he remained somewhat skeptical about the process, he appreciated the empathy, clarity, and reliability I provided. I was eventually able to collect the necessary details to build a strong appeal case for him.

The experience was a challenging one, but it honed my skills in managing difficult clients, demonstrating empathy, clear communication, and reliability, which are all integral to the role of a trainee solicitor. It also reinforced the importance of patience and resilience when dealing with challenging situations in a legal context.

In summary, dealing with a difficult client or colleague often requires a thoughtful and empathetic approach, coupled with clear and regular communication. It’s about understanding their perspective, acknowledging their feelings, demonstrating commitment, and gaining their trust through consistent actions. These are the principles that guide me when dealing with challenging interpersonal situations, and I believe they are essential in the role of a solicitor.

“How do you handle stress and pressure?”

In response to “How do you handle stress and pressure?”, articulate your strategies for maintaining efficiency and composure in a high-pressure environment. This question aims to understand your resilience, emotional intelligence, and stress management strategies. In the legal profession, stress is inevitable, so proving you can handle it is vital.

Stress and pressure are inherent elements of the legal profession and can even be motivators, prompting higher performance levels. Over the years, I’ve developed a multifaceted approach to managing stress, combining proactive planning, mindfulness techniques, physical activity, and a supportive network.

To begin with, I believe that good planning and organization significantly reduce stress. I’m an avid proponent of to-do lists and calendar management. I prioritize my tasks based on their urgency and importance, and ensure to allocate sufficient time for each task in my calendar. I also build in buffers for unexpected challenges or delays. This proactive approach helps me stay on top of my workload and prevents stress from spiraling out of control.

However, I’m aware that no amount of planning can completely eliminate surprises and high-pressure situations. In these scenarios, I practice mindfulness techniques. This could involve taking a few deep breaths, grounding myself in the present moment, and trying to approach the situation with a clear and calm mind. This practice was particularly useful during my final year at law school, which was replete with tight deadlines and demanding projects. Mindfulness helped me stay focused, maintain my composure, and perform effectively under pressure.

Thirdly, I’ve found physical exercise to be an excellent stress-reliever. I make it a point to incorporate regular exercise into my routine, whether it’s a morning run, a yoga session, or a quick walk during a lunch break. Exercise not only provides a mental break but also helps to reduce stress hormones and stimulate the production of endorphins, improving my mood and energy levels.

Lastly, I believe it’s essential to have a supportive network, both professionally and personally. Openly discussing stressors with mentors, colleagues, or loved ones can provide a different perspective and effective coping strategies. During my paralegal tenure, I was part of a highly supportive team where we would regularly debrief after tough cases, which was instrumental in helping each other manage stress.

In conclusion, managing stress and pressure requires an integrated approach involving planning, mindfulness, physical health, and social support. As a trainee solicitor, I’ll bring these stress management strategies, a resilient mindset, and an understanding that stress is a part of the journey, not an impediment.

“Describe a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it?”

When asked, “Describe a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it?”, use this opportunity to demonstrate your ability to take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and apply those learnings to future situations. This question isn’t about highlighting your imperfections, but about showing your potential for growth and commitment to personal development.

I believe mistakes are valuable learning experiences, and I’ll share an example from my time as a legal intern. While reviewing a contract, I overlooked a crucial clause related to the client’s liability, which was somewhat obscured by the contract’s language. Consequently, the first draft of the legal advice I prepared for the client was incorrect.

Upon discovering the mistake, I immediately took ownership and communicated it to my supervisor. Transparency and integrity are values I hold dear, especially in the legal profession, and even though it was uncomfortable, I knew it was essential to admit my mistake.

To rectify the situation, I revisited the contract and took the time to thoroughly understand the intricate details of the overlooked clause. I then revised the legal advice, ensuring that it was accurate and comprehensive. I also apologized to my supervisor and explained the steps I took to rectify the situation.

This incident was a significant learning experience for me. It underscored the importance of attention to detail in my line of work and how a small oversight can potentially have significant consequences. I also learned to approach my work with more caution, double-checking all my work, especially when dealing with complex legal contracts.

To avoid such errors in the future, I developed a checklist to follow when reviewing contracts, focusing on common elements that might be easily overlooked or misunderstood. I also began to spend extra time researching and studying contract language that I found unclear to improve my understanding.

Overall, this mistake taught me that no error is too small to ignore in legal practice and that continuous learning and improvement are crucial for success in this profession. It made me a more meticulous and diligent professional, which, in my view, has significantly improved the quality of my work.

“Can you describe an instance where you had to use persuasion to convince someone?”

In response to “Can you describe an instance where you had to use persuasion to convince someone?”, showcase your negotiation skills and your capacity to influence others – both crucial skills in law. Your answer should demonstrate your understanding of effective communication, persuasion techniques, and ethical considerations when trying to convince someone.

Certainly, persuasion is an essential skill in the legal profession, whether it’s to convince a client, a counterpart, or a court. One notable instance where I had to use persuasion was during my final year at law school, when I was participating in a negotiation competition. The case involved a hypothetical contract dispute between a small business owner and a multinational corporation. I was representing the small business owner, and our goal was to negotiate a fair settlement without resorting to costly litigation.

The first challenge was to persuade my own client, or in this case, my negotiation teammate, who was sceptical about our chances of reaching a fair settlement. They were inclined towards an aggressive stance that, in my opinion, was likely to escalate the dispute rather than resolve it. I believed a more cooperative approach would be beneficial, so I set out to convince them. I drew upon the principles of interest-based negotiation, which focus on identifying underlying needs and finding mutually beneficial solutions. I explained that by understanding the corporation’s interests, we could present our demands in a way that would also address their concerns, making them more likely to agree to a settlement. I supported my argument with research and real-world examples, which eventually convinced my teammate to adopt the cooperative approach.

Next, I had to persuade the opposing team. Here, my goal was to demonstrate that a fair settlement was in their best interest as well, avoiding not only litigation costs but also potential reputational damage. To this end, I prepared a detailed presentation outlining the risks involved in litigation and the benefits of a settlement. I presented the settlement not as a concession but as a strategic decision that would allow the corporation to preserve its business relationship and public image. By framing the issue this way, I was able to shift their perspective and negotiate a resolution that was fair and satisfactory to both parties.

In conclusion, this experience highlighted the importance of persuasive communication in achieving successful outcomes. It reinforced my belief in the power of empathy, understanding, and strategic reasoning as key elements of persuasion. As a Trainee Solicitor, I plan to further develop these skills and apply them to serve my clients’ best interests.

“What makes you a good fit for our firm?”

When asked “What makes you a good fit for our firm?”, you should highlight your unique attributes that align with the firm’s values, culture, and needs. This question is your opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve researched the firm extensively and can contribute significantly to its success. Reflect on your skills, experiences, and values, and how these align with the firm’s mission and objectives.

I have spent a significant amount of time researching your firm and understanding its ethos, and I strongly believe that my experiences, skills, and values align seamlessly with what you stand for.

Firstly, your firm’s commitment to providing exceptional service to clients is something I deeply admire and identify with. Throughout my academic and work experience, I’ve always prioritized client needs. As a paralegal at XYZ firm, I consistently went above and beyond to ensure we were not only meeting our clients’ legal needs but also providing an empathetic ear and moral support during their challenging times. This dedication to client service resulted in positive feedback and a few clients expressly asking for me to remain their primary contact at the firm.

Secondly, your focus on innovation and utilizing technology in the provision of legal services is something I find very attractive. In my final year at law school, I undertook a project focused on the application of Artificial Intelligence in streamlining legal research. This project gave me a good understanding of the intersection between law and technology, and I am excited to bring this knowledge to a firm that values forward-thinking approaches.

Moreover, your firm has a strong reputation for being supportive and nurturing talent, which resonates with my personal values of continuous learning and professional growth. I actively seek out opportunities to learn, and in my previous role, I volunteered to participate in training workshops and skill development sessions. I am also committed to sharing my learning with others, and I have led several seminars on legal research techniques and case management for junior team members at my previous firm.

Finally, I am particularly drawn to your firm’s pro bono work and commitment to social justice, an area that I am deeply passionate about. I have been involved in various pro bono activities throughout my career, including offering free legal services to underprivileged individuals through local community centers. The chance to contribute meaningfully to society while working at a firm is something that deeply motivates me.

In summary, my commitment to client service, interest in legal technology, focus on continuous learning, and passion for social justice make me a good fit for your law firm. I am eager to contribute to your firm’s success and uphold its reputation for excellence while also growing professionally.

See more questions and learn from over 100 sample answers…

  • Being a trainee: 8 realities of the job
  • Chambers Student

London sunset

At the Chambers Student Guide we're not in the habit of sugar-coating anything. Here are some blunt truths about being a trainee solicitor.

TRUTH 1: Don’t expect nine to five. Dolly Parton didn’t sing about a solicitor’s clocking-off time in her famous ditty for good reason. The long hours at City firms are well documented: a standard day is usually 9am to 8pm. And at one typical City firm trainees told us of outliers of “weeks of staying until 2am” and “six weeks where I rarely left before 11pm.” At smaller firms and practices outside the City the hours are better, but even here you can occasionally expect to need to come in early, work through your lunch break or stay late.

TRUTH 2: Don't expect to do intellectually challenging work. Law is an intellectual discipline to study at university, but the trainee experience ain't so. Expect to do plenty of administrative tasks like form filling, taking notes, calling people and arranging meetings. Because of the rigours of the law these tasks are all important and may make your head hurt, but they are not what you’d call intellectually or academically challenging. Once you're qualified you may actually get to grapple with the law. 

TRUTH 3: Don't expect to be giving clients legal advice. Yes, most trainees get client contact, but they are usually just in contact with someone to ask for documents, arrange meetings, get things signed off etc. If you're working with a big company the person you're in contact with is usually just another lawyer. Only at high-street and legal aid practices do trainees regularly give direct advice to clients (usually individuals), and even this will be supervised.

TRUTH 4: Don't expect to be on the side of the angels.  As a commercial lawyer you can expect to be asked to do transactional or advisory work for businesses or organisations which the general public may see as unsavoury, eg offshore companies, tax avoiders, tobacco firms, shady governments or oil companies. Some trainees find it hard to reconcile representing a client they take moral issue with; others take a more detached stance with the view that all parties, no matter who they are, must have fair legal representation if we’re to uphold the rule of law. We tackle this issue in more detail on our feature on Ethics and the law .

TRUTH 5: Expect to start at the bottom of the totem pole. Law firms are hierarchical institutions – more so than businesses in most other professions, especially the creative sector. The partners are at the top and they call the shots; trainees do as they are told. Within this structure you work your way up as a lawyer year by year, slowly increasing what you earn, how much responsibility you have and your influence over the business. 

TRUTH 6: No two law jobs are the same. Each law firm and each area of practice offers something different. There is no one solicitor 'type' – different skills and attitudes are needed for different roles. So don't let anyone convince you that just because you don't have what it takes to be a lawyer in a certain area, you can't be a lawyer at all. And listening to one lawyer about their job doesn’t mean you know what lawyers do. The True Picture can help you differentiate between employers.

TRUTH 7: Law firms love themselves. Most law firms aren’t quite as vain or image-brainwashy as Apple or Google, say, but you are expected to buy into the firm’s ethos. In fact, getting a training contract is a challenge if you fail to embody the firm at interview. Law firms are getting more and more marketing savvy so as a trainee you can expect to get involved in plenty of (after hours) business development and networking events with your glad rags and serious face on.

TRUTH 8: It's a tough gig to get for a reason Hopefully you know that getting a training contract is a competitive affair. (If you don't then  read this .) And there's a good reason for that: being a trainee is demanding. You're expected to work hard all the time, deal with competing demands, always be responsive, get to know several different practice areas, impress your seniors... and then there's  retention  to worry about. But if you want real a challenge from your career, law might be it. 

This feature was first published in January 2016.

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Why I qualified as a corporate lawyer

By solicitor Michal Szperzynski

From the very first week of my seat in the corporate department, I could see that this was the department I would want to qualify into.  By the end of the seat, I was absolutely convinced and here’s why.

The nature and variety of the work

Corporate lawyers at Burges Salmon advise clients on all aspects of company law, including acquiring and selling companies and their assets, stock exchange listings, reorganisations and joint-ventures. No corporate transaction is the same and each one comes with its own challenges and unique commercial background.

As a trainee solicitor in the corporate department I had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of work from researching complex points of company law, to private equity transactions and public company takeovers.

Variety of clients

The clients we work for vary greatly – from small, quasi-partnership, family-owned companies to public companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A seat in corporate means working side-by-side with the people who run impressive organisations, allowing trainees to gain an understanding of how different companies are run, as well as differing priorities for their owners, be it gradual and step-by-step organic growth or aggressive outward-looking, expansion strategies.

It goes without saying that interacting with business-minded clients on a daily basis helps trainees improve their commercial acumen and become well versed in the interplay between black letter law on the one hand and the commercial realities on the other.

Responsibility

Trainees in the corporate department are given a huge amount of responsibility from day one. The typical trainee tasks range from drafting ancillary documents relating to transactions (such as board minutes or stock transfer forms), co-ordinating due diligence processes and dealing with post completion admin.

Being entrusted with responsibility makes corporate a great seat to develop skills such as drafting, time and work management, which are transferable between seats and are key for a trainee's development. For those who might feel a bit wary of taking on responsibility early on in their careers, it is important to remember that there is always the safety net of your supervisor and amazing support from the rest of the team whenever needed – no one will be thrown in the deep end unless they feel ready to float.

Working with other departments

Most corporate transactions are complex and often require specialist input from other lawyers across the firm such as real estate, tax, employment or pensions. Therefore corporate lawyers tend to work very closely with other departments. This is particularly beneficial for trainees who are given the opportunity to work with colleagues from across the firm, widen their internal network and see how bits and pieces of other areas of law are interweaved to make up the corporate transaction puzzle. I found this aspect really enjoyable and being at a heart of a transaction, often in a co-ordinating role, makes a seat in corporate very rewarding.

Key contact

Holly Fey

Holly Fey Head of Resourcing

  • Recruitment and resourcing
  • Inclusive employment
  • New starter onboarding
A seat in corporate means working side-by-side with the people who run impressive organisations, allowing trainees to gain an understanding of how different companies are run...

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How to answer "why would you make a good trainee solicitor".

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Who are Next CIty Lawyer?

We are a team of qualified lawyers from US, Magic Circle and Silver Circle law firms law firms.  We publish articles like this one every fortnight to give you the inside scoop on how to secure your training contract.

With years of experience analysing and reviewing documents for some of the world's most sophisticated clients, we've channeled the same level of care and attention into curating our database of successful applications to world's best commercial law firms.

Introduction

" Why commercial law ?" and " why do you want to work at this firm? " are common interview questions that most candidates are aware of and have prepared for. However, candidates often fail to prepare for "why would you make a good trainee solicitor?". This is the third question that makes up the trio of the most commonly asked interview questions across commercial law firm interviews.

What should you expect?

Over the course of this article, we will cover:

  • why law firms ask this question (and where the question typically crops up);
  • what a good answer to the question looks like; and
  • how you can personalise your answer and discover your unique selling points.

Why do law firms ask potential trainee solicitors this question?

Whilst " why commercial law ?" and " why do you want to work at this firm? " are motivation-based questions, "why would you make a good trainee solicitor?" (colloquially referred to as "why you?") is a strength-based question.

By strength-based question, we mean a question that is looking for you to describe and explain the skills and traits that would make you a good trainee solicitor (tailored specifically to the firm you are applying to). This is all about your own personal strengths, rather than your motivations.

In essence, the law firm is asking you to sell yourself to them and convince them that you would perform well on your training contract. After all, you may be an affable, bright individual but if you don't know how you would apply yourself as a trainee solicitor and fit into the firm, the firm would rather hire someone else.

A future applicant to a law firm

Isn't this question competency-based?

This question may seem like a straightforward competency-based question. That's partly true: the skills you are likely to describe will relate to the key competencies that most commercial law firms look for.

However, you need to take a slightly different approach to this question - which we explain in more detail below. They key point is that the straightforward competency-based approach won't work effectively here.

Where does the question come up?

Due to the personal nature of the question, the "why you?" question can come up virtually anywhere. However, it is particularly common at the application form and final assessment centre stage . The reason for this is that it is an excellent first or final filter.

If the question comes up early in the application process, it can be used to whittle down the pool of candidates quickly. If the candidate doesn't immediately know what the role entails and how they would apply their skills, there is no point progressing them.

Alternatively, if the question comes up later in the process, it can be used to fine tune the selection of candidates who are awarded training contract offers. At that point, it is almost certain that all the candidates are exceptional in some way. The "why you?" question allows law firms to discern which of the candidates truly understand the role and its expectations.

Navigating the application map

A good answer to the question

To give a good answer to this question, you need to consider what the question is effectively asking you. You should consider that:

  • The question is asking you to identify a skill or trait that you possess .
  • You should then evidence the skill or trait and explain how you acquired or developed that skill or trait .
  • Finally, you need to explain how that skill or trait would make you a good trainee solicitor .

What skills are law firms looking for?

Simply put, law firms are looking for skills that they want their trainee solicitors to have. For a quick idea, you can think about the key competencies that law firms usually ask about:

  • organisation;
  • determination/resilience;
  • your ability to deal with difficult people;
  • attention to detail; and
  • integrity/honesty.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; however, these are particularly desirable competencies and (some of) what law firms expect of you.

If you want to think beyond this list, you should have a think about what a good lawyer looks like. Good lawyers can deal with a challenging client, handle high levels of responsibility, get involved with business development, have the resilience to work long hours, and possess good communication skills.

In essence, a good trainee solicitor is one that has the capability to become a responsible partner in the future - someone that those who work at the firm would trust to run part of the business. Those who lack these skills may be half-decent trainee solicitors or associates, but will not do so well at the higher levels.

A studious applicant

Do I need to tailor my answer to the firm I am applying to?

The short answer to this is yes. Although the competencies listed above are universal, law firms have different ways of working and will have varying priorities when it comes to their expectations of you.

For example, if you were to apply to an elite US firm , it is very important that you can work late hours, handle high levels of responsibility and take the initiative. However, if you were to apply to a regional, UK-headquatered firm, it is arguably more important that you have good interpersonal communication skills and work well within a team.

Is this to say that communication or teamwork is not required in US-origin firms? Of course not. These competencies are needed wherever you end up. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about the firm when you select the abilities you identify for discussion. You will not be able to cover all of the skills and traits in your answer. So, you should select the ones you pick carefully and with the firm in mind.

This topic of tailoring your answer is particularly important when it comes to linking your answering back to why you would make a good trainee solicitor. We will discuss this in more depth later.

Watercolours of the City of London

What structure should I adopt?

We recommend adopting a "point, evidence, explanation, link" (PEEL) structure. Your point is the identification of a particular skill or trait. Then, you must provide some specific evidence that you possess such an ability (a piece of work experience you undertook). It is then essential that you explain how that evidence led you to possess said ability. Finally, you need to elaborate on how you would apply that ability as a trainee solicitor and why it would contribute to a strong performance.

Person adopting a structured approach

When it comes to explaining your evidence, you may find it helpful to consider the "context, action, result" (CAR) structure that is typically adopted for competency-based questions. You may not be able to go into a huge amount of detail, but you need to systematically work through your experience and show graduate recruitment or the interviewer how your experience led you to acquire or develop your identified ability.

The length of your answer will be determined by the context in which it is given. If you are writing it in an application form, it is likely you are limited to somewhere between 200-500 words. If you are giving it in an interview, you are limited by time: two minutes is the ideal response time. Any more than three-and-a-half minutes and you're pushing the limits of acceptability. Ideally, you want to identify and appropriately elaborate on between two to four distinct skills or traits.

How do I link my answer back to the question?

The link is the most important part of your answer and it is where most candidates fall down. Candidates spend so much time doing research on competencies, sector-specialisms, etc., that they forget what the question is actually asking them.

Your answer needs to explain to graduate recruitment or the interviewer how you would apply your skills in the role itself. This response needs to be grounded in reality and demonstrate a good understanding of what trainee solicitors do on a daily basis.

For example, say you have selected teamwork as one of the skills you have. You identify the skill, give some evidence of that skill (for example, an experience you had in a university society) and explain how that experience demonstrates and developed your ability to collaborate with colleagues. Now, you need to explain to recruiter or interviewer why teamwork is important to have as a trainee solicitor and what that would look like in the role.

Teamwork is important as a trainee solicitor because you will share an office with your supervisor and, typically, work with them on one of their matters. You may also work as part of a larger deal team where you will need to liaise with other individuals to coordinate certain tasks. For example, you may have responsibility for delivering documents and having them signed, whilst another trainee is tasked with document production. Teamwork is essential to have the two of you work together to get the documents drafted, printed, delivered, signed, and filed.

Crucially, it is not good enough to state simply that it is important for trainee solicitors to work well in teams because you are often working with others. This is too vague and demonstrates that you do not know what the role entails. Indeed, this is a statement that is true for lots of professions, including footballers, musicians, etc. You must give an example of how you would use the skill in the role itself.

This leads us on to the point that you must describe how you would use the skill. You should not state something vague like, "trainee solicitors need to work well in teams to coordinate document production and signing". Instead, you may lead with that statement but then expand upon it by saying something like, "[...] in the case that I was tasked with coordinating document production and signing, I would employ my ability to work well in a team by [insert specific actions here]."

The very best candidates will connect their answer with the evidence that they mentioned earlier on. For example, they may state something like, "as part of my experience in [insert evidence here], I learnt how to [insert specific action here]. Therefore, in the case that I was tasked with coordinating document production and signing, I would use the knowledge that I previously acquired to [insert specific actions here] by [insert specific method here]".

Finally, you need to bear in mind the firm you are applying to. If a firm's general policy is to, say, give trainees a high level of responsibility, you want to mention this in your answer and show how you could apply your ability to cope with that. This elevates your answer even more as it demonstrates your understanding of what skills are most needed as a trainee solicitor in that particular firm .

Casting off the chains of an application

Finding Your Unique Selling Points

So far, our discussion has been in the abstract. To draft strong answers, you must personalise your responses. Aside from picking personal experiences to evidence your answers, you need to consider what abilities you actually have! Think of these as your unique selling points - what are you really good at, namely, what do you think you are better at than most candidates?

What experiences have I had?

To figure out what your top abilities are, you should write a list of all the major experiences you have had. By experiences, we mean all the things you would put on your CV, such as:

  • work experience;
  • university society/other organisation work
  • volunteering; and
  • competitions.

If you already have an up-to-date, refined CV - use that!

You can then note down next to each experience, what competencies each experience demonstrates. For example, being part of your university mooting team might demonstrate teamwork, ability to work to a deadline, organisation, attention to detail, strong motivation, etc.

Then count up the number of times each competency was mentioned. For instance, you may have mentioned the key skill of determination five times and interpersonal communication eight times. This gives you an idea of the skills you have employed the most and, perhaps , what you are best at. You should then list, in order of priority, the competencies that the firm you are applying to wants. This will give you a further idea of what skills or traits you should identify for discussion.

Are there other things to consider?

You should bear in mind that this is just a guide and should be used only as a starting point. It will often be the case that candidates are very good at one particular skill but have only been able to showcase it once or twice.

Ideally, you should choose an ability for discussion based on the strength of your evidence and its suitability for the firm at hand. However, we understand that some candidates have a hard time understanding what skills they have in the first place, which is why we recommend starting with creating the list described above.

Over the course of this article, we have discussed how to answering "why would you make a good trainee solicitor?". Specifically, we have looked at why law firms ask this question and when it usually comes up, what a good answer looks like, and how you can identify your unique selling points.

Our summary

To summarise our advice:

  • Law firms ask this question to figure out whether you would perform well on your training contract at that firm in particular.
  • This question can come up at any time during the application process, but is typically seen at the application form or assessment centre stages.
  • Law firms are looking for a variety of skills and traits, some of which are teamwork, organisation, determination/resilience, ability to deal with difficult people, attention to detail, and honest/integrity.
  • You must tailor your answer to the firm you are applying to. All law firms want the main competencies but some are more important to particular firms than others.
  • The question warrants a strengths-based answer but it is closely related to a competency-based response. However, you must bear in mind that answering this question requires a PEEL structure and not merely a CAR structure (used for answers to solely competency-based questions).
  • You must link your answer back to the question by explaining why your chosen skill is relevant to the role and how you would apply it in practice.
  • You can identify the skills or traits you should raise, namely, your unique selling points, by creating a list of your experiences and seeing what competencies each one demonstrates. You need to remember that the list is just a starting point!

We hope you found this article useful – if you did, please share it with other candidates who might find it helpful!

So, what next?

If you are ready to move from research to action, you should look at our application database BEFORE you put pen to paper on your applications. You wouldn't walk into an exam hall without carefully reviewing past papers.  It's exactly the same with applications to law firms. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Most candidates read a few well-intentioned but obvious articles on how to apply to law firms.  Most candidates then spend a couple of hours writing an application before optimistically submitting it.  But most candidates don't even get an interview.  Every year, thousands of candidates are part of the 90% that are rejected at first round.

Join us as part of the successful 10% instead. Let us give you an unfair advantage: through our comprehensive analysis of successful applications to every major law firm, our qualified lawyers will break down the ingredients of a phenomenal application.  We will help you beat the odds, secure your interview and then avoid final-round failure at your assessment centre.

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Life as a trainee solicitor in the Employment team

It is often assumed that as a Trainee you will only ever undertake low-level tasks and merely observe the work of others. I am pleased to have learnt that this is a total misconception. As a Trainee in the Employment Department at SA Law, I have been involved in all aspects of the varied work that comes in and have been made to feel like a valued and well regarded member of the team. I really enjoy the fast moving pace that this area of law provides and the client interaction it offers.

A typical day for me can involve tasks such as drafting employment contracts, staff handbooks and witness statements; responding to client’s queries; dealing with disclosure requests; liaising with the Employment Tribunal and preparing trial bundles. No two days are the same and I have learnt never to come into work making assumptions about how my day is going to pan out.

As a trainee you often find yourself stretched and outside your comfort zone. Although this can be unnerving, it enables your confidence to grow as you learn how to handle yourself in a variety of situations. Such an occasion arose when I had been tasked with reviewing a client’s staff handbook. The client requested a meeting to discuss the extent of the changes I had made and for advice on the drafting of additional policies. It was agreed that it would not be cost-effective to the client for my supervisor to attend this meeting and therefore I was to go on my own. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. The prospect of having to answer questions on the spot without being able to run my answers past my supervisor was daunting, but as the meeting progressed, my confidence grew as did my ability to suggest and advise – I would even go so far as saying I enjoyed it!

During my time in the department I have been lucky enough to assist with a tribunal case from start to finish - from taking the initial phone call from the client, to attending the final hearing. The experience gave me valuable insight into the court process, preparation for the trial and the etiquette required in a courtroom. I was able to familiarise myself with the drafting formalities of the various documents required to plead our case, and to fully understand the legal aspects of a pregnancy discrimination claim.

Employment law is constantly changing, whether it be a recent court ruling or an update in legislation. Our employer clients need updates on how new laws may affect them, their businesses and their employees. I am regularly asked to draft interesting and informative articles, blog pieces and case summaries for the firm’s website and newsletter. I enjoy this work as it not only helps me develop my writing skills, but also provides the opportunity to research (often complex) areas of law and deepen my general knowledge and understanding of it.

No amount of time in the classroom or lecture theatre will fully prepare you for the reality of working in a law firm. For example, at no point during my studies did anyone teach me how to empathise with clients who are dealing with what they can feel to be a stressful process. That said, whilst working in SA Law’s open plan office, I have been able to pick up on useful techniques and tips by listening to colleagues interact with clients and other solicitors – you’ll be surprised how quickly you learn on the job!

I thought that the transition between each seat would be challenging, as you are essentially starting from scratch four times over, however everyone here is very supportive and encouraging so you soon get into the swing of things. 

Do you want to join SA Law?

Head to our  careers page to see our latest vacancies by clicking here . Alternatively, contact  Kelly Pike  to learn more about our recruitment opportunities. Scroll below to see other similar blog posts from our trainee solicitors.

SA Law has a real hands-on approach to training, and provide opportunities to get involved with high value and complex matters.

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Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.

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Generative AI for legal professionals: What to know and what to do right now

AI is reshaping the legal landscape by providing invaluable support across various roles in law firms and legal departments. Rather than replacing legal professionals, gen AI enhances efficiency, accelerates tasks, and enables lawyers to focus on applying their expertise.

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The benefits of being a technology trailblazer

Adopting technology early leads to better, faster, and more reliable legal research – setting a solid foundation for your legal matters.

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Westlaw Precision | Harness the power of generative AI

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Training users on getting the most out of GenAI tools

In Fall 2023, Harvard Business School and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) conducted a study titled Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier , in which researchers tracked 18 standard consulting tasks with more than 700 BCG consultants, some of whom were given GenAI to help with the tasks and a subset also received prompt engineering training. The control group completed tasks using traditional methods. On average, the study found, those who used GenAI completed on average 12.2% more tasks, 25.1% more quickly and with better quality answers. Those who received training saw a 42.5% improvement in scores versus the control group. Even the group without training saw a 38% improvement.

The study’s authors highlighted two categories of AI users who performed better than others in the test cohort: “centaurs” who systematically divided tasks into those more suited to AI and those that were better completed by humans; and “cyborgs” who constantly interacted with AI and integrated it seamlessly into each task.

However, productivity gains were not universal. The study also found that consultants who used GenAI for tasks to which the technology is not suited (e.g. quantitative data analysis and generating accurate and actionable strategic recommendations) were 19% less likely to produce correct solutions compared to the control group.

Therefore, it’s crucial to factor in which parts of the legal workflow are more amenable to automation. Some tasks, such as content generation or summarization, lend themselves naturally to GenAI applications, while others, especially those that require more complex or higher-level reasoning, are better handled by humans.

“It’s like having a dictionary and being able to look how to spell all these words, and then complaining that the dictionary isn’t very effective as a fly swatter. Well, it can do that, but that’s not really its role,” says Gabriel Teninbaum, Assistant Dean of Innovation, Strategic Initiatives and Distance Education at Suffolk University Law School, adding that the same challenge comes up with large-language models (LLMs). “I think because of their design, because they’re so easy and intuitive to use, people have this idea that it’s an information machine that knows no limits. The reality is, it has some things that it can do well, and it has some things that it can’t do well at all.”

Picking the right tool for the job

Data privacy & security is paramount — When asked what is keeping them from adopting GenAI, many legal practitioners point to the data. In fact, 68% of legal industry respondents to the Gen AI in Professional Services Report pointed to data security concerns as a barrier to adoption, while 62% said the same of privacy and confidentiality. Particularly given the confidential and sensitive nature of legal work, clients need to be assured that their data is not being used by GenAI tools in unforeseen ways.

This underlines an important difference between most generic GenAI tools and legal-specific solutions. For instance, ChatGPT requires users to opt-out if they wish for their content not to be used to train OpenAI models. Legal-specific tools, however, are often architected with privacy and security at the fore – although firms should check, because even legal products vary.

Answer accuracy & fighting hallucinations — Once privacy and security of data is accounted for, GenAI users need to ensure that the answers generated are correct . Over the past 12 months, stories have come to light demonstrating how things can go wrong when AI tools like ChatGPT hallucinate fictitious case law. Even when an answer is not hallucinated, an answer may not be 100% accurate if the questions posed are interpreted incorrectly by the LLM or are incomplete. Some courts have responded to cases of fake citations appearing in legal briefs by issuing cautionary guidance about relying too heavily on AI-generated output.

There is an important distinction to draw though between generic tools such as ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot and products that have been specifically developed for lawyers. The former draw information from across the internet and are not trained specifically to deal with legal questions. Moreover, they are not grounded in authoritative and up-to-date legal content, and they tend to make things up when they don’t know the answer.

“I think because of their design, because they’re so easy and intuitive to use, people have this idea that [GenAI] is an information machine that knows no limits. The reality is, it has some things that it can do well, and it has some things that it can’t do well at all.”

— gabriel teninbaum.

Conversely, it is possible to significantly improve output using legal-specific solutions. For example, retrieval augmented generation (RAG) is a technique that can be used to enhance the accuracy, relevance, and depth of an AI’s answers by essentially giving it access to a verified reference library. In the context of a legal query, giving an AI access to case law, legislation and authoritative secondary source material can help to ensure that the answers generated are tailored to the legal context of the query.

“We found if we could find the right content to give it context within the prompt, it was right almost 100% of the time,” said Joel Hron, the head of TR Labs. “The problem is much more about interpreting the question and finding the right resources that the model needs to answer the question.”

Importantly, the best tools are guard-railed so that the AI tells you when it does not have an answer to your question.

Humans in the loop — Despite technology advancements, it remains critical for human checks to be built into every legal workflow, as ultimate responsibility for client care cannot be delegated to an AI. Lawyers should aim not to reproduce the work that GenAI performs, but instead find ways to provide value on top of GenAI’s output, leveraging their own specialist knowledge.

Wendy Butler Curtis, Chief Innovation Officer at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe says using GenAI is like having “a wonderful over-eager intern or a great first-year associate” doing the work. “You’re going to get a first draft, not in eight hours from that person, but in minutes,” she says. “But the problem is, you don’t know where it’s going, where it’s right, and where it’s wrong.”

As a result, she noted that the tasks where she likes to use GenAI are the ones where the wealth of human experience can have the most impact. “If you’re doing a deposition outline for me in a deposition that I’ve done 100 times, it’s great from moment-go because I don’t have to think to verify it. I can say, ‘That’s good, that’s wrong, it’s missing these three things.’ But if it is not something that I know inside and out, now I have to figure out, how do I verify it?”

Embracing a hybrid future

GenAI is becoming more accessible to legal professionals every day, with applications being baked into work processes spanning from litigation to transactional work. As this occurs, more and more legal professionals will need to move from the conceptual questions around how GenAI will impact their work into the more practical questions of how to use it today.

Responsible and ethical GenAI usage is possible, but while those who do not adopt GenAI may risk being left behind, those who use GenAI without care also risk over-relying on the technology for tasks it may not be suited to perform, leading to less accurate and less efficient outcomes. The true winners of GenAI will be those who pick the right tools for the right jobs and take the time to understand which tasks suit GenAI well, and then supplement those tasks with accurate and strategic legal reasoning.

In coming weeks, this series, Generative AI in the Legal Industry , from the Thomson Reuters strategy team and the Thomson Reuters Institute will continue to explore the practical impact that GenAI is likely to have on legal professionals working in law firms or in-house.
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Corporate Law Department Metrics 301: Showcasing How you Enable and Protect the Business

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Arizona police agencies form task force to investigate use-of-force, police shootings

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Eight East Valley police agencies are poised to create a regional task force that will streamline investigations of use-of-force cases and shootings involving officers.

The East Valley Critical Incident Response Team will consist of police from Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Queen Creek, Scottsdale and Tempe.

In 2021, the state Legislature passed a law that requires a police department with shootings and use-of-force cases to refer the investigations to outside law enforcement agencies. That can be done by the state’s Department of Public Safety or a regional task force. The new East Valley working group will satisfy that state requirement that will go into effect in June 2025.

Queen Creek approved its agreement with the seven other cities Wednesday and Mesa is poised to approve its contract Monday. The agreement will remain in effect until 2034.

Nine West Valley agencies launched a similar task force in 2021 a month after state lawmakers passed the bill.

Pima County in southern Arizona has a similar task force made up of nine agencies including Tucson police and the county Sheriff’s Office that was created in 2022.

CIty of Phoenix: expands eligibility for who can serve on police oversight board

How it will work

For the past 18 months, the nine departments have worked to develop the workflow and guidelines for the task force, Assistant Chief Lee Rankin told the Mesa City Council during a presentation Thursday.

Launching the task force a year before the law is enacted will give the police departments the ability to “hone in” the process, Rankin said.

He said the task force will create consistency for all investigations into critical force incidences in the region.  

The law defines a critical force incident in two parts. Firstly any time an officer discharges their firearm for a use-of-force encounter regardless of whether it results in an injury or death. Secondly, any incident involving an officer's intended use of deadly force or force by any other means that results in death or serious bodily injury.

A chief of police can also request the task force to investigate any high-profile incident involving misconduct allegations or incidents resulting in the death of an officer.

Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler and Scottsdale will serve as the lead investigating agencies and the remaining agencies will provide support to the task force due to their size.

Mesa cases will be assigned out to the other lead agencies and the city will take on the rest of the cases for the other departments.

That’s largely because of Mesa’s size of its police department. On average, the city has 10 cases a year in which an officer shoots a gun . Other cities average two shootings a year each.

The cities will still retain their right to have DPS investigate the case if none of the other police departments have the capacity for it.

Mesa’s crime lab will handle all the forensic examinations for the investigations, Rankin said.

Reporter Maritza Dominguez covers Mesa, Gilbert and Queen Creek and can be reached at   [email protected]  or 480-271-0646. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter:   @maritzacdom .

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