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April 5 2023

5 Top Tips for Legal Assessment Centres

Legal Career Tips

James Lloyd

James Lloyd

Female lawyer giving a presentation with a tablet in her hand, with the Flex ribbon in the background

Law firm assessment centres are notoriously challenging. They are designed to push you and to establish how well you perform under pressure. Each firm will use this process to assess your skills outside of your application form over a variety of different exercises, and ultimately to decide if you’ve got what it takes to join them as a trainee.

It can’t be denied that they are incredibly competitive… but they're not impossible.

At Flex, our associates have a vast pool of knowledge from taking part in a range of firm’s assessment centres, including me! But I didn’t just want to keep this knowledge to myself…

Here are our top 5 tips to give you the edge at your upcoming legal assessment centre, with feedback directly from the horse’s mouth (aka. law firm recruitment teams).

1) Understand the firm from all angles

A key part of the assessment centre involves making sure you understand the firm in great detail. Whilst it is important to be able to explain why you are motivated to join the firm from your perspective as a potential trainee solicitor, make sure you have a wider perspective too. I was asked in multiple assessment centres why the firm stands out to its clients.

Understanding how the firm functions as a business, how it charges its clients, and why it stands out against its competitors is a key part of demonstrating your commercial awareness, as well as why you want to join the firm. Also, while you may be interested in certain aspects of its legal offerings, make sure you understand the firm’s place in the legal market, and what it does outside of legal services.

Multiple firms asked me about their connected services and wider commitments (for example, one firm had a separate legal tech arm, whilst another had set up its own charitable foundation). Being able to market the firm effectively and understanding its offering in depth can go a long way to convincing senior figures within the firm that you can add value to them as a trainee solicitor.

2) Attention to detail is paramount

Another key piece of advice is to make sure you pay a close attention to detail with the tasks you’ve been set, and make sure you fully process and understand the information. For example, in one assessment centre, I was set a proofreading exercise, whilst in another I was set a task where I had to interpret and understand legislation. These types of tasks are the bread and butter of work as a trainee solicitor, and the firm wants to test your ability to understand, analyse and correct pieces of written information.

One piece of feedback I personally received is that I spent too much time correcting unnecessary stylistic choices and irrelevant clauses, but not enough on the key aspects of the content. Practising proofreading documents (legal or otherwise), brushing up on your understanding of formatting and grammar, and taking time to review legal content can all be good ways to exercise this part of your brain and ensure you can pick up on small details quickly during the pressurised environment of an assessment centre.

Understanding how the firm functions as a business, how it charges its clients, and why it stands out against its competitors is a key part of demonstrating your commercial awareness.

James Lloyd, Flex Legal Client Services Associate

3) Common sense is an underrated quality

Whilst of course legal knowledge and having an understanding of complex commercial and legal matters is always beneficial, sometimes it is just as important to keep things simple. In a recent assessment centre, I was asked to assess a potential patent litigation claim for a life science’s client. I spent a lot of time mentioning relevant legislation, discussing potential claims that could be bought, even considering how rivals might respond to any claims or potential counter arguments.

However, I forgot to mention whether the idea/process had actually been patented in the first place, which is hugely important when deciding whether the client would have a claim. Sometimes, stating what might seem obvious can be a great way to demonstrate that you understand the issue and have thought about it rationally. This could apply to lots of other case studies and legal examples, and sometimes quickly explaining the first step or the simple point might be the best way to stand out. You’d be surprised how often candidates can miss out on the simple, most vital points whilst trying to demonstrate how commercially and legally aware they are.

Male and female Flex Legal colleagues working on their laptops

4) Being a team player stands out

At times it can be difficult to know how to handle a group exercise in a high-pressure environment like an assessment centre. Getting the balance right between having a short time to showcase your capabilities, whilst also demonstrating you are a good teamplayer can be a difficult one to strike. However, a piece of personal positive feedback that’s stuck with me from such days related to how inclusive I was when discussing a group presentation.

Whilst you will have carried out extensive research and feel eager to showcase your talents, I found law firms look for who can work most effectively, and contribute ideas, as part of a team. Speaking concisely and with confidence at key moments, being willing to take on unglamorous responsibilities such as time-keeping, apologising for any interruptions (on virtual group exercises this can happen without intention!), and asking quiet members of the group for their perspective and opinion can be a great way to demonstrate you are a team player who can offer insightful contributions to the firm in the future.

5) Demonstrate resilience and calmness when handling the unknown

When it really comes down to it, you cannot prepare for everything. However, a key quality of a good future solicitor is your ability to adapt and answer logically under pressure. For instance, in one of my recent group interviews, the assessors threw in a last minute curveball, which altered the legal and business decisions we had made up to that point. This was not something we could have prepared for at all.

We quickly took on this information, considered how this would impact our decisions, and made sure we could justify and explain our decisions logically. Our team ultimately received positive feedback for thinking on our feet quickly and effectively, without letting the last minute change derail our progress. Law firms will unquestionably look at how you came to your decision, and how adaptable you are to unforeseen questions or changes. Therefore, ensuring you head into the assessment centre feeling relaxed and confident in your ability to make decisions quickly can be the difference between becoming a future trainee at the firm or not.

Ultimately, legal assessment centres are a great opportunity to demonstrate your skills and abilities to your potential future employer, and it’s incredible that you’ve made it this far!

They are not looking to catch you off guard, and more than anything want to provide you with an opportunity to showcase your talents and display your passion for working at their firm.

Successful or not, it is a great chance to develop your skills and set you up for your future in law, so go in with confidence and enthusiasm, and see what happens!

Additional Resources:

  • 5 helpful hints to ace your open days - if you enjoyed this blog, make sure to check out Jacob’s top tips on having a successful open day.
  • How to hone your commercial awareness, with Peter Watson - want to brush up on your commercial knowledge before attending an assessment centre? Take a read of this handy summary with top insights from Commercial King, Peter Watson.
  • Apply to become a Flex Trainee - has all this talk of assessment centres inspired you to go on an application spree? Flex Trainee is our SQE training scheme designed to give socially mobile aspiring lawyers the opportunity to qualify in-house. Find out more and apply today!