Spoiler Alert: For my interview I was asked pretty much ALL the bog standard questions you can find when you google ‘training contract interview questions’ so if you haven’t looked them up and prepped answers for all of them, make sure you do!
I have transcribed parts of my interview to show how I answered questions just so you can get an idea of the things you are looking for but remember my answers will not necessarily be applicable to you or your experiences, so please don’t copy my answers in your interview! My answers were reflective of what I had said on my application and CV and of news issues that were current that week, so yours should be up to date for the news that is relevant at the time that you go to interview. My interview was SUPER long so I’m also only going to share three parts of it:
1. A personal question about my experience/skills.
2. My commercial awareness question.
3. Why this law firm question.
Tell me a time you were involved in a task or project and were faced with a challenge.
I worked for a charity last year where I ran after school projects for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Initially, I worked in primary schools, but I was asked to take over a secondary school project part way through the year that was struggling to retain attendees and control their behaviour. Coming in part way through the year was a huge challenge because it meant the group were used to a certain way of doing things and to the old project leader. I drew up a plan to design team-building activities that worked on building the relationships of the group, to manage the behaviour of the group and to find ways to motivate them to participating in the project’s work. I had to come down quite hard on behaviour issues to be taken seriously which was probably the biggest challenge.
Did you receive a lot of resistance to your new plan at the beginning?
Me: Yes! It was really hard to implement the plan at first because the boys had been used to the old leader and her way of doing things. However, I knew that if they were going to enjoy the project and actually get something out of it that the rules surrounding behaviour would need tightening up. I think that when you are bringing in drastic changes it is important to build a rapport with the people affected by that, so I made time to get to know each of the young people on the project individually, so they knew that I valued them as an individual and that I was implementing the changes for their benefit. The first few weeks were really difficult, but it was great to see afterwards how much better they were working as a team and how little I was having to intervene with serious behavioural issues.
Would you say therefore that it was a success?
Me: Definitely. The overall attendance and enjoyment of the project had increased and I received an award from the charity for my work in turning around the project as a a result of my commitment and innovative ideas on this particular project along with my other primary school work.
That’s impressive, that’s the kind of information you should lead with!
Me: (laughing) I was trying to be humble.
Tell me about a commercial issue that interests you.
Me: I’m really interested in the One Road, One Belt initiative. I think this will have profound effects not just for China, but also for the countries along the belt and in wider Eurasia. In particular, I have been following the opening of the International Finance Centre in Astana, Kazakhstan, which looks to reap the benefits of the new initiative in opening itself up for funding and trade. I am particularly interested in the role of emerging markets in the world and how this affects geopolitics and economies. Kazakhstan has seen the potential for it to become a niche financial hub which could be instrumental in helping different regions flourish separate from China and Russia’s influence. [note: the firm I am going to has a special interest in China which is partly why my answer to the question was around China’s One Road, One Belt initiative].
How do you think this relates to the US-China Feud?
[as you can see, my interviewer picked up on my interest in China so is now leading with another related major current affairs issue. because of this, I would recommend you don’t talk about a commercial issue you don’t know that much about in case you get followed up like I did!]
Me: I think that the issues with trade and technology going on between China and the US have profound effects not just in these countries but also globally. I was interested to see that following the US’s ban on certain Huawei products, Australia has followed suit. The United Kingdom is still deciding and running its own independent report on these products, whilst I think the EU will wait for Germany to decide and follow on that. So far Germany hasn’t said anything about banning the products but that could change in the future. I think that the US’s reasons for the war are based too much on national security issues, and I don’t agree with this because I think that the language is very vague and that the US is using its laws on national security to slow down China’s technological influence and growth.
[again please note that this was relevant to the time of my interview in 2018. The tech/trade war has moved on A LOT since then!].
I agree with that, lawyers hate vague language.
Why do you want to be a trainee at [international law firm]?
[you will definitely be asked this too so make sure you know why you like the law firm and where you fit into it!].
I want to be a trainee at [international law firm] for a number of reasons. The first is I am interested in its sector focus, I think the firm has understood the challenges facing law and that client loyalty is not the same as its used to be, and I want to train at a firm that focus on being the best in a select few sectors rather than a jack of all trades. The second is that I think politically and economically it is an exciting time to be involved in emerging markets which I am aware the firm does a lot of work in, particularly China, and I feel that my interest in emerging markets and technology makes me a good fit for the kind of work this firm does. I want to be involved in cutting edge work that crosses multi-jurisdictional boundaries and I think that this firm provides the perfect opportunity for that. The third is that I am aware that the firm’s reputation precedes it, having won awards for Innovation and Technology and that is something that I would really like to be part of. As per my award from the charity, I feel that I have an eye for innovation and so that is something that is very important to me and that I think should be important to all law firms going forward for the future.
[Ok so I also rambled on about some other stuff for the firm but can’t remember exactly. My best advice is keep it concise and to three points if you can!].
Other questions I got asked about that you probably will:
Do you think Brexit will be a challenge for law firms? I can’t remember exactly what I said for this one, but as a heads up: they aren’t looking for anything that original for this one, because it’s SO important and ongoing and widespread in the media just make sure you know how different outcomes of Brexit would affect the pound, businesses and law firms.
What are the challenges facing law firms today? There are loads of different answers and opinions on this. Read up about it and form your own opinion on what you think are the biggest issues facing law firms.
I’ve included the irrelevant extra comments my interviewer made here and there just to show you that the interview does have a bit of humanity to it! It is not all formal and interrogation like.