Jun 04, 2024

Written By Niki Saberi Oskoui

How Non-Law Students Can Excel in Training Contract Interviews

Jun 04, 2024

Written By Niki Saberi Oskoui

Training contract interviews can be a critical stage in securing a legal career. As the final stage of a long journey, the end is in near sight. However, they can seem daunting, especially as a non-law student.  If you are in this position, fear not! This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to excel in your training contract interview.

Understanding the Process

It is important to note at the outset that, following the introduction of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam in 2021, law students now must have 2 years of ‘Qualifying Work Experience’ before qualifying as a solicitor, which can be completed at up to 4 different placements at different organisations. This can be done before, after, or during the SQE assessments. 

Nevertheless, many law firms are continuing to offer training contracts, so knowing how to excel in interviews still remains important. 

The purpose of a training contract interview is simple: it aims to assess a candidate’s suitability for the role, including their skills, knowledge, and how they would fit within the firm’s wider culture. 

Once you reach the training contract interview stage, you may be faced with different types of structures. These can include more traditional competency-based and/or panel interviews, or case study interviews. Case study interviews are hypothetical scenarios or legal problems presented to the candidate to assess their reasoning, analytical and problem-solving skills. 

Make sure you know what sort of interview you are having so that you can prepare for it thoroughly in advance.

Preparation Time

Whatever the format, there are some handy tips you can use to excel in any training contract interview. 

Firstly, make sure that you thoroughly research the firm you have applied for before the interview. Be sure to research its practice areas, recent deals or cases, clients, culture, and values. This will allow you to respond confidently to any question thrown your way and tailor your answer to the specific firm you have applied for. 

Good research techniques include exploring the firm’s website, keeping up to date with recent news stories and articles, and reaching out to current employees through LinkedIn for insight into the firm.

Showcase Your Skills

For non-law students, identifying your transferable skills and experiences in your interview is particularly important as it will help you to stand out. So be sure to talk about situations and accomplishments from previous work experience and positions of responsibility to demonstrate your problem-solving, communication, teamwork, research and analytical skills. Every bit of work experience is valuable, even if it is non-law related, so utilise it!

Commercial Awareness

Showcasing your commercial awareness as a non-law student is also important. Commercial awareness is defined as the understanding of business, economic, and market trends as well as their implications for legal practice. Although many see it as a buzzword, commercial awareness is incredibly important within the legal world, as lawyers need to understand the wider business context of their clients’ transactions and decisions. 

There are many ways to sharpen your commercial awareness, including reading news articles, following industry blogs, and attending events and seminars. By staying informed through a variety of ways, you will begin to draw trends between business, economic, and legal news.

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Shine like a STAR

Perhaps the most common interview questions asked in training contract interviews are about your motivation for becoming a lawyer, your specific interest in the firm, your experiences and your achievements. The hardest part can be knowing how to structure your answers coherently and concisely. 

The best way to structure your answer to these sorts of questions is through using the STAR technique. 

Situation - where were you?

Task - what did you have to do? 

Action - how did you go about it?

Result - what happened as a result of the action that you took?

Following this simple structure will ensure you address all parts of the question and showcase the skills you had to use. 

If you have a case-study interview, the best way to approach it is through using the following four-step answer: 

  1. Identify the key issues

  2. Analyse the facts of the case 

  3. Apply legal principles

  4. Propose practical solutions. 

Nerves, Nerves, Nerves

Any training contract interview can be nerve-racking. However, it can be even more stressful for non-law students who may feel less confident and cautious about their legal knowledge. 

Every individual is different and may have different coping mechanisms. However, practical ways to handle your nerves include breathing exercises, positive visualisation and reframing your anxiety as excitement and anticipation. Most importantly, you deserve to be there, so believe in yourself!

Practising and Receiving Feedback

Ultimately, the best way to prepare for a training contract interview is through practice. By practising mock interviews with a variety of different people, you can build your confidence, refine your interview skills and identify areas of improvement. 

Ask a favour from a friend, family member, mentor, or career advisor to take on the role of an interviewer and simulate realistic interview scenarios. Treat every mock interview as the real thing. 

After every interview, ask for constructive feedback. This way you can adapt and improve after every practice run. 

Conclusion

Overall, the best to ensure you excel in a training contract interview is to understand the process, research the firm, and prepare for every interview scenario, and the best way to do this is through practice. 

Navigating the final stage can be a daunting process, especially for non-law students, but you have the key. Stay focused, stay positive and believe in yourself, because we believe in you!

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Non-Law Students