Aug 30, 2023

Written By Annabel Gooden

Ace the group exercise: tips for success in law firm assessment centres

Aug 30, 2023

Written By Annabel Gooden

Group exercises are a key part of legal assessment centres during the training contract application process. If you have gotten this far, it’s a promising sign. The firm thinks you have what it takes and now wants to see how you perform in a group setting. Check out the rest of this article for our essential tips for acing group exercises.

What is the purpose of the group exercise?

Although this will feel very different to the written application, law firms will still be assessing you against certain skills and competencies. Check whether the firm you have applied to lists the specific skills it is looking for online, as this is always a useful starting point.

For example, law firm Clyde & Co notes that candidates for its legal assessment days are primarily assessed on communication, teamwork and commercial awareness.

Rather than asking you to describe a time when you worked well as part of a team, the firm wants to see you demonstrate team working skills in real time. This allows them to see for themselves whether you’d be a great asset to the firm.

What does a group exercise at a legal assessment centre involve?

The process will differ slightly between law firms. You may not need to do any specific preparation, although worth checking your invitation carefully. You could be asked to research a topic ahead of a group discussion or presentation. Even if you aren’t set any work in advance, there are still things you should consider to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

Most group exercises will involve the following aspects: individual preparation time, group discussion or debate, a presentation and a follow-up Q&A. You may be asked to plan and deliver a group presentation, take part in a debate, or complete a negotiation exercise.

There is likely to be a commercial element to the task. You might be asked to pitch to potential clients on behalf of the firm or to propose new business strategies to help the firm develop its client base. Alternatively, you may be asked to role play a commercial negotiation relating to a legal transaction or dispute. Of course, these scenarios will be fictitious and won’t involve putting you in front of real clients. However, they are designed to be challenging and will test your potential for a client-facing career.

Bear in mind that there are usually other tests to complete during the assessment day. These may include verbal reasoning, situational judgement tests and competency-based or case-study interviews. You can find more articles on the selection and assessment process here.

How can I stand out from the competition in a group exercise?

Collaborate don’t compete

Firstly, and most importantly, these exercises are about collaborating not competing. Although it might seem counterintuitive, the goal should not be to beat the other applicants. Instead, focus on joining forces with the other people in your group. Encourage others, tell someone if you think they’ve made a good point and then try to build on what they’ve said. Look for things you agree on, not just where you disagree. Remember that law firms don’t just want to recruit tough negotiators and competent litigators, they also want individuals who will contribute to a productive team atmosphere and get along well with clients.

Listen as well as talk

You don’t have to shout the loudest to shine during a group exercise. Actively listen to what others in your group have said and try to respond directly to the points they raise. This will show that you are adaptable and can think on your feet. If you jump in with comments which are irrelevant to the discussion, you will stand out for the wrong reasons.

Positive mental attitude

Bring positive energy and enthusiasm to the assessment day. Of course, it’s important to pause and give others airtime, however this is also a chance for you to impress recruiters on an individual level. Make sure you come across as polite and professional, think about your body language and remember to smile.

Take it step by step

Showcase your collaboration skills at every stage. When you’re given your brief and planning time, think about whether you have questions you could raise with group members. If you’re taking part in a negotiation exercise, consider which points you’d be willing to compromise on and be prepared to do so.

In discussion or debate time, try to be aware of how much you (and everyone else) are talking. It’s a good idea to keep your contributions short, to the point, but frequent. Making several pertinent points is likely to be preferable than making one long-winded argument.

During Q&A sessions, share the responsibility so that everyone gets a chance to speak. Be wary of volunteering people for questions as this could look like you are trying to put other candidates on the spot! Above all, be polite, considerate and courteous.

For even more advice, sign up to AllAboutLaw’s group exercise masterclass here to gain tips from an expert legal recruiter.



Selection & Assessment