I completed a two day work placement (followed by a day at an assessment centre) with a large firm in the centre of Oxford that specialises in a variety of disciplines including commercial and family law. While I felt nervous about the experience, I need not have been given the lovely welcome I received. When I first arrived at the firm I was greeted by the leader of the Human Resources team who introduced me to the firm and gave me a tour of the offices. I was then directed to the commercial litigation team where I would be working during my two days with the firm. I expected the director of this department to be seated in a separate office but I was incredibly surprised to see the entire team sitting in an open plan office which allowed for excellent teamwork and communication.
My first task of the day was to work through a trainee folder and get myself settled within the department and with the type of work I would be faced with during my experience. Once I had finished this I was given work more directly related to what the firm was involved with at the time. This was brilliant as it provided a real insight into the work I would be doing as a commercial lawyer. I surprised myself with just how much I remembered from studying contract law. Thankfully, I was able to use my knowledge of this area, particularly with regard to the contractual elements when carrying out the work I was given, as I had not studied commercial law before.
When I arrived at the office for my second day I was able to get straight into my work as it followed on from the day before. Furthermore, as I was still working with the same people I felt more confident and felt more comfortable asking the team questions about the tasks I had been set. Over the two days, I wrote letters to clients and carried out research into case law that supported the firm’s work.
My third day was spent at an assessment centre in Southampton, there was a lot of travel involved but it proved worthwhile. Many of you will wonder what to expect from an assessment day: it is very tough, with many centres asking visitors to complete some form of test or written exercise, a group exercise and an interview.
When I first arrived at the Southampton office we were all taken into one communal room and given an introduction to the firm and the challenges we would face throughout the day. Light refreshments were provided halfway through the day which was a welcome distraction, especially as I spent the first two hours of the assessment day undergoing psychometric testing including a numerical, verbal and abstract thinking test.
After lunch we were separated into groups and asked to complete a team exercise and a written exercise where I was asked to draft a client letter based on specific information provided. The final aspect of the day involved individual interviews. Many people find this stage nerve wracking; let me reassure you, however, that interviewers are usually friendly and only ask the questions necessary so they may fully assess your ability and compatibility with their firm. The majority of my questions were focused on my initial application, so make sure that you read through yours before you attend any interviews. While assessment days can be challenging, if you prepare yourself properly then you should cope well under the pressure. Given how difficult they can be, you should feel very satisfied and proud if you make it through the assessment day and are subsequently offered a training contract. However, do not feel discouraged if you are not successful first time around; it’s a brilliant learning experience either way. Moreover, if you do reach the assessment stage of the application process then the firm should be happy to provide you with some feedback on your performance, should you request it; take any advice as constructive and use it to your advantage for the next time you are called to an assessment centre. No doubt you’ll feel more confident and hopefully that training contract you’re looking for will be waiting for you on the other side.
Final year law student, DeMontfort University