Working as a solicitor is rarely a solitary job, thus it is essential for all training contract applicants to show that they have the ability, and the correct competencies, to work successfully as part of a team. The way that many law firms will assess this is through a structured Group Exercise.
What to expect:
Of course, the nature of the exercises will vary from one firm to the next and it is impossible to predict the exact challenges that will be set. However, in most cases, applicants will be grouped randomly into teams of around 2-6 people and will be given a scenario or set a task.
It may be commercially focused (for example, looking at a hypothetical business problem and how to use resources in order to find a solution) or it may be a much more general problem, such as a survival scenario (for example, a discussion centred around which passengers to save from a sinking ship).
The exercise will not require any prior legal experience – what they are looking for here is less about your knowledge and more about how you apply yourself in a team environment.
Generally speaking, you will be given some time to yourself to read through the exercise scenario first, before beginning discussions with your team. It will be a timed exercise.
There will be no definite right or wrong answer to the task. The assessors are interested more in how you work together and the process through which you come to a group consensus.
Group members will be scored on their individual input, rather than the overall result for the group, so someone may still do very well in a team that has failed to reach a suitable conclusion.
What are the assessors looking for?
- A balanced contribution – neither dominating unnecessarily or sitting back and letting others do the work.
- A sensitive attitude to the ideas and opinions of others
- The ability to work with a range of different personalities and to get the best out of them
- The ability to time-manage whilst remaining goal focused
- Analytical thinking and evidence of problem-solving skills
- Great communication, showing skills of persuasion and influence
- Be proactive and volunteer for roles within the team (note taker, timekeeper, chairperson etc). However, do not let this role distract you from taking part in the discussion.
- Be aware of the core competencies that the firm seek in their recruitment process. Aim to show these through your contribution. For example, if it is a business scenario, show consideration for business needs in order to display commercial awareness.
- Don’t be distracted by the presence of assessors in the room. Focus solely on your team. This will allow you to be yourself and act naturally. By trying to be the person you believe the assessors want to see, you risk coming across as muddled and inconsistent.
- Show team focus by using the names of your peers. Acknowledge, and give credit to, the points made by others. Encourage quieter members of the group to get involved.
- Remain focused and concise – if discussions start to wander then try to be the person who brings it back to the task. This is a timed exercise after all.
- Aim to contribute at least five useful points to the discussion but don’t jump in too quickly. Make sure you listen to what other team members have said and don’t talk over them in order to get heard.
How to Prepare
Obviously, practising the real thing is hard to do.
However, you can improve your performance greatly by learning more about group exercises and how you can make an impact in them. You can prepare for group exercises over at JobTestPrep.
For a rundown of the do’s and don’t of training contract assessment centres and expert tips for other tests and exercises (and how to practice them) see our Essential Guide to Training Contract Assessment Centres.
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