Bright Network member and Cardiff Law undergraduate Benjamin has been offered a Trainee Solicitor position at Clifford Chance. We caught up with him to hear about his application experience and top tips for success.
Tell us a bit about your future Trainee role
In February 2016 I will be joining Clifford Chance on a two year Training Contract. As a Trainee, I'll sit in four different seats including compulsory ones in corporate, finance and capital markets. I will also have the choice to do one seat abroad. Before starting, I will be doing the LPC including an MA in business at BPP Law School.
Why did you choose Clifford Chance?
Having met Clifford Chance on a number of occasions throughout my first two years at university, I knew they were the right law firm for me. The inclusive, friendly and team-orientated culture really stood them apart from other firms. I wanted to join a firm where I would receive great training and take on quality work in a supportive environment - Clifford Chance offer all of this.
What did the Trainee application process involve?
First, there is an online application comprised of a set of questions and a critical reasoning test. If you pass this test, Clifford Chance's recruiters guarantee to read your application. And if they like your application, you'll be invited to an assessment day. You're asked to complete a Watson Glasier test on critical thinking prior to the assessment day, and on the day itself, you do one case study interview and one competency based interview.
What was the most difficult part of the application process?
For me, the most difficult parts were the Watson Glasier test and the case study interview. I was really nervous about the test as I'd previously scored poorly and was rejected from quite a few roles I'd applied for. To give myself the best chance of succeeding with Clifford Chance, I spent a lot of time preparing and understanding what the test required of me. I had the test's structure in front of me as I was taking it so I always knew what was coming next.
At the assessment day, the case study interview was rather tough because I didn't know what to expect and you only have ten minutes to prepare your answer which you present to two partners. The adrenaline is running and you have to work very quickly to come up with a logical structure of how to present your answer. This was hard at first but once you're in the interview and start discussing the case study, things become easier.
What was the most enjoyable part of the application process?
I found the competency based interview the most enjoyable. I felt relatively confident talking about why I was suited to Clifford Chance and what I had gained from previous experiences. I also had a great conversation with the managing partner - we discussed his recent appointment and the firm's strategy for the future.
How did you prepare for the application process?
For the online application form I made sure I thoroughly researched the firm. This led me to attend different networking events where I asked Clifford Chance representatives questions to help me write my application. I also started to read the business press every day, as well as the legal press surrounding Clifford Chance. This enabled me to include anything relevant in my application and show how well prepared I was. Finally, I got a few people to proof my application and share their opinions on its content; this really helped and did result in a few changes.
For the assessment day I wrote a small preparation booklet of about seven or eight pages compromising of what I thought I needed to learn for the interview. This included questions I thought I may be asked, recent Clifford Chance deals, important business stories, how my experiences related to Clifford Chance and key deals I had been following. This booklet really helped me and I was constantly updating it up until I took the train to London for the interview.
What top three tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Tip 1: Build a rapport
I met Clifford Chance on many different occasions and always followed up with emails to the people I had met. This led to me building up contacts and being able to use them to further my research. Internet based research is highly valuable but being able to speak to someone who works at a law firm is much more useful as it gives a true picture.
Tip 2: Be specific
When writing the online application form, keep the firm's list of competencies in front of you. These can be found online and it really helps to focus your writing on what Clifford Chance is looking for and how your experiences fit in with that. It is also a useful tool for seeing if Clifford Chance really is the right fit for you.
Tip 3: Stand your ground
Finally, for the assessment day, it is advisable that you always stick to what you're saying. The case study interview is all about your opinion, and if you do not stick to it, and show good reasons for doing so, then it shows that you're an indecisive individual who does not believe in their own ability.
Clearly if what you're arguing is illogical and blatantly wrong then don't stick to it, but if you're being challenged on something you've said in the interview (as I was multiple times), then it is preferable to stick to it and give a robust defence as to why. This shows that you're an individual who can think competently under pressure and still articulate your answers well.