I thought I’d add to the forum and offer some help to anyone considering applying to, or currently interviewing at Clifford Chance with a view to aquiring a Training Contract.
The day is divided in to four main sections (not including arriving and lunch): a test, group exercise, case study and one to one interview. Your day should be exactly as follows.
Training Contract Assessment Day
Meet and greet/Presentation - The day starts early. When you arrive you will meet other candidates and be introduced to some of the staff who will be conducting the assessment day. There is a brief presentation about the firm and an opportunity to ask questions. It’s a good idea to ask something sharp and intelligent at this stage, so that staff notice early on that you are alert and switched on from the off.
Test - Next you will be taken in to another room for a test which will be difficult and slightly nervewracking. First you will be given a set of practice questions and will then have to wait until every candidate has completed these and got them right, which can take a while. Subsequently, you will be given the test proper, which is comprised of 35 questions which must be completed within 35 minutes. You will need to rush to complete all the questions as time is of the essence - you will be under intense pressure. Not everyone will finish the test - but you should certainly aim to do so.
The format of the test is a written passage followed by descriptive questions, not the usual “yes” “no” “not enough information” that you may be used to. Some questions ask you to fill in two answer bubbles.
Group Exercise - This follows almost immeadiately after the written test. CC divide the main group (usually about 16 people) into smaller groups of about three or four.
You will be given 15 minutes to read about a constructed scenario on your own and make notes (which you are required to submit for assessment, at the end). You then discuss the information with the 2 or 3 other members of your small group.
The scenario is about 10 pages long and includes letters and notes. My scenario was about a company who wanted to build cleaner engines for planes or cars, but not both. My group was told to present a case for planes.
There is not time enough to read everything and make notes. I skimmed all the documents for important info and was able to come up with A lot of points rather than focussing all my attention on one. After discussing the information as a group (with assessors listening to and monitoring what you say, who is speaking and how much) you will present to your assessors. Everyone in my group talked and made good points, which is important. We then met with three people from a car group and argued our case. We were then given information that was in favour of the planes so we were quickly able to come to the decision for planes. Everyone was very polite and we all waited for each other to finish speaking.
The worst thing you can do during the group exercise is to not talk at all. You need to shine and be noticed but importantly not be cocky or talk over other people. Do not be competitive, but do be assertive. Wait until someone has talked and listen to them. If they come up with a point you want to elaborate on give them credit for it and then elaborate. During the actual discussion stage try to be the group member who structures the debate and organises things. Take a leadership role by organising contributions and leading the discussion to a conclusion. If anyone criticises you or disagree with your points debate with them and argue your case. Explain yourself and justify your thinking. Your assessors will be listening to everything you say and do, your body language and time magagement skills… and taking notes!
Bear in mind too that this is a group exercise and consequently a team effort. You want everyone in your team to look good. In my group we all talked equal amounts and came across well which was a good reflection on everyone.
Lunch - This follows the group session and offers a well deserved rest! First year trainees are likely to come and talk with you about the work they do and you are free to ask them any questions you like. This part of the day is not assessed (although you don’t want to do anything stupid) so feel free to ask more specific questions about things like working hours and social life.
Interview - Interviews come straight after lunch, followed by a tour of the office. Some people take the tour first, followed by the interview. I was interviewed by a female corporate partner and a male finance associate. My interviewers were really very friendly and put me at ease, which was good! The first thing they asked was for me to go through my CV, which I did, explaining my choice of A Level subjects and degree in relation to a career in law. They interjected if they had a question, but the situation was very comfortable and dare I say it, quite enjoyable! Jokes were made and both they and I laughed and there was lots of smiling and a general feeling that everyone was relaxed throughout. Some other candidates did talk getting a real grilling from their interviewers though, so it does seem to come down to the personality of the specific interviewers you get on the day! Prepare for harsh one, but hope for nice ones! Other questions included:
-What other firms have you applied to?
-What do you think started the credit crunch?
-What is your biggest disappointment?
-What other careers have you considered?
-Do you enjoy working in a group/alone?
-How do you feel about long working hours?
Be yourself, be natural and answer honestly. Give complete answers and be prepared to justify life/academic choices if asked about “why this/that”.
Mini case study - This will be given to you about 15 minutes before your interview and you will get some time to write notes. I was literally given a single paragraph which said someone had called me because their son wanted to set up a video game business. The question was “What commercial and legal advice would you give”? I wrote for the whole 15 minutes writing down everything I could think of related to setting up a small business. I talked for quite while and was pretty comprehensive - and luckily they had no questions for me! Again, this could be because I was given such nice interviewers - this is the area that other interviewers really grilled others.
I’m a law conversion student and was worried about how much legal knowledge I would need on the day. The advice you are expected to give for the case study and group exercise is really of a commercial nature though, and not a legal one. I did not apply a single bit of legal knowledge to either scenario and was fine. You do not need any specific knowledge of the law to deal with the day, what CC are looking for is basic common sense and some form of commercial awareness. If you get stuck, they will prompt you and see how far you can go. Interviewers really test whether you can draw logical conclusions, which is of course a requisite skill for all good lawyers.
You will be given credit for being bold and honest in group discussion as well as during the interview. CC are looking for people confident enough to articulate their views without. They want people able to make intelligent contributions to a discussion, who are prepared to stand up for themselves, rather than yes-men and giving laclustre, textbook answers.
Overall the assessment day was good fun, although I left very tired and worn out! The other candidates seemed like nice people and all the people I met who worked at CC seemed intelligent, polite and friendly. I was impressed by the firm and the offices, and pleased with how the day went, although I could see how som people may find it hard, especially if one part early on, such as the group discussion went badly.
Any questions just let me know. Good luck people with this and all your other TC applications!