When was your Freshfields interview? 

January 2018

What was it for? 

Vacation scheme

Please describe the interview process at Freshfields.

There was a very clear structure for the assessment centre, and this was laid out to us very clearly in the invitation email. There were no surprises on the day.

I arrived and there were two other candidates waiting to carry out the assessment centre at the same time as me. We started with the written exercise. This was probably the most straightforward bit – a simple comprehension exercise that required you to correct grammatical mistakes and make suggestions on how it could be improved. The written answers required analytical and critical ability, not legal knowledge. Just keep calm and keep your wits about you – this section is more in your control than what follows. You have plenty of time.

The second bit was an hour-long, face-to-face interview with Freshfields employees. I had an associate and a senior associate but the mix varies, I think. They were very friendly, as I’d expected, but this isn’t an hour of small talk. They really wanted to know a lot about me, and in a lot of detail. No one knows about you more than you do, so you can definitely prepare for this interview! Think about what you’ve achieved – what stands out particularly? What would you have done differently in different circumstances if you could go back and relive an experience? What have you learnt from them? What kind of person are you in a team? What motivates you? And, of course, why law at Freshfields? I wasn’t asked any of those questions in those precise terms, but the questions I was asked broadly matched those topics. They’ll ask questions in a way you weren’t expecting them to, and sometimes you might be slightly taken aback. That’s fine! Just take your time and think what the interviewer is really asking you – if you’ve done your preparation you’ll know what part of the application/your profile it relates to, so build your answer from there. They’re not trying to trick you. There were also some situational type questions based on what I would do if I were a trainee in X position – you can’t prepare for these and I don’t think there is necessarily a right answer, but always remember to talk through your reasoning and justify your answer.

A word of warning on the preparation side of things. You can certainly over prepare for this section and it will be obvious if your answers are pre-learned. They want to know you are a genuine person with genuine passions and a real personality so don’t regurgitate scripted answers. Enjoy the dialogue, bounce off each other, and build up a rapport – that’s what they want their future lawyers to do with clients. The basics also apply: look presentable and make sure you’ve practised your smile and firm handshake! Also – don’t be arrogant or cocky about your achievements (you’re interviewing at a world-leading law firm and everyone there is an overachiever!) but don’t put yourself down. Have the confidence to share your experiences and what you learnt about them – take pride in them. When talking about your role in a team, demonstrate what YOU did, not what others or ‘we’ did. Offer memorable and genuine (that’s important – if you BS, they’ll know) insights into things you’ve done, and you’ll impress.

Then there was a tour with a trainee. Pretty standard stuff – nice offices, but they’re moving soon so I wouldn’t make any important decisions based on that alone!

The second interview, and final part of the assessment centre, I don’t remember quite as well. It was based on an FT/Times article that was pretty recent but not that current. We had some preparation time and then two partners grilled me on it. When reading the article and making notes, don’t forget the importance of knowing what words and concepts mean, and how you’d explain it to someone who doesn’t know. Some questions in the interview were really straightforward in hindsight, but I think I got carried away trying to think of the ‘bigger issues’ in the article. These are important too – have an analytical mind when reading and think what they might ask you. Have an opinion, too! Absolutely be clued up on your business basics – stocks, shares, how companies raise finance, all of that. I think this is the interview people find more challenging (although both definitely have their challenging parts) but don’t worry – they were exceptionally friendly and happy to fill in the gaps when I didn’t know what a term or concept meant. I walked out of the interview feeling like I’d learnt something, which I think is a pretty positive sign!

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Freshfields interview?

I think I’ve mainly answered this in the above response. The Corporate Law Academy emails were absolutely invaluable (thank you very much!) Finimize is also worth signing up for (I have mine on the global news setting – Freshfields is a global firm, of course) and the FT if you can get it for free through your uni. Stoakes’ Know The City was recommended to me and I did read it – if you really don’t know much at all about finance (me) then consider it, but getting a broad understanding of the current issues is more important. Reading articles and looking up unknown terms on Investopedia is probably a better way to do it if you dedicate time over several months to building up your commercial awareness.

Obviously know a lot about the firm. Personal experiences are far more compelling than information you could have got from the website. “When I met X at the law fair she said…” is a good way to do this, but don’t keep namedropping. Attend as many events as you can by a range of law firms – these will help you to realise what kind of firm you like and what you don’t. Then when you make your application you can tell a convincing story about why you came to apply for commercial law, and why you want your career to start at Freshfields. The more events you attend and hands you shake, the less generic (read: forgettable) your answer will be.

Good luck!