Interview experiences for vacation schemes and training contracts. Law firms are sorted alphabetically.

Macfarlanes Interview

When was your Macfarlanes interview? 

Summer 2017

What was it for? 

Vacation scheme

Please describe the interview process at Macfarlanes.

The day involved a 20-minute exercise with a partner, a written exercise and a group exercise.

It was very well-structured but I feel the rather high number of applicants made it feel a bit more intimidating.

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

Regarding the interview, this is split in two parts – one focusing on personal experiences (mostly competency questions) and the other on a case study, which you will have already had the chance to read before the interview. As regards the former, in my case it involved basic questions such as ‘tell me about a time you faced a challenge – how did you overcome it’ and ‘tell me about a time you showed initiative’. The second part was by far more difficult, insofar as the case study itself was challenging and the partner would endlessly question me without, as had happened in other interviews, being particularly helpful/leading towards a solution.

As regards the written exercise, it was certainly the most difficult part of the assessment day (or ‘open day’ as they call it), and involved basic calculations without a calculator. It revolved around advising a private client (-note Macfarlanes is known for this practice area!) on what they might expect to gain out of a trust.

Finally, the group exercise was very typical and in groups of two – a notable difference in my experience was that the assessor actively contributed to the discussion and was leading it in some cases – asking things candidates would never ask to each other. Be respectful and patient and make sure you think your answers through, it is especially important here when the assessor might jump in to develop your answer and/or ask explanations.

When was your Macfarlanes interview? 

February 2018

What was it for? 

Vacation scheme

Please describe the interview process at Macfarlanes.

The format at the Assessment Centre was as follows:
• Negotiation exercise
• Presentation from trainees
• Written exercise
• Interview + case study
• Work shadowing

For the negotiation exercise, just be yourself ensure you speak and make valid points as they assess everything you say. It is not a win lose situation, be cooperative and collaborate with your team mates. The actual exercise is not difficult usually it is based on an M&A scenario, and you will just have to negotiate the terms of the agreements. The written exercise is probably the most difficult (see below). The exercise was really short, ten mins on a case study you are given to read beforehand which is based on assessing your commercial awareness, and the interview is really a conversation about that, and then ten mins of questions about you. The day on the whole is quite, usually from 9-4:30- but the rest of the activities are not assessed so it does allow you to relax and meet the trainees!

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

The hardest part of the day was definitely the written exercise. We had limited time to work out a company share buy out situation, and write a letter to the client. It involved knowledge of intermediary maths, which if you haven’t done since GCSE can be a bit tough. On the whole there wasn’t really a way you could have prepared for it though. What I would say is so make sure you finish the letter, even if it isn’t your best!

When was your Macfarlanes interview? 

February 2018

What was it for? 

Training contract

Please describe the interview process at Macfarlanes.

First commercial case study with 3 parts, then a partner interview on the case study followed by a group presentation task to a partner, a one-on-one partner interview and a written exercise (a letter responding to a claimant who is suing your client). Finally the day ends with lunch and networking with some trainees.

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

For the commercial case study manage your time equally across all 3 segments as the partner will ask you about all 3. In the group presentation make sure you contribute when planning the presentation as the partner will be watching, also don’t get bogged down in the details but try to see the overall picture. The one-on-one partner interview involves the usual competency, motivation, and strengths based questions. The written task was the hardest as there was a lot of time pressure. Make sure you read everything and use the information given to come up with a response to claimant in the scenario and don’t award him too much compensation!

When was your Macfarlanes interview? 

February 2018

What was it for? 

Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Macfarlanes.

Initial greeting with HR (‘claim to fame or claim to shame’ icebreaker), then a group exercise, a talk from a trainee and an NQ and a written exercise. Lunch, then work shadowing with an interview scheduled at some point in the afternoon. Very intense, but shadowing a trainee in the afternoon (in Construction for me) gave a chance to see actual work and have a more informal chat about the firm.

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

The written exercise was fairly straightforward if you read ALL the information thoroughly and applied it exactly. It was about different categories of shareholders and shares, (apply the company’s articles to a problem scenario) and needed a numerical answer for the value the company could recover (no calculator but very basic maths, e.g.dividing by 10). Stay calm and work through it one step at a time!

Group exercise: split intotwo parts, first all four int he group discussing a scenario with the assessor (speak up but don’t dominate). Second: split into two pairs and negotiating four terms (each had to ‘win’ two points). This was about due diligence and buying a company, so an awareness of what is important is good (debtors defaulting and guarantees, ongoing contracts). Make your points but be patient if anyone in the group doesn’t quite understand the scenario.

Interview with a partner: 20 minutes, first 10 on an ethical scenario leaving a VERY short time for personal questions. Why do you want to be a lawyer, specifically in the City, when were you resilient/determined. The partner will challenge you a lot on the ethical scenario, which I found the hardest part.

When was your Macfarlanes interview? 

March 2016

What was it for? 

Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Macfarlanes.

There were quite a lot of applicants together on the same day. We sat around in a conference room and there were ice-breakers. We talked to the person next to us and then relayed to the rest of the room. It was good to relax us a little bit before things started. The grad rec partners was reassuring in telling us that we had done very well just to get there, and assured us that there were enough places for us all to go through.

The first exercise was a group negotiation exercise. I was put in a group with 6 people including myself. The scenario was an acquisition of an airline. At first there was a list of potential issues and we discussed as a group, led by two current trainees, how serious each would be, which were the most serious etc. Then we were split into two groups of three, representing each side of the acquisition. We had certain goals to achieve from the negotiations, and time to prepare amongst ourselves. Then we negotiated with the team opposite. It didn’t matter too much what result you achieved; it was more about how you did it, whether you were calm, cordial but stern, didn’t back down too easily, showed commercial awareness in your arguments, and reached an agreement before the time limit.

The second exercise was a written exercise: a letter to a client advising on whether they had grounds to sack some employees. This involved looking at the employment contract, examining against the facts, and coming to a conclusion. Time management is key for this; I only just finished in time.

Then we had lunch with trainees and partners, which was a little intimidating at first but fine once we were going. It’s important to remember they’re just there to have a lunch and answer any questions you have or just discuss things. They’re not out there to assess the quality of your questions or anything.

The final exercise was a blind interview with a partner. Before this we had fifteen minutes to read over a scenario involving the ethics of coming across inside information and whether or not to use it. We discussed this in the interview for about ten minutes, and it seemed mostly about how we thought about the issue. Then there was a quick interview about background, and usual questions about motivation. My interviewer was very friendly and put me very much at ease when I was very nervous going into it.

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

Be sure to contribute in the group exercise. We structured it so that each of us in the group could start and make the point on one of the issues up for negotiation, and ‘lead’ the negotiations for our side. That was helpful for sharing the opportunities to speak. Make sure you keep an eye on the time, though the other people in the exercise made a big show of checking their watches and announcing how long we had left, clearly trying to earn points with the assessors. Draw upon what other people say, expanding on their points. Try to draw in to the discussion someone who hasn’t been saying much.

Think about how you would structure a letter to a client, but otherwise it’s difficult to prepare for the written exercise as it’s just applying facts to the contract to see what can be done. Make sure to give clear advice and really watch the time. You can’t go too wrong if you finish on time.

It’s very difficult to prepare for the quick scenario to discuss, but think about privileged information and codes of ethics for solicitors. Then prepare the usual motivation questions, competency, but the interview went very quickly.

When was your Macfarlanes interview? 

July 2016

What was it for? 

Training Contract

Please describe the interview process at Macfarlanes.

There were three elements. The first was a written exercise which was a letter to a client, a holiday company, about a complaint they had received by one of their customers, with advice about their liabilities and what they should offer by way of compensation. This involved looking at what was promised, the conditions that the customer experienced etc.

The second element was an interview with a partner about competencies. They didn’t overtly say it would be about competencies but that was all it was, essentially.

The last interview was an in-tray exercise, basically. We had to read a situation and respond to it with what we would do in an interview with a partner. For instance, we were a lawyer and a client was asking for advice, but we weren’t qualified in that area. The exercise is about understanding the roles of lawyers and commercial awareness.

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

For the written exercise, focus on the details and don’t make silly errors. I wrote my letter to the wrong person and I think this was the single biggest challenge to my chances of success. Make sure you complete the exercise in the time available, and just be clear in giving your advice. It’s difficult to prepare for.

Be clear on your competencies, and think about obscure traits that they could ask you about. Macfarlanes is big on resilience, which is difficult to think about on the spot so make sure you prepare specific situations and structure your answer well.

The in-tray exercise is also difficult to prepare for, because it’s largely dependent on the situation before you. Remember that a lawyer can only give advice on things they have expertise in or they will face liability for incorrect advice. Read through the documents quickly but try to highlight the key problems. Try to ignore unnecessary details. The interviewer will point you to problems you have missed though, so don’t worry if you don’t get everything first time round.