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Macfarlanes Interview 2021


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Aug 26, 2020
Please state the month/year you interviewed at the firm.
January 2021

Please specify what the interview was for.
Summer Vacation Scheme 2021

Please give an overview of the day with approximate timings.

  1. Arrival, introduction and ice-breakers (around 25-30 minutes)
  2. Networking with trainees (around 25-30 minutes)
  3. Interview with a partner and senior solicitor (45 minutes)
  4. Group exercise (around 45 minutes - 1 hour)
  5. Written exercise (around 30-45 minutes)
Please provide a summary of each assessment on the day with approximate timings.
- 50:50 case study and competency.
- I was given a loan agreement, along with another sheet containing relevant info, to look at before the interview. I was not given specific questions to prepare, but I had to note down issues the client was facing.

Group exercise:
- Candidates were split into groups of around 7-8. We were all given a sheet which contained a fictitious M&A scenario. Each candidate was assessed by one associate who observed everything from the beginning until the end of the group exercise.
- As a group, we had to discuss due diligence issues of a fictitious M&A deal (from the perspectives of both the buyer and the seller)
- After the group discussion, we were split into smaller teams to prepare for the negotiation. We were told who we were acting for - buyer or seller. I was put with another candidate and we had to discuss which issues to concede on, which issues to be more firm on, negotiation strategy, etc.
- We all then reconvened and had to negotiate. The negotiation lasted approximately 25-30 minutes.

Written exercise:
- I was given a scenario involving a share buyback scheme for a private equity client. Without giving away too much information, I had to summarise to the client how many shares they can obtain. There was simple maths involved.

What is your best advice for each aspect of the assessment on the day? Please break this down for each assessment. This can include advice for preparation, as well as tips for the day.

- This interview is much more focused on how accurately and concisely you interpret and convey your interpretation/views. I wouldn't focus too much on reading commercial news stories (I wasn't asked a single commercial question). Instead, familiarising yourself with basic contractual terms and the structure of a contract would be much more helpful.
- Have great answers to the typical questions above prepared. It would be very useful if you research their international strategy, their D&I framework and perhaps a deal they worked on.

Written exercise:
- Condense all the information very quickly. I felt that trying to understand the scenario was more difficult than actually writing it out. Read everything carefully from the start and double check your math! Attention to detail is probably one of the key things they assess for this exercise.
- Write appropriately
- it was a letter to a client, so make sure that you write in relatively layman's terms, rather than using highly technical language.

Group exercise:
- Work cooperatively with the others, but be original in your ideas.
- Practice negotiating with a friend
- if you can't do this, there are a couple videos on YouTube of mock negotiations.
- Know the different issues and concerns that a buyer and seller respectively have in an M&A transaction (for example, a buyer would want a lower purchase price, but a seller would want to push the purchase price as high as they can)
- Try to be as strategic as possible with every issue and clearly plan your strategy with your co-negotiator.

Were you successful?

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  • Feb 17, 2018
    Please state the month/year you interviewed at the firm.

    September 2021

    Please specify what the interview was for.

    Training contract commencing 2023

    Please give an overview of the day with approximate timings.

    These are very approximate as I can't quite remember the timings -- everything passed in such a blur.

    9am: Arrive

    9:15am: Partner interview

    10:15am: Written exercise

    11:45am: In-tray exercise

    2pm: finish

    Please provide a summary of each assessment on the day with approximate timings.
    • The partner interview was with a single grad recruitment partner. There were no people from HR present at this interview. While the interview was in the standard competency interview format, my interviewer allowed me the space to build a rapport so I wasn’t confined solely to answering questions in a STAR format, although that was certainly required.
    • The written exercise took the form of writing a letter to a client and a supervisor on a commercial issue relating to [redacted] advertising.
    • The in-tray exercise took the form of three separate commercial and ethical issues based on previous cases and situations that the firm had handled in the past. I had to fillet the information in it, come up with a view and then present my views to a partner and senior associate. This was discussion based and they pushed back on my arguments to see how I would respond to them. The interview was with a partner and a senior associate, with the partner taking the lead in the questioning.
    What is your best advice for each aspect of the assessment on the day? Please break this down for each assessment. This can include advice for preparation, as well as tips for the day.

    For the partner interview
    • Macfarlanes makes this task easier than most firms by providing candidates with a list of the competencies they are looking for in the pre-interview material. A precis of this is also set out on the Macfarlanes website. This means that you don’t need to guess what they are looking for. It also allows you to prepare multiple examples for a single competency if one doesn’t quite suit. For instance, once I gave an example the partner said “ok, that’s a good example, but it’s a bit emotionally charged – do you have anything else?” Because I had prepared multiple I could pivot to the next one.
    • Have a really well thought out answer to the most basic “why law?” and “why Macfarlanes” questions and don’t be worried to talk about them at length. Macfarlanes is an unusual firm and they want you to demonstrate that you have thought about this and understand what they are all about – this also doubles up as a way to demonstrate commercial awareness and show that you get what the firm’s business strategy is, who their “best friend firms” are and so on. This in turn should point to why you’d want to work there.
    For the client letter
    • Ensure that your presentation is good – punctuation, grammar etc.
    • Don’t be afraid to use bullet points when listing.
    • Go through the available information with a fine toothed comb to ensure that you have caught all the legal issues raised. There were over a dozen in mine and I didn’t address them all. This was a weakness of my piece.
    • Make sure that all parts of the exercise are fleshed out. My feedback noted that one half of my answer was fuller than the other, even if it did the job.
    • Provide a clearly set out list of options for what the client can do, with a firm recommendation. Remember that doing nothing is always an option, as is doing something which makes the issue go away (such as an apology). Sometimes, the best advice a lawyer can give a client is to avoid the legal route entirely.
    • Make sure to sign off at the end, as you would if you were writing a letter to an actual client.
    In-tray exercise
    • Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. The partner deliberately challenged me to see if I was a pushover. If you think that your point is correct and can be supported by the evidence then take what the partner says on board, but still stick to your guns.
    • At the same time, if you misinterpret something, don’t be afraid to change position.
    • Not knowing the answer or being uncertain is ok. In such circumstances preface your uncertainty and try to reason through the problem out loud. Even if the answer that you get to isn’t right, they will appreciate you demonstrating your critical skills to them.
    • Express interest. They liked that I followed up at the end with a question about how these cases resolved themselves in the real world and seemed genuinely interested in the answer.
    • Maintain formality. In feedback they commented that while I was very personable (which they liked), I sometimes became overly jokey.
    • Ensure that you have read the SRA’s guidelines about the duties that solicitors owe to their clients. This is invaluable when answering the ethical questions about whether or not you (in the example) fell below the duty of care. It also gives your answer a lot of heft when you can refer to the concrete legal standard.
    Other notes
    • This was by far the hardest AC that I have ever done – extremely intense and more or less on the go for 4 hours.
    • Considering that it was done online, it was done very smoothly and grad recruitment were totally lovely throughout.
    • The only part of the AC which isn’t application blind is the application interview. For the rest, they don’t know anything about you.
    • Macfarlanes make their decisions very quickly. If you get it, expect a phone call within 48 hours. If not, then an email saying “thanks but no thanks” within a week.
    • The involvement of grad recruitment in the day was, from my perspective, relatively slim. They were not present in any of the interviews and I got the sense that how well you scored (aside from the client letter, which I understand grad rec marks) was very much down to the interviewers themselves.
    • The most useful part of the preparation for me was shamelessly messaging current solicitors/trainees on Linkedin in areas which I’m interested in and asking for zoom coffee or to submit a list of written questions. Throughout the TC process, I’ve found that theI initially targeted alumni of my university and then broadened the search out further. My response rate was pretty good and it was invaluable for getting a sense of the culture and lingo of the place. This helped me answer the “why Macfarlanes” question and answer using the words of the people who already worked there.
    Were you successful?