We’ve compiled these training contract interview questions to help you practice for interviews and assessment centres at commercial law firms. Why? Well, we’ve arranged many mock interviews over the years and we see a substantial difference in performance after students have practised real interview questions.
Are these real interview questions?
Over three-quarters of these questions were asked during recent vacation scheme and training contract interviews. The rest are variants of recent commercial awareness, case study and competency questions, all updated for your training contract interviews in 2019.
Why are these interview questions so difficult?
In our guide, we\’ve grouped many difficult training contract interview questions together to help you practice, but don\’t worry, in a real interview, interviewers will only throw a few of the difficult questions at you. Most firms will lead with competency questions.
How did you put these training contract interview questions together?
Most of the credit goes to Amy Hillier, a future trainee at Clifford Chance. If you would like to reach out to Amy with any questions about the application process (which she encourages you to do!), you can do so here. The rest of these questions were sourced from speaking to students after their vacation scheme and training contract interviews.
Fine, but I want to know about the training contract interview at [X] law firm.
No problem, we\’ve got that too. Check out our collection of law firm interview experiences here. Over 175 students submitted their experiences of vacation scheme and training contract interviews for over 65 commercial law firms.
Motivation for commercial law:
- Why law? Why not law [insert degree]?
2. Why commercial law? Why do you want to be a commercial solicitor? What do you think of commercial law?
3. Why do you want to work in the City? Why do you want to work in [insert region] and not the City?
4. Why do you want to be a solicitor and not a barrister?
5. Have you considered other professions? Finance? Consulting? Why not? Wouldn’t you rather be in investment banking because of XYZ?
6. How does the role of a lawyer differ from a banker/consultant?
7. What are you expecting to gain from a career in law?
8. What are the qualities of a good commercial lawyer? What skills do lawyers need? Do you have these?
9. What do lawyers do/what work do they carry out?
10. What do trainee solicitors do? What makes a good trainee solicitor?
11. Explain how your (legal or other) experience is relevant?
12. What did you learn from your vacation schemes?
13. Why did you do [X] experience?
14. Why are you doing a post-graduate course?
15. Why did you choose to do so much non-legal work experience?
Character and personality:
16. What does satisfaction at work mean to you? What does success at work mean to you?
17. What energises you? What motivates you? What makes you tick?
18. What\’s your story? How did you end up here?
19. What are your long-term career goals?
20. Are you happy with your academic achievements to date?
21. Why did you choose the [X] course/module?
22. Could you tell me about [X] work experience?
23. Why did you choose an internship there?
24. How do you relax?
25. What do you do on the weekends? What\’s your idea of a good weekend?
26. How do you like to socialise?
27. Have you travelled? How has learning [X language] helped you?
28. If you didn\’t have to work today/if you won the lottery, what would you be ding now?
29. Where do you see yourself in five years?
30. What have you learned from your course?
31. Are you enjoying the GDL?
32. What is your favourite module and why?
33. Can you tell us about your dissertation?
34. Wouldn\’t you rather pursue [subject]?
35. Please tell us about yourself.
36. What annoys you?
37. Why haven’t you got a training contract yet?
38. Do you usually achieve what you set out to do?
39. Are you a natural leader or a born follower?
40. What are your three greatest strengths?
41. What is your greatest weakness?
42. How do these help/hinder your work, and what are you doing about them?
43. What would your friends say are your good/bad qualities?
44. How do your friends describe you?
45. What achievement are you most proud of?
46. Do you have high standards?
47. Why are you a good person to have on a team?
48. What makes you the ideal candidate for the role? Why you over the other applicants?
49. How do you feel about working long hours?
50. What do you think about a work-life balance?
51. Why did you choose your university?
52. Why did you perform poorly in one of your degree modules?
53. What\’s your biggest disappointment? When have you overcome significant barriers?
54. What would you say is your biggest failure/mistake?
55. Are you a robust person?
56. How do you react when the pressure is off?
57. What are your best qualities?
58. Pick anything from your application form to talk about.
59. Why did you not secure your last vacation scheme?
60. What are our values?
61. What values do you live by?
62. When have you had to divert away from those values?
63. When have you made a mistake?
64. Explain the disparity between your highest and lowest university grade.
Motivation and firm knowledge:
65. Why are you applying to [this law firm]?
66. Where else have you applied? How are your other applications going?
67. Do you have any other interviews/schemes?
68. Why did you apply to those vacation schemes?
69. Who are our main competitors?
70. What differentiates us from our competitors?
71. How would being a trainee solicitor at [our law firm] be different to other law firms?
72. If you had to choose between [magic circle/US/X law firm] and our law firm, who would you choose?
73. If we offered you a training contract, would you accept it? Even if [X law firm] did?
74. Have you had any contact with our law firm?
75. Who interviewed you [last time]?
76. How does your (legal or other) experience apply to our work?
77. How many partners are at our law firm globally? How many lawyers are in this office? How many trainee solicitors do we take on?
78. What do you find unique about the recent deals we have completed?
79. Why are you interested in our training program?
80. What do you see as the bad points of joining our firm?
81. What are our practice areas?
82. What are our key industry sectors?
83. Which of our practice areas interest you?
84. Why does that practice area interest you? (+ follow up questions to check your knowledge of the practice area).
85. What is our business strategy?
86. If you were the managing partner at our law firm, where do you think we would open an office?
87. What practice area/sector should we expand into?
88. How could we attract new clients?
89. Do you think pro bono/CSR is important?
90. What do you think about our recent merger? Why do law firms merge? Do you think it\’s a sensible way to expand?
91. What do you know about the ways in which we engage our clients?
93. How do we manage our law firm?
94. Who are our main clients?
95. How is our training contract structured?
96. If you were a trainee solicitor here, how would you get involved in the law firm? How would you make yourself stand out as a trainee solicitor?
97. What do you think makes a good trainee solicitor?
98. What secondment opportunities do we offer?
99. Do you know about any awards we have we won recently?
100. What are our core sectors?
101. Why do you think we have a sector-focus?
102. Do you think [our law firm] has a distinct culture?
103. Why do you prefer disputes over transactional work (and vice versa)?
104. What do you think the real difference between US and UK firms are?
105. What kind of work appeals to you the most?
Competency Interview Questions:
106. Give me an example of your ability to negotiate and persuade. How did you go about this, and how successful were you?
107. Tell me about a time which required you to produce something to a high standard in a fixed period of time.
108. Give an example of a time you experienced conflict or disagreement. How did you resolve this?
109. How do you encourage others to contribute to the task at hand?
110. How do you organise your time and assess priorities?
111. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t meet a deadline?
112. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person.
113. Give me an example of a time when you were particularly creative in solving a problem?
114. Give an example of a problem you solved?
115. Tell me about an interesting piece of work you have done.
116. Tell me about a time where you have shown your dedication to the law.
117. Please give me an example of when you’ve worked in a team.
118. What complex issues did you overcome doing [X}?
119. Tell me about a time you had to handle a difficult relationship.
120. Can you recall a time when you acted over and above the expectations of your role?
121. Tell us about a time you worked under pressure.
122. Tell me about a significant crisis you have faced at work.
123. How do you resolve conflict in the groups or teams that you are a part of.
124. Describe a situation that involved multiple points of view.
125. Give an example of a difficult or sensitive situation that required extensive communication?
126. Tell me about a time when you were able to change someone’s point of view.
127. Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something that you disagreed with.
128. Can you tell me about a time you acted on your initiative.
129. What is the best team you worked in, what made it such a good team? Why is that important?
130. Describe a team that you were in, that was not performing well together, how did you fix it?
131. When have you had a setback? How did you overcome this setback? When did you take constructive criticism?
132. How do you think things will change in that time, what are the challenges currently facing the legal industry, and the wider business world in general?
133. How did you motivate your team, as this is a skill most lawyers need?
134. Tell me about a time when something went wrong and how you resolved it?
135. Unlike your above example, tell me about a time when you had to deal with a problem you didn\’t foresee/a curve ball issue?
136. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with someone\’s different opinion?
137. Tell me about a time when you had many priorities/deadlines and how you met them?
138. When have you worked in a team where others contributed and what was their contribution? What were your own?
139. When has a deadline changed and how did you deal with that and why did that come about?
140. When did you have to convince someone or a group to go your direction and were there any difficult members?
141. If you hosted a dinner who would you invite?
142. Tell me about a time when you added value to a team?
General Commercial Awareness:
143. Do you follow the business press? What\’s caught your eye recently?
144. In terms of that story – what do you think a lawyer’s role would be?
145. What are your main ways of following the news?
146. Do you read the Financial Times? Which sections do you read? What do you do when you come across sections you don’t understand?
147. Do you know what’s on the frontpage of the FT today?
148. What caused the financial crisis?
149. Do you think bankers are to blame?
150. How do we stop it happening again?
151. What part would laws and commercial law firms play in a corporate acquisition?
152. What about an IPO?
153. What is an IPO?
154. When is an IPO a good idea?
155. What’s the difference between an IPO and venture capital?
156. What is private equity?
157. How do privacy equity firms raise money?
158. Why do companies merge?
159. What’s the difference between contract and tort? [law]
160. If you could change any law, what would you change?
161. What are the different ways a business can raise money?
162. What are the differences between equity and debt funding?
163. What is leverage?
164. What do you see as the main challenges facing commercial law firms today? How about our law firm?
165. Why are so many commercial law firms merging in recent years?
166. How can our law firm maintain a competitive advantage in this environment?
167. Tell me about a recent legal story that you’ve been keeping up to date with?
168. Which of our offices would you close down and why?
169. What are the needs and challenges of national retailers? How has e-commerce affected traditional retailers?
170. What does commercial awareness mean to you? How does it apply to commercial law firms?
171. What are the current issues affecting the banking and finance sector?
172. How does the state of the economy affect banking and finance work for commercial law firms?
173. What company is doing well at the moment?
174. Should we have left the EU?
175. How do you think Brexit will impact our clients?
176. Why is the UK trying to carve out a special agreement for its financial services sector?
177. What problems will businesses have if the UK does not secure passporting rights?
178. Should Facebook and Google be subject to more regulations?
179. What do you think about the GDPR? Do you think it will be good or bad for businesses? How will it impact commercial law firms?
180. What do you think about the growth of AI? Is that good or bad for business?
181. Why are you interested in emerging markets?
182. Are there any difficulties for businesses trying to operate there?
183. Do you think Donald Trump is right to be imposing tariffs on China? [Counter argument, don’t you think…?]
184. How do you think that will impact businesses? And commercial law firms?
185. Do you think the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates at a faster rate?
186. What is the impact of rising interest rates? What are the advantages and disadvantages of rising interest rates? Do you think interest rates are effective in influencing the economy?
187. What are the benefits of the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger? Why are they merging?
188. Name a deal we have done.
189. What role did our law firm have on the deal?
190. What were the implications and outcome of the transaction?
191. Which practice areas were involved?
192. Why was the deal significant for the parties?
193. What was the significance on the wider industry? Impact on the market?
194. What do we mean by \”goodwill\” in the context of an acquisition?
195. Tell me why you chose this topic as your topic of interest in your application?
196. Before initiating court proceedings what do you think is important to flag to the client?
Scenarios and ethical questions:
197. Imagine that you’ve made plans to meet a close friend, one that you rarely see. On your way out the office, you notice that the trainee solicitor in your department is flooded with work. It’s likely that she’ll be working all night. Do you do anything before you leave?
198. Imagine you are completing a piece of work for a partner but you are falling behind schedule. It’s not an urgent piece of work but you promised that you’d submit it before the end of the day. You don’t think you’ll finish it on time. What do you do?
199. Is it ever acceptable to lie to a client?
200. Are private equity firms unethical? Should they be allowed to buy a business and sell its assets?
201. You are sitting alone in your office. Outside, you overhear a trainee solicitor rudely talking to a secretary. The secretary is upset. Do you do anything?
202. You are having a busy day. A partner comes in to give you work. He says the deadline is tight. How do you handle that situation?
203. A senior partner at your law firm comes into your office to give you some work. You are trying to keep up, but he leaves before you get a chance to clarify the details. You have a fair idea of what to do but you are a little confused by one of the parts of the task. What do you do?
204. A client comes to you for advice. He is a high net worth individual. He tells you that his close friend has asked him to invest £200,000 for a business venture. He wants to know what questions he should ask his friend to make sure he makes a safe investment. What do you tell him?
205. You are working on a project with a client. The client sends an email to your team berating your poor attention to detail. You notice that it was the client who made the mistake. What do you do?
206. If your colleague was slacking at work because of personal issues that . they didn’t want to share with their boss, what would you do?
207. What would you do if your boss removed you from a project you’d been working on for a long time? Brexit: 208. Will a no-deal Brexit impact London’s position as a leading global financial centre?
209. Should we hold a second referendum? If so, where does it stop? If not, do you not think it is wise to re-vote now that we have more of an informed opinion?
210. How do you think Brexit will impact the financial services sector?
211. What do you understand \’passporting rights\’ to mean? How will Brexit impact this? What can law firms do to ensure they can continue to service EU financial services clients?
212. Why do you think the pound fell after the Brexit referendum?
213. Will London still be an attractive destination for businesses after Brexit? Why are companies relocating?
214. What can law firms do to deal with business uncertainty over Brexit?
215. In times of uncertainty, businesses rely on law firms for advice. A no-deal Brexit will be a good thing for law firms.\” Do you agree?
216. How can law firms add value to clients at this time?
217. Who are the winners and losers from Brexit?
US trade war with China:
218. What are tariffs?
219. What is a trade war? Why are the current events between US and China considered a trade war?
220. Please summarise what has been happening in the current trade war between the US and China.
221. Why did Trump decide to impose tariffs on China?
222. Was it justified for Trump to impose tariffs on China?
223. If yes, how do you justify the impact on global businesses?
224. If no, how else could we deal with China\’s unfair trade practices? Countries have been unsuccessfully trying to make China change for years, is an aggressive approach not the only way?
225. How do you think the US could enforce a future trade deal with China? What is to stop China from going back on its practices?
226. Are US companies the main casualty of the US-China trade war?
227. How has the trade war impacted law firms?
228. What can law firms do to help clients during the fallout of the US-China trade war?
Data, Technology and AI:
229. What is cyber security?
230. Why is cyber security becoming more important for businesses and law firms?
231. Why do hackers target law firms?
232. What is the impact of hacking law firms?
233. How can law firms protect themselves?
234. How effective is America\’s policy of self-regulation for data protection?
235. The EU has now adopted strict data protection regulation, do you think this will impact innovation?
236. What is the GDPR? Why does it matter for businesses?
237. How does the GDPR impact law firms?
238. How is the rise of legal technology and AI impacting law firms?
239. Should law firms care about legal technology? Why?
240. What does the law firm of the future look like?
241. Does technology threaten the future of the legal profession?
242. Should we regulate social media? Why?
243. Should social media sites be forced to remove \”harmful\” video footage?
244. Will regulating big tech companies stifle innovation?
245. Can regulating Google and Facebook stop the spread of fake news? Should the US follow the EU with a widespread data protection law?
246. What do you know about the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Why was it such a problem?
247. How is e-commerce disrupting the high street? Can you name any examples?
Broader commercial awareness:
248. Why has Huawei been in the news recently?
249. What is the US so concerned about when it comes to 5G and China?
250. It\’ll be necessary for law firms to develop a presence in China over the next decade. Do you agree? Why?
251. Why is China’s growth slowing?
Mergers and Acquisitions:
252. Name three reasons why a company would acquire another company.
253. What is a share purchase?
254. What is an asset purchase?
255. Name three ways a company can raise finance for an acquisition.
256. What would a lender need to know before it provides finance to a buyer?
257. What are the differences between warranties and representations.
258. What could a law firm do if the parties wanted to begin negotiations for an acquisition, but they weren\’t sure if they would receive regulatory approval?
259. A commercial law firm is advising a company that wants to buy the luxury chocolatier, Hotel Chocolat. Which legal departments will be involved during the due diligence process?
260. Why might intellectual property be important in the acquisition of Hotel Chocolat?
261. Pharma & Co wants to buy a rival company\’s healthcare business. The healthcare business is just one of the many businesses that the rival company has, but Pharma & Co is not interested in those businesses. How should Pharma & Co structure the acquisition?
Sample answers to all of these questions and many more are available in our Mergers and Acquisitions Course: https://classes.thecorporatelawacademy.com/p/commercial-course-2-mergers-and-acquisitions-case-studies
Law firms as a business:
262. How do you think we remain competitive?
263. What are the biggest challenges facing the legal sector and how do you find out information about that?
264. How have clients and their expectations changed?
265. What is the “billable hour”?
Not at the interview stage yet?
Don\’t worry, check out our 2018 training contract application guide here.