A Day of Professional Transformation

In one jam packed, insightful and challenging day, covering the essentials of making a strong impact on prospective employers, from CVs to assessment centres; my professional demeanour has been transformed. Never have I learned so much in such a short space of time, primarily through access to industry specialists who clearly and concisely broke down exactly what we needed to focus on to gain those prized training contracts/pupillages. 

The day consisted of seven separate segments, focusing on five different aspects of the application process. I arrived at the University of Law Bloomsbury at 9am, and was greeted by a tea/coffee reception and a chance to catch up with my LLP cohort before the day got into full swing. After inspiring introductory speeches by Imogen Burton of the University of Law, and Debo Nwauzu, the visionary of the BLD Foundation, we were set for an intense day of training.

Veronique Ayme, a recruitment expert, introduced the first session on CVs. Veronique eloquently explained that our CVs should be viewed as self marketing tools, they are our professional passports to those sought after interviews. As such they needed to be clear, structured and focus on what personal achievements were gained through each activity or experience mentioned. Another fantastic hint was that each CV should be tailored to the specific firm or role being applied to. I had never thought of this, but it makes absolute sense. We all have a variety of experiences and skills, far too many to list on 1-2 sides of A4, tailoring a CV enables a candidate to demonstrate to the employer that they have done their research and know they key skills and competencies required of the role being applied for, demonstrated throughout the CV.

After this brilliant talk, we were put into groups and asked to peer review each other’s CVs, we also had some one on one time with a reviewer to check through the CVs. The LLP cohort is an incredibly talented bunch and all the CVs I looked at were fantastic. Having absorbed all the information, I was able to give and receive great feedback, and my CV is now in great shape. 

After a short break our next session was introduced by Veronique Ayme and delivered by highly experienced careers coach Sarmini Ghoshwe already had the pleasure of hearing Sarmini speak at the Induction event so I knew the session would be a very insightful one. Sarmini talked about the key to making an outstanding application. In short there are three key aspects that have to be brought to the fore: motivation, competencies and commercial awareness. Applications must not be generic, which means that applicants should avoid the scattergun approach and should instead focus on between 8-10 applications. Each application involves a great deal of research so that answers can be specific. Sarmini gave great sample phrases to use to effectively market oneself and factors to consider in applications including the training programme itself and the culture of the firm.

This talk was again followed by a group workshop, which really helped put all we had learned into perspective. Sarmini led our group; we were further split into two respective groups, one discussing why a career in the legal profession? and my group tackling why a solicitor? Both groups took different approaches to the questions, but ultimately covered a lot of similar aspects, for example international nature of work, a preference of teamwork etc. I found this a very beneficial exercise, as this question is commonplace on many application forms. Sarmini’s advice was invaluable in breaking down the key application questions. It really is no exaggeration to state that she is an expert in her field.

Our next talk was about those dreaded psychometric tests, well dreaded for me at least! Alan Redman from Criterion Partnership explained that psychometric tests are not only a good indicator of raw ability, but also show how ability can be improved upon to give a better view of an individual’s intellectual capabilities. The most common test for law students is the verbal reasoning test; different firms may use other tests, so it is important to look at each firm’s recruitment process to identify what tests to practise for. This session was great for demystifying these tests and emphasising that practise is the key to success.

Assessment centres were the focus of our next session. This was led by Sarmini, who gave us examples of a range of assessment centre tasks, such as commercial case studies, E-tray exercises, presentations, group exercises, and then provided us with very helpful tips on how to approach them. The three key aspects were reinforced again: motivation, competencies and commercial awareness. Successfully showcasing all three of these aspects is the key to succeeding in assessment centre days.

The talk was followed by group workshops tackling two commercial case studies and an E-tray exercise. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we had a lot of fun working on these tasks. I certainly felt like a detective trying to pinpoint all the relevant, possibly contentious aspects. Sarmini pointed out that although we had covered some good ground we had forgotten, in our first case study, to ask the simple question of how much the transaction was worth! The morale here was not to jump too far ahead, as a lawyer no question is too basic. All in all this session was great practise in understanding how to approach group case studies at assessment centres. I feel a lot more confident about undertaking such a task now. 

Our final session was a group mock interview with recruiters and lawyers from Barclays, Reed Smith, and Sidley Austin. My group’s interviewer was a Real Estate finance associate at Reed Smith who is involved in the recruitment process at the firm. We took turns to answer some typical competency based interview questions. The interviewer let us attempt the questions and then provided constructive feedback on what he was good and what we could do to improve on the answers. The key points were to keep answers succinct, to follow the STAR structure, but most importantly to know which competency the question is specifically looking for because no matter how great the example is, if it does not relate to the competency sought, you will lose marks. I really enjoyed this session; it was the perfect end to a very successful day.

I cannot wait until our next session next month.

Henna Malik

2nd Year LLB Law student at Brunel Law School

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