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5 Things I Learned at BBP’s ACE: The Assessment Centre Experience

Students at an assessment centre

One of our contributors, Hollie, recently attended a BPP event aiming to prepare students for law firm assessment centres. Read about what she learned below!

Most of the attendees came to this event with their university, but don’t be put off by this! I came independently and found the event incredibly useful.

1. Keeping Your Cool in Interviews

Straight away, were whisked away to a speed interviewing task where we were given a question, 15 seconds to think and 1 minute to respond. Firstly, I was asked ‘When have you had to adapt to deliver a difficult message?’.

Then, I was asked ‘What motivates you at work?’ and at the end of the experience, we were given written feedback to take away with us.

Firms tend to look for the following during an interview: confidence, eye contact, content quality and depth of answers.

Your presentation is just as important as what you are saying. Never underestimate the value of your body language as interviewers want to see professionalism at all times so don’t let this slip.

Firms want your answers to show your potential to give clear legal advice with the right training. Stop squeezing all of your examples from a week’s legal work experience. Firms are desperate to hear about your wild and wonderful non-law attributes!

2. Self-Assessment

Are you familiar with the ‘S.T.A.R.’ technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result)? You might be, but I wasn’t until this workshop with Susie from BPP Manchester.

When we answer questions, we should think 10% situation, 10% task, 70% action and 10% results. This way, you can cut the waffle and make your problem-solving skills the STAR of your response.

The main thing Susie wanted us to take from this session was how to showcase our true authentic selves (instead of trying to be what we think a firm wants us to be) and most people find this really tricky.

In any situation, you can’t improve unless you reflect on what went well and come up with things to work on so why should an interview be any different? So to prepare yourself for interview, stop thinking of potential questions. Instead, you should reflect on your life. For example, think: When have you had to interact with people? How has this prepared you for client engagement? Firms need you to demonstrate self-reflection (good or bad!)

3. Client Meeting

It’s really common for firms to assess your client and colleague engagement abilities by throwing you into a task that isn’t too far from what you would be doing day to day in the role. We worked on a case wherein the ‘trainee’ had to use the baseline information to come up with some questions for the client and the ‘partner’ was given the solution.

While you must be professional at all times, you need to be personable. Firms want to see that you can do both, so always start with a friendly remark to let your client know you’re more than just a legal robot! Secondly, ask your client what their desired outcome is. It’s vital that you are both on the same page!

Then get into the case itself. Read the document at least twice and consider any gaps in your knowledge at this point. Are there any details missing? Are there any documents that you will need?
Finally, always address the issue of payment. It can be a touchy subject to address in some situations. Firms are looking for you to be respectful and considerate. And remember, you aren’t expected to give a perfect performance.

For many aspiring solicitors (myself included), the assessment centre might be the first time you come across case analysis, so the trick is not to feel intimidated because odds are you won’t be the only one doing this for the first time.

4. Tackling Group Work

Every candidate you will come across at your assessment centre will be eager to impress, so in group work, you could find yourself working with some overbearing personalities. In this exercise, we took part in a negotiation task that demonstrated how a firm might format a group activity.

Firstly, never stay quiet! You have to put yourself out there where possible. If you are unhappy with the approach to a task, then make yourself heard but you must be able to justify this.
On the other hand, try not to take over. Obviously, firms are looking for you to have some leadership qualities but it’s really important to show that you can take that step back and work well in a team too.

Whilst you might find yourself working with some strong characters, you may also be working with more reserved candidates too. So, be mindful of your team members and try to involve all of the candidates where possible. The most important thing is to allow yourself to shine, no matter who you are working with! So be confident in your own abilities.

5. Taking Advantage of the Opportunity

The experience was followed by a panel event with legal professionals working in the Manchester area. We were able to ask several questions relating to their journey to qualification and onwards.

The greatest piece of advice that I took from the event was that an interview is a two-way street. You are testing a firm as much as a firm is testing out you.

Although this is unlikely at an assessment centre you still might have the opportunity to gain some insight from qualified solicitors who have been in your shoes – so use it! So, before you go to an assessment centre, try and think of some questions relating to your personal career.

Whilst, the experience can be daunting, hopefully taking BPP’s advice on how to ACE the assessment centre will put you at ease for your assessment centre experience!

Words: Hollie Wilson

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