October 25, 2022
The application process for vacation schemes and training contracts can seem daunting, with various elements, such as the written application and assessment centre, being unique to each law firm.

To help upcoming applicants gain confidence in their applications, leading firm Bird & Bird has provided some guidance on its application process and some tips to help you stand out.

The application process for the Vacation Scheme and Direct Training Contract typically includes an online application form, a Watson-Glaser test, a video interview, and an assessment centre.

By Bird & Bird Early Careers

Application Form

The application form consists of your details (including work experience) and strengths-based questions, or questions specific to the firm.

We operate blind screening, so all identification details are hidden from our assessors, to minimise bias from the recruitment process.

We also use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System, to enable us to recruit people from different backgrounds and help us understand your achievements in the context of how they were gained.

We also operate rolling recruitment, which means we screen applications as they’re received, rather than after our deadline, so you’re encouraged to apply as early as possible.

To stand out at this stage, you should:

  • understand the key skills required for the role of a lawyer, and showcase these in your application;
  • think about how the skills you have gained through work experience are transferable to the role of a lawyer (this doesn’t have to be in the legal sector);
  • do your research, so that you can confidently talk about why you want to work with us and why you want to be a lawyer;
  • be specific to Bird & Bird. You can reference any articles, podcasts, firm news, or events you have attended to strengthen your application;
  • be concise in your answers. There are only 150 words for the questions, but you should use as much of the word count as possible to write a strong answer;
  • show off your personality, as you’ll be encouraged to be yourself at Bird & Bird, where everyone is different with a diversity of backgrounds, skills and knowledge; 
  • make sure you proofread your application forms so that there aren’t any spelling or grammatical errors.

The Watson-Glaser Test

The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Test evaluates your critical thinking skills. It’s a multiple-choice aptitude assessment widely used by law firms to access the ability to think critically, draw conclusions, assess arguments, recognise assumptions, and evaluate arguments.

At Bird & Bird, there’s a benchmark/pass mark to progress onto the next stage of the recruitment process. The Watson-Glaser test is one of the hardest parts of the recruitment process, this is where the majority of candidates fail to progress at. 

To perform at your best, you should:

  • you should make sure you read and re-read the question before answering;
  • practice using free resources online to help familiarise yourself with the test;
  • make sure you have a device, such as a PC or tablet, to access the test; and
  • you should check your Wi-Fi connection before starting the test.

Test your performance with TLP’s Free Watson Glaser Test. You can also use Job Test Prep’s practice tests specific to Bird & Bird.

Assessment Centre

Bird & Bird’s assessment centre consists of an interview and written assessment for the Vacation Schemes, as well as a group exercise for the Direct Training Contract.

As a candidate, you must be prepared to showcase your skills, own experience, legal knowledge, and commercial awareness in different assessment styles. We operate blind interviewing, so all identification details and previous assessments are hidden from our interviewers to minimise bias in the recruitment process. 

To showcase your best self on the day, you should:

  • practice your interview and written skills by asking friends, family or colleagues to check your verbal and written answers;
  • develop your commercial awareness and research firm-specific case studies, articles, podcasts and news;
  • make sure you are on time – if you are late or have IT issues, inform admin immediately;
  • there’s no cookie-cutter to make a lawyer, so show off your personality and be yourself; 
  • try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep the night before, you need to be energised and alert to perform to the best of your ability; and
  • don’t forget to fuel your mind and body to stay alert, hydrated and energised.

Demonstrating Skills

Throughout the application process, we refer to our trainee solicitor attributes: motivation for commercial law; people skills; communication skills; self-awareness and confidence; influencing; intellect; commercial awareness; awareness of client service; innovation; and personal drive.

You must demonstrate that you have the relevant skills and experience for the role. From pulling pints to writing drafts, or stacking shelves to closing deals, all the skills you already have from previous work can be transferrable to the role of a lawyer. Whether you’ve worked in retail, hospitality, or professional services, you may have the attributes of a trainee solicitor at present. 

Here’s an example: 

“I worked part-time at a supermarket whilst at school. I helped customers find items, stacked shelves in the aisles, reported spilled or ruined stock to my manager, and processed payments at the tills” – Candidate A

What skills does Candidate A have? How do these skills transfer to the role of a lawyer? How can Candidate A showcase their skills?

“I worked part-time at a supermarket [awareness of the retail and consumer sector] whilst at school [organised by balancing education with work commitments]. I helped customers [people skills by assisting with customers; communication skills by adapting to customer’s communication styles to best help them] find items, stacked shelves [coped with repetitive, mundane tasks] in the aisles, reported spilled [resilient by working under pressure in busy periods; detail-orientated by managing stocks carefully; flexible by adapting to new situations/issues as they arise] or ruined stock to my manager [teamwork by reporting to seniority and communicating as a team; problem-solving and client awareness by anticipating customers’ needs], and processed payments at the tills” – Candidate A


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