In the competitive world of legal careers, law firms are constantly seeking exceptional candidates with strong critical thinking skills. One evaluation method that has gained prominence in legal hiring is the Watson Glaser test; this article explores the law firms that use it, as well as insights into the test itself.


The Watson Glaser test is a trusted assessment tool that evaluates candidates’ critical thinking abilities, specifically in the context of legal reasoning. It measures skills such as deductive reasoning, logical analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of arguments

The Watson Glaser test has been used for over 90 years and has established itself as a reliable tool for evaluating critical thinking skills in various industries, including law.

To illustrate the importance of critical thinking skills in the legal profession, consider the following examples:

  • In a high-stakes criminal trial, a defence attorney must critically analyse the evidence, identify flaws in the prosecution’s case, and construct a compelling argument to protect their client’s rights.
  • In corporate law, lawyers need to assess intricate contractual provisions, evaluate potential risks, and provide strategic advice to clients.

According to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association, over 70% of law firms incorporate some form of assessment test, such as the Watson Glaser test, in their hiring processes.

Understanding the Watson Glaser Test

The Watson Glaser Test follows a specific structure and format to assess an individual’s critical thinking skills. 

Each question in the test presents a scenario or statement followed by a set of statements related to the scenario. Test-takers are required to assess the validity or truthfulness of each statement based on the information provided in the scenario. The options for each statement usually include “true,” “false,” or “cannot say/insufficient information.”

The test is timed, and test-takers must answer all the questions within the given time limit. The questions are carefully crafted to challenge the individual’s ability to think critically and make reasoned judgments based on the available information. 


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History of the Watson Glaser Test

The Watson Glaser Test was developed in the early 20th century by two educational psychologists, Goodwin Watson and Edward Glaser. The test was originally created as a tool to assess soldiers’ ability to think critically during World War I.

Over time, the Watson Glaser Test evolved and found applications beyond the military. It gained recognition as a valuable assessment tool for evaluating critical thinking skills in various domains, including academia, business, and law.

The test was further refined and expanded in the 1960s by the Psychological Corporation. Today, it is one of the most widely used critical thinking assessments globally.

The Watson Glaser Test has undergone revisions and updates to ensure its relevance and effectiveness in measuring critical thinking abilities. Different versions of the test have been developed to cater to specific industries and professional contexts, including a version tailored for legal professionals known as the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal – Legal (WGCTA-L).

Law Firms Using the Watson Glaser Test

Many global law firms across various jurisdictions and practice areas rely on the Watson Glaser test as a crucial component of their recruitment process as they prioritise candidates with strong critical thinking abilities.

These firms understand the value of assessing candidates’ analytical and problem-solving skills to ensure they can thrive in a demanding legal environment.

Examples of law firms known for using the Watson Glaser test:

Allen & Overy

 Allen & Overy, renowned for its international presence and diverse practice areas, incorporates the Watson Glaser test to evaluate candidates’ analytical and reasoning abilities. Through the use of the Watson Glaser test, Allen & Overy has witnessed a more streamlined recruitment process, enabling them to identify candidates with the potential to excel in complex legal matters across different jurisdictions.

Baker McKenzie

As one of the largest law firms globally, Baker McKenzie places a strong emphasis on critical thinking skills in its recruitment process. It uses the Watson Glaser test to assess candidates’ ability to analyse complex legal issues and make informed judgments.

Recent data indicates that Baker McKenzie has seen a significant improvement in the quality of hires since implementing the Watson Glaser test, resulting in enhanced client service and legal outcomes.

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance, a leading international law firm, recognises the value of critical thinking in legal practice. It incorporates the Watson Glaser test to evaluate candidates’ ability to analyse legal arguments, identify weaknesses, and provide logical solutions.

By employing the Watson Glaser test, Clifford Chance has reported a higher retention rate among junior associates, indicating a successful alignment between critical thinking skills and long-term professional success.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a prominent international law firm, recognizes the value of critical thinking skills in delivering innovative legal solutions. It employs the Watson Glaser test to assess candidates’ ability to evaluate legal arguments and make informed decisions.

By using the Watson Glaser test, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has observed an enhanced ability to identify candidates who can approach legal challenges from a strategic and analytical perspective.

Here’s a list of some law firms that have been known to use the Watson Glaser Test as part of their recruitment process:

Law Firm Country/Region
Allen & Overy United Kingdom
Clifford Chance Global
Dentons Global
Freshfields Global
Herbert Smith Global
Hogan Lovells Global
Linklaters Global
Norton Rose Fulbright Global
Slaughter and May United Kingdom

Niche Firms and Specialised Practice Areas

The Watson Glaser test is not limited to large, global law firms. Niche firms and specialised practice areas also recognize the significance of critical thinking skills within their respective domains.

These firms use the Watson Glaser test to assess candidates’ abilities specific to their specialised areas of law. For example:

Intellectual property (IP) law firms, dealing with patents, trademarks, and copyrights, require attorneys who can analyse complex legal and technical concepts. The Watson Glaser test enables IP firms to evaluate candidates’ critical thinking skills in relation to IP law, ensuring they possess the ability to interpret intricate intellectual property issues. 

Mewburn Ellis LLP: Mewburn Ellis is a leading intellectual property firm in the UK. It specialises in patent and trademark law, and has a reputation for using the Watson Glaser Test to assess critical thinking skills during the recruitment process.

Marks & Clerk LLP: Marks & Clerk is a well-established intellectual property firm with offices in the UK and internationally. It uses the Watson Glaser Test as part of its recruitment process to evaluate candidates’ critical thinking abilities in relation to intellectual property matters.

Environmental law firms focus on issues such as sustainability, climate change, and regulatory compliance. Candidates who demonstrate strong critical thinking skills through the Watson Glaser test can effectively analyse environmental regulations, assess potential risks, and develop strategies to navigate complex environmental legal frameworks.

ClientEarth: ClientEarth is a prominent environmental law charity in the UK. While not strictly an environmental law firm, it’s involved in impactful environmental litigation and uses the Watson Glaser Test to assess critical thinking skills when recruiting legal professionals to support its work.

Leigh Day: Leigh Day is a leading law firm in the UK that specialises in various areas of law, including environmental and human rights law. It incorporates the Watson Glaser Test in its recruitment process to evaluate critical thinking abilities relevant to environmental law cases.

According to a study conducted by the National Association for Law Placement, over 50% of law firms specialising in intellectual property law and environmental law incorporate critical thinking assessments, such as the Watson Glaser test, in their hiring processes.

Watson Glaser Test Scores

The Watson Glaser Test follows a scoring system based on the number of correct responses given by the test-taker. Each correct answer is assigned a certain point value, and the total score is calculated by summing up the points earned across all the questions attempted.

Typically, the Watson Glaser Test is divided into sections or subcategories, each assessing different aspects of critical thinking skills. The scoring is usually done on a section-by-section basis, allowing for a more detailed analysis of the test-taker’s strengths and weaknesses in specific skill areas.

The scoring process can vary depending on the specific version or adaptation of the Watson Glaser Test being used. In some cases, the test may have a predefined scoring key or rubric that assigns a fixed point value to each correct answer.

Other variations may incorporate a more complex scoring algorithm that takes into account the difficulty level of the questions and the test-taker’s overall performance. 

The final score obtained in the Watson Glaser Test provides an objective measure of the test-taker’s critical thinking abilities. It can be used for comparative purposes, such as comparing an individual’s performance against a norm group or benchmark scores.

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Key Skills Tested

The Watson Glaser Test assesses a range of critical thinking skills through its carefully crafted questions. The test provides a detailed breakdown of the following key skills:

  • Deductive Reasoning: The test evaluates the ability to draw logical conclusions based on given premises and rules.
  • Inference: Test-takers are assessed on their capacity to make reasoned judgments and interpretations by inferring information from provided scenarios or statements.
  • Interpretation: The test measures the skill of understanding and explaining the meaning and implications of information presented in the questions.
  • Evaluation of Arguments: Test-takers are required to assess the strength and validity of arguments, recognizing logical fallacies and identifying reasoning errors.
  • Recognition of Assumptions: The test assesses the ability to identify underlying assumptions made in arguments or statements and evaluate their impact on the overall validity.
  • Analysis of Situations: Test-takers need to analyse complex scenarios, break them down into components, and assess the relationships between various elements.
  • Comprehension of Information: The test evaluates the capacity to understand and extract relevant information from written passages or scenarios.

These skills are essential in various professional domains, including law, business, and academia, where individuals are required to engage in complex problem-solving and decision-making processes. 

Key Takeaways

The Watson Glaser test has emerged as a crucial evaluation tool in the legal profession, assessing candidates’ critical thinking skills in the context of legal reasoning. From top law firms to specialised practice areas, the test is used to identify exceptional legal talent capable of analysing complex legal scenarios, constructing compelling arguments, and making well-informed decisions.

By understanding which law firms require the Watson Glaser test, aspiring legal professionals can tailor their preparation strategies, highlighting their critical thinking abilities. Embracing this evaluation method can enhance their chances of securing positions with prestigious law firms and embarking on successful legal careers.

As the legal industry continues to evolve, critical thinking assessments like the Watson Glaser test will remain integral to legal hiring practices, ensuring the selection of talented individuals who possess the analytical prowess to thrive in the dynamic field of law.


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