I am a fourth year law student, undertaking the MLaw degree at Northumbria Law School. During my first three years, I had not experienced a training contract assessment day. However, I had heard many a fourth year student in the library speaking of the daunting tasks that they had to fulfill during this grueling day-long interview. When I was invited to attend my first assessment day, I was naturally hesitant.
Not sure what I was letting myself in for, I spoke to my Student Law Office supervisor to see if she knew what would happen. I had not expected her to be just as uncertain of the task as I was. The truth is assessment days are growing and evolving, so what you might come across in one, will not necessarily be what you come across in another. Tasks and group sizes depend on a whole range of factors including region, firm type, firm ethos, and application process. I also sought advice from Aspiring Solicitors, which aims to help aspiring solicitors to achieve their potential, and secure placements and jobs in the legal profession. Aspiring Solicitors provided me with helpful tips and explained the skills that I should showcase.
The assessment day was in fact an assessment afternoon. In two separate groups of 4, we were asked to carry out the task which was outlined on the brief. The brief stated that we worked for a PR company who were to pitch an idea to the firm for a client event. We were given a budget and encouraged to use the event to embody the firm’s core values, making the event distinctive. Once we had come up with our idea, we had to present our pitch to everyone.
Immediately I recognised the skills that the task was trying to uncover; presentation skills, communication, teamwork, time-management, and organisation. In my own head, I attempted to use these skills explicitly and encourage others in my team to do things that would highlight these skills too.
After completing the initial teamwork phase, it came to the presentation. This went well, and I was surprised by how confidently I spoke in front of a room of strangers. The final stage of the task involved being asked questions about your pitch from the partners of the firm, who had been overseeing the task. I found this nerve-racking but understood that it was necessary for me to put myself out there. When given the opportunity I answered one of the questions and tried to demonstrate the wow factor behind our idea. At the end of the afternoon I wished the other applicants luck.
My time in the Student Law Office has taught me a lot about reflection and self-awareness. It has become natural for me to assess my experiences. I try to think about how I did things well, and how I could do things better. So, whilst I was thinking about this, I remembered that in this semester’s firm meetings there would be student led sessions. I began to think how beneficial the experience of having an assessment day had been to me. Not only in terms of ‘getting the first one out of the way’ but also in reflecting on my own skills and behaviours. I began to develop the experience into a student led firm meeting for the benefit of the rest of my firm. This was particularly relevant because the previous student led meeting was based around a task that is regularly part of assessment days.
I changed the idea slightly, by making my peers pitch an idea for a Student Law Office networking event for the business firms to meet new clients. I gave a budget of £2,000. The brief stated that the pitch should incorporate the core values of the Student Law Office. The idea also needed to be distinctive and be attractive to new clients. I then asked the group to present their ideas.
After the session, I answered questions about my own experiences on the assessment day and provided advice that I have constructed through my own reflections. I also explained the benefits of the session and invited the group to reflect on the task in their own time, as I had. I then suggested that they sign up for Aspiring Solicitors as I believed it assisted me in feeling more at ease.
Being part of the Student Law Office has meant that I was able to take the experience I had and share it with my peers. My firm learned about the way the assessment day worked, but, more importantly, they were also able to use their knowledge of Student Law Office and showcase their own skills.
This blog post was written by Shauna Thompson, a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University. After graduation, Shauna looks forward to obtaining a training contract with a commercial firm. In her spare time, Shauna enjoys good food, Louis Theroux documentaries and gym classes.