A common question that law firms ask – either during the written application stage, or at a later interview – is a variant of:
“Describe a business story you’ve been following. How will it impact [the firm] and our clients?”
It’s important to initially caveat that slight differences in this question can massively impact how you might approach it. For example, the question might not require the story to be linked to the world of business, or rather ask why it interests you instead of how it will impact the firm. Like any question, read it carefully – it’s critical that you answer by following the recruiter’s exact wording. It can impact how you might answer it by a significant margin.
Assuming the question you’ve been asked is a close variant of the one above (ie, focused on the business world, commenting on client perspective), there are a number of key factors to consider when selecting which news story to comment on. Here are a handful!
Does it interest you?
First and foremost, it is critical that you choose a story which you are interested in. The more interested you are about a story, the more naturally you’ll be able to ‘sell’ your passion to the recruiter. You’ll also need to do some extensive research around it, so make sure you enjoy it enough as a topic to dive into all angles of how it can be analysed.
Do you have an existing knowledge base in that area?
Following on from the previous point, it’s likely that if you’re interested in a story or area you’ll also have some existing knowledge about it. Make sure that you select a topic that you can talk about in detail and confidently face follow-up questions about. It’s extremely inadvisable to pick a topic simply because it is ‘trendy’ or contains lots of buzzwords, such as blockchain, as you never know what professional background or practice area your interviewer will have worked in!
How relevant is it to the firm and its clients?
This might seem like an obvious point, but nevertheless one that is easy to gloss over. The initial research stage of your application has hopefully given you a thorough understanding of the firm’s key practice areas, industries and (by extension) client base. You can demonstrate your research and interest in a firm by linking your chosen story to the research you’ve already conducted. Analyse the firm’s current market position in each of those respective areas and how its most critical ones will be affected.
How recent a story is it?
It’s generally a good idea to pick a story that is relatively recent or has at least had a notable development in the past few years. Recent stories are more likely to have an immediate impact and signal a turning point or development that a firm needs to address in the short term. These can often be more fruitful to discuss at interview, as there will be less of an established view or narrative as to its significance, which leaves more room for you to speculate and show off your analytical skills!
How does it link to the rest of your application and your motivations for practising law?
Throughout the rest of your application or interview, you’ll almost certainly be asked to comment on your motivations for applying to that firm and law more generally. Therefore, it’s important, that you don’t have any inconsistencies between a story you select and what you may have said previously in earlier rounds of the process. If you’ve expressed an interest in a certain practice area, use this story as an opportunity to promote your interest and any existing knowledge you may already have.
Will every other candidate comment on this given story?
It might be worth considering how likely it is that other candidates will decide to comment on that given story. From a recruiter’s perspective, reading 50 answers all about covid-19 might make it difficult for them to distinguish each individual answer beyond its unique take on the given story. Writing about a topic that is perhaps a little less mainstream – for example, deep fakes, energy news or cultural developments in law – helps to give your answer (and by extension, the rest of your application) a little more of a unique stand-out quality in comparison to others. However, it’s important to remember not to compromise the other factors outlined above for the sake of trying to have an ‘out-of-the-blue’ answer.