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My application experience as a first-year student

My application experience as a first-year student

Syndy Liew

29/04/2022

Reading time: five minutes

As first-year scheme applications draw to a close, I thought that this would be a good time to blog about my experience applying to first-year schemes and open days at various law firms. I also met law students who have had success applying to both law & non-law first-year schemes. 

Visit LawCareers.Net’s non-law student hub for key information for non-law students.

Success rate

I applied to six law firms for their first-year schemes and applied to one firm for an open day. I was rejected by four firms after the Watson-Glaser stage, rejected by one firm after the final interview stage and was accepted by one firm for its first-year scheme and by another firm for its open day. 

I know people who were successful in all their applications so it can be quite disheartening when comparing yourself with others. It took me quite a while to get through my first rejection but as more rejections came in, I got used to them. It’s easy to treat rejection as a failure but I try to use it to achieve my end goal.

Read this LCN Says: ‘Five ways to make the most of your university’s careers service’ on how to use your university’s careers service to prepare for psychometric tests.

Written application

Looking through my past applications, I noticed that I wasn’t actually answering the questions that were being asked. One thing I wished I did was leave the application and return to it with fresh eyes to help me spot any human errors. It’s always a good idea to give it to a friend or a family member to read over for you – after all, two pairs of eyes are better than one!

Read this LCN Blog to find out how to balance your time as a law student: ‘Study-life balance as a law student’.

Most of the questions were similar, so you should start thinking about these questions ahead of the application season. My favourite type of question is questions about the news that I am interested in and how that relates to the law firm. In my answer, I would talk about the news and why that interests me. I would then relate this to the unique selling points of the firm. 

To find out how to make the most out of internships and schemes, read this LCN Blog: ‘Tips for making the most of internships – virtual and in person’.

Watson Glaser test

To prepare for the test, I share an assessment day account with my friend. I heard that some universities offer free subscriptions for students to prepare for different aptitude tests. 

For context, I heard that you have a high chance of going through to the next stage if you score above the 70th percentile. For transparency, I was scoring between the 50-60th percentile during my practice tests and scored between the 20th to 40th percentile for the real tests – remember that you can always request your Watson Glaser marks from the firms you’ve applied to, which was what I did!

Situational judgment test

I only applied to one firm that uses situational judgement tests and I did well enough in this to secure an interview offer. The test that I sat for consisted of scenario-based questions as well as numerical reasoning questions. I prepared for the test by reading through the firm’s strategy and values.

Visit LawCareers.Net’s First Year Law Students hub for key information on how to get started in pursuing a legal career.

Video interview

Before proceeding to the final interview, some law firms required us to do a video interview where we recorded our answers based on the questions displayed on the screen. One of the struggles I faced during video interviews was the time constraints. I was asked questions about my communications skills, how I would resolve conflict and what sets the firm apart from its competitors.

Final interview

Both interviews that I attended lasted around 30 minutes. The questions was asked were similar to the video interview questions but were more focused on competency-based questions. I was a little nervous for my first interview which showed during the interview. I started rambling and kept repeating the same point. For my second interview, I performed slightly better as I took my time in answering the questions and was not rushing to get through all the talking points that I prepared.

I was also given a mini case study during the interview and was asked questions based on the case study. It was about a potential M&A deal and I was asked about the legal and commercial implications of the deal. I answered one of the questions completely wrong because I misheard the question. One thing I would do differently is to take a few seconds to think about the question before answering or repeating the questions back to the interviewer if there is anything that I do not understand. 

My first interview was more formal compared to the second one. The interviewer for my second interview was also friendly which made me less nervous.

If you’re unfamiliar with case studies, read LawCareers.Net’s new ‘Wrestle with PESTLE’ series on the airline industry.

Reflection

It was a little difficult for me to see other people who received offers from the firms I was rejected from. At one point, it even made me question whether being a solicitor in an international firm is what I wanted to do since I seemed to lack the skills (specifically critical thinking) that firms are looking for.

However, the skills I gained from my first application season helped me become confident in how I present myself in future interviews. As most of the application questions were based on my skillset and experience, I took the time to reflect on myself, including my values, goals which I would never have done. A key takeaway is to take the time to reflect on your values and what you enjoy doing. You might learn something new about yourself!