Future Lawyer Blog

The saga continues – Testing times ahead: (PT 2) – Sue Lenkowski


I hope you all found my January tips useful, kept your resolutions and are ready for some more.

This month we will look in detail at group exercises, written exercises and problem solving exercises /tests of judgement /case studies

Group Exercises

The bad news is there are no easy ways to help you here because it’s all about behaving in a way which is appropriate and helpful to the objectives /needs of the group.

group exercise
All together now! Thanks to Proctor Archives for this image via CC licence on

Top Tips

• In a quiet group draw others in
• In a noisy group use names to get a word in edgeways
• Engage body language with all
• Watch feet…observers watch these!
• Don’t try and play a role if it’s not you. Be yourself and adopt the role you are most comfortable with.
• Stare at the observers (we hate it!)!
• Try and ensure the contributions you make are a mix of original thoughts and those which build on those made by other group members.

Resolution 5

Resolve to never resort to behaving aggressively towards other group members. It never works and is often the number one reason why candidates are rejected.

Written exercises

Thanks to Pete O’Shea for this image via CC licence on flickr.com

These come in all shapes and sizes

Top Tips

• Pay attention to grammar and spelling
• Watch handwriting
• Plan your time like an exam
• Don’t get bogged down in detail but read information carefully
• Research common business report structures: letter templates, memos briefing notes etc

Resolution 6

Many law firm partners (and dinosaurs like me) bemoan the lack of grammar and spelling skills of graduates today. Getting this right will really improve your chances. If you know this is a problem for you complete one of the many free online courses.

Problem solving exercises/tests of judgement/case studies

These are certainly becoming the “norm” with many firms using these as a way of looking at how you might deal with real problems in the workplace. They can involve questions on paper or face to face, listening to a client telephone call, watching a clip of a client meeting or perhaps reading a client file.You are asked to either make written responses or present your summary to a partner, or if you are really lucky both!

Top Tips

rubic cube
Thanks to Wallie-the-frog for this image via CC licence on

• They are often looking to test your awareness of the limits of a trainees authority – don’t over step the boundaries. For example if you have a client complaining about his/her bill do not suggest you would reduce it as a trainee is unlikely to have that authority.
• Avoid a theoretical answer: listen or read the question carefully and make sure your response addresses this.
• Think laterally. If the situation suggests your supervisor is not around unavailable who else could you speak to ?
• Use common sense even if your answer is not correct. If it makes sense you will get credit.

• Be prepared for the follow up questions/challenges eg …but if that didn’t work what would you do? And most important if, after a number of challenges, you have no idea what you would do, take a deep breath…think and if you have no more suggestions say so!
• If the case study is around legal issues don’t panic if your legal studies are at an early stage, they will judge you against a bench mark appropriate to your current level.

Final Tips for assessment centres

• Everyone you meet on the day may be asked their opinion. Upset the receptionist at your peril!
• Avoid aside comments to other candidates (they may be heard)
• Wear something you are comfortable in
• Don’t turn up earlier than 10 minutes before the start; it puts recruiters in a bad mood!
• Don’t turn up late – plan your trip in advance
• Don’t sit and chat with your mates from university if they happen to be on the same assessment centre. Show your ability to network in the formal and informal settings
• Assessment centres are like life, you will do better in some things than others. If you feel you didn’t do well in one activity keep going you may still get through the process.
• On the day, don’t try and guess what the assessors are looking for, if you do you may fall down on two counts. Firstly you may guess wrong(!) and secondly you may spend so much time guessing that you don’t give enough attention to the exercises themselves.

Resolution 7

Research what each assessment centre might include, they are all different. Use the Careers Centre, Roll on Friday and your student networks. But many firms are asking students not to share this information (I personally don’t understand why, neither am I sure how they will police it!) so this may become a difficult resolution to keep but who said New Year’s resolutions were easy!!

In my next post I will look at interviews and how to prepare for vacation placements, including sadly how to cope if you are rejected. Of course if you have anything specific which you would like me to cover please email me.

Good Luck with your applications


Sue Lenkowski is an independent HR and careers consultant who works with companies individuals on a range of HR L&D and resourcing matters and provides careers coaching to students at a number of academic institutions and privately on a one to one basis.

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