Legal Case Study Interviews | The Careers Service Legal Case Study Interviews – Oxford University Careers Service
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Legal Case Study and commercial awareness exercises

Many commercial law firms require candidates to undertake a case study at the final interview stage.  There is not one single format, so it is advisable to ask the recruitment team what you can expect. Below are some general points and tips which have been put together from feedback from students  (at both Oxford and LSE) who have gone through the process and what we have learned from law firms. Bear in mind that recruiters are always trying to improve their processes so it is likely that they will find new ways to assess candidates each year.  It is therefore unlikely that you will find comprehensive resources to practise legal case studies in the same type of ways that you might for management consultancy case studies. In the consulting industry, case studies are extremely well established and follow a broadly similar format during the interview.

Generally speaking legal case studies are not intended to test out technical legal skills – this is partly because they need to be fair to both law and non law students.   Instead they are more likely to test the skills required to be an effective lawyer within the world of (private practice) work.  So focus your efforts on your specific law firm research, ways to demonstrate your motivation, and the skills they are seeking rather than on preparing for specific types of exercises.

What is being tested?

The following skills are likely to be tested throughout the interview process:

  • commercial awareness – for example, are you thinking about the client? Are you thinking of the law firm as a business?
  • ability to think logically using common sense and in a structured way
  • ability to identify and analyse the key issues from a lot of information, perhaps under time pressure
  • ability to summarise and/or come to a conclusion given a certain set of facts
  • time management
  • dealing with pressure (time, dealing with unfamiliar facts or people) and resilience (how do you respond to being challenged? Can you defend your point of view?)
  • interpersonal skills. Are you confident in what you are saying, are you collaborative, can you develop a good rapport and productive working relationships, do you listen well, are you open to feedback, do you have a positive attitude?
  • communication, could include written work, or a presentation. Are you clear? Have you thought about the tone & the audience? Do you have a high standard of general literacy?
  • negotiation skills
  • motivation – are you enjoying this even if you feel slightly nervous?
Types of exercise and tips for managing them

These exercises vary from firm to firm and can be part of an individual interview or a group exercise – you can check with the firm. The material could be given to you in any of the following formats:

  • a paragraph which may be about a current affairs issue or something specifically legal, read and then discuss
  • an article from, for example, the FT, read and discuss/ answer questions
  • a one or two page client scenario with a question posed at the end. For example, “should this new client be taken on?”
  • a bundle of documents, likely to be a merger or acquisition, or an IPO. In these exercises, the documents may include any of the following:
    – Summary of the situation – could be in the form of an email or letter
    – Client or competitor strategy
  • Financial statements
  • Information about employees/equipment/other assets (property)
  • Contracts, leases, licences
  • Litigation, possible actions, non disclosure
  • Regulatory information

Tips for the paragraph and article exercises

  • Read carefully
  • Identify 2 or 3 key issues – think about political and economic aspects
  • There may not be an obvious connection to the law firm, the interviewer may be wanting to stretch you intellectually and see how you think, whether you have an opinion that you are able to defend
  • If the article has been reproduced by the firm and is set out in numbered paragraphs, this is so that you can refer to the paragraphs by number in the discussion

Tips for the client scenarios

Possible scenarios may include a client (or a potential client) who is considering merging or acquiring another company, or a client who is being acquired by a competitor or who is looking for some legal services.   The amount of material and time you are given will determine the level of detail you are expected to cover.  In general it is advisable to cover as many aspects as you can broadly, rather than cover only one or 2 in great detail.

You may be asked a general question such as ‘what advice would you give to the client?’ or 3 or 4 specific questions.  For the latter it is most important to address all the questions rather than focussing on the detail of one and ignoring others.

Tips for “bundle of document” exercises

Some firms will give you anything between 5 and 20 documents to read and answer one or more questions. You may be asked to give a short presentation followed by a discussion with the interviewer(s).

  • Read the question(s) carefully and follow instructions
  • Flick through quickly to establish the contents and make sure you look at the back page. You may even find an index to help you.
  • Take a minute to plan your time and leave enough to produce a presentation or at least review your thoughts before the interview
  • Manage your time
  • Use a highlighter
  • Identify key elements relevant to the question(s)
  • Don’t forget to consider whether the deal should even be done, is there a deal breaker, is there another option (particularly with disposals)?
  • Consider risks to the client and/or to the firm. For example are there any reputational issues associated for either party? Is there any “conflict of interest” for the firm?
  • Structure the presentation: beginning, middle and end which should be short summary with recommendations. Be close to the maximum time allowed.
  • Be confident in your recommendations, even if you feel that your chosen line of argument is marginal. You can assess the pros and cons of a given situation, but conclude with “on balance, I recommend xyz”.  Remember that solicitors are paid to make decisions and that clients need to trust their legal advisers to make them!
  • Consider your audience
  • Imagine this was actually a real situation at work where you were involved in working with this client – what would you really say to them?
  • Watch grammar, spelling and punctuation
Preparation

Here are some suggestions to help make you feel ready and confident to tackle these exercises:

  • Keep up to date with current affairs including areas of business that interest you.
  • Know how to read a balance sheet
  • Have a broad understanding of mergers and acquisitions and how they are structured
  • Learn some basic business language
  • Have a clear idea of the firm’s practice areas, what type of work they specialise in, where their offices are located, how they differentiate themselves from their key competitors and the challenges that law firms face.
  • Be clear on the importance of technology for all businesses
  • Read the firm’s annual report or review (& compare it to a competitor), follow their news on Twitter in the weeks ahead of the interview
  • Be aware of what is happening in the legal world.
Resources for building commercial awareness
Building your commercial awareness skills at Oxford
  • Attend skills sessions run by law firms on campus – see CareerConnect/Events as well as events run by the Oxford Law Society and Bar Society or Law Faculty
  • The Student Consultancy – ideal for building up team work, commercial awareness and skills in working with business clients. Run each term.
  • Insight into Business – a short course (3 sessions over one term) to improve your business knowledge . Run each term.
  • Octane – many ideas for building your employability skills at Oxford including “business awareness”
  • Presentation and other assessment centre skills advice
This information was last updated on 18 December 2017.
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Recent blogs about Legal Case Study Interviews

EXPERIENCE THE CLASSROOM

Blogged by Julia Hilton on April 20, 2018.

Insight into Teaching provides students with the opportunity to spend three days in a school with a full programme of lesson observation, perhaps a chance to try out some teaching and join in with activities, and a pre-placement seminar to get the most out of the placement.

Placements take place over 3 days in 9th week of Trinity term and are available in a range of subjects in secondary, primary & further education, in state-maintained and independent schools across Oxfordshire and elsewhere in the UK. This year the dates are Tuesday 19 to Thursday 21 June.

Applications open in 1st week of term and close on Sunday 20 May (end of 4th week) at midnight.

If you are thinking about a career in teaching then spending time in school is extremely important, not only to help you to decide whether teaching is for you, but also to enhance your teacher training application – whether you are considering a PGCE, School Direct, Teach First or another route into teaching. A participant on the programme last term said:

‘I really enjoyed interacting with students in the lower school, particularly helping students who came to the math’s clinic one lunch time. It was nice to feel useful. I previously was sure I wanted to teach sixth form but I enjoyed this aspect so much I am rethinking this.’

Literary Agency Work Experience – Carole Blake Open Doors Project

Posted on behalf of Blake Friedmann. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on April 20, 2018.

The Carole Blake Open Doors Project, is a programme specifically aimed at encouraging candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds to enter the publishing industry.

The Carole Blake Open Doors Project will offer ten days of work shadowing at Blake Friedmann’s book agents to a selected applicant over a two-week period, including funding for travel and up to twelve nights’ accommodation in London. The programme, which will run twice a year, will include close mentorship with Blake Friedmann’s book agents, the opportunity to attend selected meetings with editors and clients, and the chance to be involved in every aspect of day-to-day life as an agent. It is intended that candidates will come away from the project with varied knowledge of working for a leading literary agency, the beginnings of new and essential relationships in the publishing industry, and some excellent experience to include on their CVs.

“Carole offered me my first internship in publishing at Blake Friedman. She was a formidable figure, yet warm and funny. She was deeply encouraging to me as one from a diverse background based on my age, class and race – though it was our mutual love of a great pair of shoes that really sealed the deal!  An unforgettable, truly phenomenal woman.” – Valerie Brandes, Founder & Publisher, Jacaranda Books, and former BFA intern

Carole Blake and the Blake Friedmann team have always placed great value on diversity and openness, in the company’s client list as well as its hiring practices. We aim to build on this foundation and be proactive about drawing from a wider pool of talented applicants who are passionate about books and ambitious about getting a job in publishing.

Read an account of taking part in the project from our first Open Doors intern Ada Igwebu. 

Applications are now open for the Carole Blake Open Doors project and the deadline is 18 May.

Resources and opportunities for early career researchers

Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on April 19, 2018.

The Early Career Blog: Specialist careers advice for PhDs and postdocs

Have you had a look at our blog for early career researchers yet? This joint initiative with Cambridge has over 40 posts dealing with topics such as networking, academic applications and getting funding, making it a great resource whether you’re set on staying in academia or looking for fresh pastures. A new post on the blog looking at Non-academic employers’ perspectives on researchers will be of interest to any ECRs who are toying with the possibility of a move beyond academia.

You can browse the range of posts already available at any time, and don’t forget that you can send suggestions for further topics by tweeting them to @EarlyCareerBlog!

The Researcher Consultancy is back!

Following the successful pilot of the Researcher Consultancy in Michaelmas and Hilary terms, we’re delighted to announce that a new round of the programme has now launched! Whether you’re considering consultancy as a longer-term career move, you want to develop key employability skills such as self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem solving and communication, or wish to boost your understanding of the commercial sector and gain hands-on experience of tackling real-world strategic problems, this may be a perfect opportunity for you. Whatever your career plans, including further research and academia, participants can benefit significantly from the programme.

So how does it work?

Participants volunteer some of their own time to work in small teams, over a 4-month period, to address a strategic issue or business opportunity for a client organisation. Our clients list includes start-ups, businesses, local and international charities, community organisations, University departments and Government agencies.

Want to know more?

For more information see CareerConnect or contact Lili Pickett-Palmer. The closing date for applications for the Spring-Summer programme is 30 April 2018.

Careers in the Heritage and Museum Sectors

Posted on behalf of Heritage Pathway. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on April 18, 2018.

Careers in the Heritage and Museum Sectors hosted by Heritage Pathway

  • When: Thursday 17 May, 15.00-17.00
  • Where: 3rd Floor Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road
  • Book: Booking is essential for this event

The ‘Heritage Pathway’ is one of seven training pathways offered to graduate students and Early Career Researchers in the Humanities Division. A year-long programme of workshops, site visits and networking opportunities provides the skills and knowledge required to engage successfully with partner organisations in the heritage sector, whether through commercial or research-based collaborations.

Three speakers reflect on their own career paths and offer top tips as to how to develop your career:

  • Emily Knight (Assistant Curator of Paintings, V&A)
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  • Dr Jane Eade (Curator, National Trust)

Trinity micro-internships have now launched!

Blogged by Rosanna Mills on April 18, 2018.

It’s the time of year to be thinking about work experience, and to help you on your way our Trinity term Micro-Internship Programme has now launched! If you have a busy academic schedule but you are still looking for work experience, or want to gain some professional skills and extra points for your CV, then look no further. This programme is open to both undergraduates and postgraduates, and here are some of the placements on offer in weeks 9 and 10:

  • Conduct research with the University’s Heritage Partnerships Office for the Hidden Objects Project
  • Gain insight into an independent consultancy and the world of politics with BlondeMoney
  • Hands-on scientific research and analysis with Adapt Immune
  • Assist with the pre-production stage of a film with Daria Martin – Fine Art Films
  • And much more!

Keep an eye out for our sector lists over the coming days!

In brief… What are micro-internships?

2-5 day work experience placements each term during weeks 9 and 10, exclusive to Oxford students (matriculated students are eligible to apply). Although voluntary, host organisations must reimburse local travel and lunch expenses on production of receipts. Full programme information can be found on our Micro-Internship Programme webpage.

How do I apply?

You can view and apply to all micro-internships on CareerConnect, submitting a one-page CV and 300-word personal statement. The deadline this term is midday, Thursday 3 May (please note that this is earlier than usual due to the bank holiday).

Can I get help with my application?

Absolutely! Please see our Internship Office Application Support Document and Employer Feedback on Student Micro-Internship Applications. Up until the deadline, we will be running Application Support Sessions for CV and personal statement advice – view and book on CareerConnect.

Any questions? Get in touch by emailing micro-internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

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