The Interview

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We place great value on individuality and diversity. Our application process echoes this approach - we want to get to know you and the qualities you can bring to the role.

Our interviews take the following format:

Written exercise

On arrival at our offices on the day of your interview you will be given a written exercise to complete. This written exercise requires no legal knowledge and you will not be expected to prepare in advance. We hope that the following will give you a good idea of what to expect.

The written exercise is based around a fictional business. The business is likely to have been in existence for some years, and is going through a strategic review process. There will be various pieces of information provided, for example, an internal memo, some statistics and a newspaper article. These may consist of 5 or 6 pages of reading. Your task will be to write your own report once you have assimilated the information and facts provided. Clear instructions will be given about what is expected and your report will be assessed for:

  • written communication
  • ability to persuade
  • judgement and problem analysis
  • innovative ideas and commercial knowledge

You will be given one hour to complete this exercise and have the option of writing or typing your answer. There is a lot of information to consider and we would encourage you to manage your time carefully to allow you to complete the task and review your work in the hour set.

Interview with two partners

Once the written exercise has been completed, candidates will be given a short current affairs article to read for approximately 15 minutes. You will be able to take notes during this time and take both the article and your notes into the interview with you. This article will then form part of the discussion in the interview, along with questions relating to your CV, commercial awareness and your motivations for applying to us. The partners will be testing whether you can assimilate information quickly, identify the relevant issues and articulate and defend your point of view. They will be looking to you to summarise the main points of the article, to form an opinion on the subject matter and to have a sensible debate on the issues raised. This is not designed to be a comprehension test or a test to discover your political leanings or beliefs, but you should expect to be challenged on your views and should not be afraid to defend them.

Some example questions that the partners may ask you during the article discussion are:

  • Can you summarise the key issues raised in the article?
  • What are the main themes, arguments and conclusion (if any)?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the arguments put and the position taken in the article and why?
  • Are the arguments provided in the article coherent and logical?
  • Are there relevant issues which are not touched on or developed in the article?
Chat and tour with a current trainee

The interview with the partners will last approximately 40-60 minutes and, following this, one of our current trainees will give you a tour of the office.

We believe that the interview should be a two-way process. It is important for you to ensure that we are the right firm for you. The trainee will not have been prepped on what to say and they will not be reporting to us, so you should take advantage of this opportunity to question them about life as a trainee at the firm.

HR interview

Our interview process ends with a short meeting with a member of the Trainee Recruitment Team. You will be asked to reflect on the written exercise and your interview with the partners, and there will be some discussion about your CV and your motivation for applying to us. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions we have not yet answered for you.

We normally find that the whole exercise takes approximately three hours. You will be required to bring with you a valid form of photo ID (passport or driving licence).

Slaughter and May is committed to ensuring that our recruitment processes are barrier-free and as inclusive as possible to everyone. This includes making adjustments for people who have a disability or long-term condition. If you have any questions, or require adjustments to be made to the interview process, please contact Janine Arnold, Senior Manager - Trainee Recruitment, via email or on 020 7090 5049.

Interview hints and tips

Before the interview
  • read your CV and cover letter carefully as the interviewers could ask you about anything you have included. For example, you could get asked about your dissertation/the modules you are taking as part of your degree course, about the political situation of a country you have visited, about the business model of an organisation you have worked at, about the most recent book you have read etc.
  • keep up to date with current affairs and think carefully about what you are reading. You may find it useful to read regularly the business pages of a broadsheet newspaper so you can develop commercial awareness
  • read about the firm, understand what makes us different and consider why this environment appeals to you. Identify a couple of deals that the firm has been involved in which might be of interest to you. Follow these deals and think about why they are interesting to you and what questions you have about them
  • if possible, book in for a practice interview with your university careers adviser before you begin training contract interviews
  • consider in advance your answers to commonly asked questions, such as "why law?" or "why this firm?"  Interviewers will expect you to have considered your answers to such questions but they will also try to take you 'off-piste' to see how you think on your feet
During the interview
  • be prepared to make small talk – this is an important skill and it will be useful when you are being guided to the interview room and once the interview is completed
  • listen to the questions carefully and answer the question that has actually been asked, not the one you wish you had been asked
  • be honest in your answers rather than saying what you think we want to hear
  • be prepared to be asked for your opinion and to be challenged on your opinion – it is not because you are wrong, whichever view you take you will be challenged. The partners want to see how well thought out your opinions are, whether you can defend them and if you can be persuasive
  • while you should be prepared to defend your views, you should also be prepared to adapt your view as necessary if flaws are identified which no longer make it a strong argument
  • consider the manner in which you voice and defend your opinion - you should adopt the same approach as if you were speaking to a client. Your arguments should be coherent and logical and you should present them confidently without being aggressive
  • try not to ramble. We are looking for lawyers who can articulate information in a clear, structured and concise manner
  • remember to ask questions at the end of the interview. Listen to the answers and consider follow-up questions
After the interview

If you are unsuccessful, we are happy to give personal feedback to help you with future interviews. However, please be aware that this can take longer to provide during peak interview seasons.

If you are successful, we will email you a training contract offer. This will include details of the funding for the PGDL (if applicable) and LPC and set out our expectations while you are studying these courses. You have up to four weeks to accept our offer. For successful candidates, training contracts usually begin in either March or September. For those who wish to take time off beforehand, candidates can usually opt to defer their start date by one year – any time off must be taken before you begin the LPC.

We keep in regular contact with our future trainees and organise a number of social events and legal events (complementing the learning on the PGDL and LPC) with the aim to keep our future trainees well connected to the firm. Such events include (but are not limited to) our seat selection event, our end of LPC dinner and also our introduction to innovation and technology workshop. There are also some ad hoc opportunities to get involved with our volunteering projects before joining the firm.

The application process

James, trainee, Law graduate

I liked that it was a two-way street

How was the application process for you?

I liked the simplicity of it - a cover letter and a CV with no hidden tricks. The beauty of the cover letter is that it gives you the changes to write what you want to write rather than answer someone else's set question. I didn't see the point in repeating what I had in my CV; I covered things that weren't there.

How was your interview?

Nerves are normal, I think, but it was actually quite a pleasant experience. I was interviewed by a couple of people who wanted to get to know me, understand what drives me and what I'm interested in. I definitely got the impression that they wanted me to do well, and I liked that it was a two-way street. It also felt like I was encouraged to interview them in a way, to see if the firm was right for me. It's in everyone's interests to get that right.

The second part of the interview, where we discussed a newspaper article I'd been given, is obviously designed to assess how you respond under a bit of pressure, as they prod, poke and try to pick holes in what you are saying. At one stage I had to concede I hadn't made the greatest point.

Were you concerned at that moment?

Not really. You're talking to two very bright people who want to test how you'll react outside your comfort zone. I think that although they are looking for you to form an opinion, you should also be able to respect that there are other points of view on what isn't a clear-cut issue. My advice for applicants is to remember that the interview isn't meant to be easy, but as long as you don't panic, you will be fine.