Hardest Training Contract Interview Questions and Answers

Law Training Contract Application Specialists

Law training contract interviews at leading firms can cover difficult questions that require a mixture of reflection and the ability to draw on accumulated knowledge and experience. Here, we present ten challenging questions suitable for an applicant to a UK law firm.

Understanding of Law and Commerce

Can you tell us about a recent legal case or development that intrigued you and why? How did it solidify your decision to pursue a career in law?

I’ve always been interested in the intricacies of the law, but it was the Apple vs. Epic Games case that really intrigued me. It encapsulates the complexities of the contemporary digital economy and brings to the fore essential issues around competition, fair pricing, and consumer rights. The case intrigued me due to its global impact, and the way it challenged established legal frameworks. It was fascinating to see how both companies presented their arguments, using existing law while also trying to push boundaries. It underscored to me the dynamic nature of law and its crucial role in regulating ever-evolving technologies and markets, solidifying my desire to be a part of this field

What do you know about how companies finance their activities?

Focusing on later-stage companies (avoiding early-stage companies that might rely on owners’ savings, friends-and-family, or angel investors) companies will finance their activities through a range of processes that can be categorised into debt financing or equity financing. Regarding debt financing, a company might raise funds through borrowing from banks, or through bonds. Banks issue loans that are simple to understand – a firm borrows an amount of money, repays it over a set period of time, and pays a certain amount of interest. Bonds are financial contracts, which much like loans will see the borrower repay the amount and pay interest over a set period of time. A bond might be issued by a government or a firm (a corporate bond).

Considering equity financing, equity might be provided to shareholders that invest at earlier stages (seed stage, Series A, Series B) or later (C,D) or the company might ‘IPO’ – which means an initial public offering, where its shares are opened up to public investment through the stock exchange. In each situation, an individual or institution will buy a certain amount of company shares for a certain price, thus setting the valuation of the company.

How can you demonstrate your interest in the commercial side of law?

I can demonstrate my interest through what I read, activities that I take on, and decisions that I have made. In terms of what I read, or media that I consume, I would highlight that I read the FT daily, enjoy reading the Economist and Forbes, and read M&A and global business news from a few of the leading Law firms’ blogs as well as listening to podcasts like Talking Business. In terms of activities that I enjoy, I actively trade both stocks and crypto assets, which requires keeping up to date with both micro and macroeconomic trends. In terms of decisions that I have made, I was co-founder of a VC-backed startup, which provided me with a great insight into the world of early-stage business and investment.

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Personal Attributes

Can you describe a situation where your analytical skills led you to an innovative solution or approach to a complex problem?

During my final year university project, I had to analyse a vast amount of data to identify patterns for climate change predictions. Given the size and complexity of the data, traditional analysis methods were inefficient. Drawing on my analytical skills and knowledge of machine learning, I proposed using a neural network model to analyse the data. The innovative approach yielded insights more effectively and increased the accuracy of our predictions, contributing to a high-distinction grade for the project.

Working in law often requires resilience in the face of difficult situations or setbacks. Could you provide an example of a challenging situation, either academic or personal, that tested your resilience and how you managed it?

During my time at university, I had to juggle academic commitments with a part-time job to support myself. This was particularly challenging when exam season approached. However, I drew on my resilience to manage this pressure. I developed a rigorous schedule, prioritizing my most demanding tasks and making time for rest and relaxation. The experience tested my resilience, time management, and prioritisation skills, but ultimately, I succeeded in achieving solid academic results while maintaining my job.

Tell me about a time when your organisational skills let you down and what you therefore did to improve?

I performed relatively poorly in one of my second year modules, Family Law. This was for a variety of reasons, which I have reflected on and worked to correct. In particular though, at the time I found it hard to juggle different responsibilities and objectives at once. I therefore went about my revision in a haphazard way, rather than an organised one. This was rare for me, as I was normally organised at this time too; perhaps I was not used to feeling overwhelmed with work and therefore my ability to organise myself dropped. I realised that I was struggling a little before the exam, and tried to implement change at the time, but had left it too late. After that set of exams I therefore sat down with my personal tutor to discuss my performance, and how to improve. We assessed the way I had gone about it, and devised a sensible and objective way of planning work and my hours. Since then, for all following sets of exams, and my work in general, I have begun by setting clear goals and a plan that will allow me to reach them. I have divided my time based on both those goals and on feedback I have already received, which has allowed me to better understand where to focus.

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Situational Judgement

Imagine you are working on a case and you discover information that would be detrimental to your client's case. However, it's legally and ethically necessary to disclose this information. What steps would you take?

As a legal professional, maintaining the highest ethical standards is paramount. If I discovered information that could harm my client’s case but is legally necessary to disclose, I would first consult with senior team members or the firm’s legal ethics counsel to confirm my understanding. If it was indeed the case, I would communicate this information to the client professionally and transparently, explaining its implications. It’s crucial to uphold legal obligations and the integrity of the judicial system, even when it may not align with a client’s immediate interests

How would you deal with multiple competing deadlines?

I would deal with multiple competing deadlines by first assessing the situation. I could speak to the people that set the deadlines to better understand them or the work that I need to do. I could also evaluate each of the deadlines myself, in order to prioritise them, and to understand if they could be delayed, combined, or if another trainee could take over some of the workload. I might want to consider why I have multiple competing deadlines at the same time – have I been neglecting some of my workload? Is the team not well-organised enough? Perhaps through considering these root issues I would be able to deal with the principal problem here. Overall, I would take actions to ensure that my work did not suffer in quality, and to ensure that the firm was able to maintain its high reputation. This could involve speaking to seniors, seeking help from another trainee, or having to sacrifice my personal time for a period in order to ensure that work was done. 

How would you handle a situation in which you disagreed entirely with your client’s point of view?

my primary duty is to offer clear, accurate, and unbiased legal advice to clients, irrespective of my personal views. A situation where I disagreed with a client’s perspective would not impact the objectivity and diligence required in my legal services. However, it is a circumstance that demands tact and clear communication.

Firstly, I would ensure my understanding of their point of view is comprehensive and accurate. I’d actively listen to their perspective, asking clarifying questions to appreciate their standpoint fully. This process demonstrates respect for their autonomy and might also help me discern unconsidered aspects that could influence my stance.

Once I fully comprehend their viewpoint, if I still find myself disagreeing, I would convey my perspective honestly and professionally, ensuring the focus is on legal strategy and consequences rather than personal beliefs. I’d present the merits of alternative approaches and illustrate potential risks and ramifications of their preferred course of action, all within the confines of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality.

Ultimately, while I may provide guidance and alternatives, it is the client’s decision on how they wish to proceed. However, should the client insist on a course of action that I believe would be illegal or unethical, I am duty-bound to refuse and, if necessary, withdraw my services while following the appropriate ethical guidelines.

Imagine you are working on a high-stakes case that involves a large multinational corporation. The night before you are due to file critical documents, you notice a potentially damaging error in the paperwork that was overlooked by your supervising partner and the rest of the team. Correcting the error would require several hours of work and might delay the filing. What would you do in this situation?

In a high-pressure scenario such as this, I would remain composed and address the situation with a strategic approach. Realising the potential damaging error the night before filing is undoubtedly a challenging situation. However, my commitment to ethical conduct, diligence, and preserving the best interest of our client is uncompromising.

Firstly, I would cross-verify the error to ensure that it’s not a misunderstanding on my part. Assuming the error is indeed there, my immediate next step would be to calculate the time required to correct it and gauge the potential impact on our deadline. With a clear picture of the situation, I would promptly bring the issue to the attention of my supervising partner, outlining my concerns with concise clarity and providing a rough estimate of the additional time required to rectify the mistake.

My communication would underscore that while the filing might be delayed, proceeding with the error could potentially jeopardize our case, resulting in longer-term consequences for our client and our firm’s reputation. With my supervising partner’s consent, I would work diligently to correct the error within the calculated timeframe, or quicker if possible, to minimise the delay in filing.

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