ASK: Attitude, skill or knowledge?

I had a day off last week to be a panellist at an event organised by Pure Potential for state school educated first year University students, which was ably hosted by Neeta Halai (who runs a business training and coaching lawyers: There were about 200 students split across the morning and afternoon, who attended a Question Time style panel discussion about legal careers and then went in smaller groups to spend a few hours with various City of London law firms.

One of the exercises that Neeta organised was for the students to shout out their first thoughts about what makes a good solicitor, and then to analyse whether those qualities were “attitude, skill or knowledge” – the ASK exercise. Some examples: attention to detail, commercial awareness, willingness to take on work, open to new ideas, analysis, client development, drafting, problem-solving, listener, academic ability, people management, motivation and ambition.

Most of these fitted into at least 2 of the 3 categories, but it was very interesting that the most common category was “attitude”. And that was the point of the exercise – the takeaway for the students is that the most important part of being a successful solicitor, trainee solicitor and even interview candidate is having the right attitude.


Interview Assessment Centres

You have received a letter inviting you to an Assessment Centre, which is probably the 2nd and final stage of an interview process – so you are getting close to an offer.


Or terrified?

It won’t be as bad the final round of the Apprentice, but it’s worth thinking about what’s in store.

There will probably be an interview, a group exercise and an individual exercise. But before all that, based on what I remember, there will be the most challenging part of the whole day – the introduction.

(Actually even before that, you have to: get there on time properly dressed, check-in, get a coffee, not spill your coffee, say something sensible to the graduate recruitment team, make small talk with rival candidates, distinguish between interviewees and interviewers, and finally exude confidence but not appear cocky. Not easy.)

But back to “the Introduction” – you will then be ushered towards a room, and be asked to sit down; there might be a seating plan, and probably a lot of scary clipboards being held by recruitment and HR people, all sitting around the outside of the room. Once silence descends, and after a friendly explanation of what’s ahead for the day, you will be asked to introduce yourself to the group…

It’s the one part that you can prepare for, so a great piece of advice that I was given was to ensure that you make eye contact with everyone in the room while you deliver a well-practised one-minute intro.

One more tip on Assessment Centres, specifically the Group Exercise: the hardest thing is knowing when to start talking: are you the first, to be seen as a leader? Can work, but only if you are prepared to bring others in and listen to other points of view. Or do you keep your powder dry and make insightful contributions later on once you have listened to the others? Can also work, but you have to say something. Just don’t leave it too late by staring at the clock winding down – which risks reducing the quality of what you do finally say.