“We want people who are really interested in what the law is about and what the point of the law is. What does it do in society and why is it important? Because all of that interest drives your ability to be really engaged with the detail of it.”
How should students prepare?
“Sometimes students are determined to deliver a prepared answer that they’ve been working on, but that is a real mistake. Because when they do that, they don’t really listen to what the question was. They are so keen to tell us their prepared answer that they miss the point. They’d be much better off listening, taking time and thinking carefully.”
What sort of questions do you ask?
“We ask questions which require someone to use their intellect and reasoning ability. The big thing you can do to prepare is actually practise arguing. What I always tell people to do is pick an issue, whatever that might be. It can be a legal one but doesn’t have to be. And then debate with everybody that you come near. Ask yourself, why do I think this? Can I give you a good reason? If someone then puts an argument back to you, explain why you disagree. Here’s a reason, here’s a distinction, here’s what is different about your situation and your point of view.
“We also want people who are good at taking rules or concepts and principles and applying them practically. That is what the law is all about. For example, you might be asked to read a passage from a case, then explain what the judge is saying and what criteria they thought was being met.
“The big tip for questions like that is to read it through many times, look for the key words, think about what they mean, link up the different parts of the passage to one another, and look for exceptions.”
What is the most common mistake candidates make?
“People think we are trying to trick them – we are absolutely not. What we want is for you to do your best. If we put pressure on you or ask a tough question in the interview, we are doing it to help you show what you can do. The best response is to take a breath, calm down and think: there must be a reason why they have asked this question.
“It’s OK to say when you’re feeling really nervous. Or to say, ‘Can I change my mind?’ Or, ‘I think I have made a mistake, can I go back and rethink that?’ We will always say, of course you can. We want you to present to us your best thinking.
What if nerves get the better of you?
“If you are feeling nervous because you’re under pressure, it’s often because you’re doing well. If an applicant answers a question well, we ratchet up the difficulty. I often have people just sit there and take two or three minutes to calm themselves. We have seen tears and huge panic attacks. All of us have been through very stressful interviews ourselves. So we are very empathetic about it.
Does what you wear matter?
“Some people come into the interview wearing a suit and are comfortable. But some people come into the interview wearing a suit and look extremely uncomfortable. Other people come in wearing jeans and sneakers. The thing is, I’m not interested in what they wear. I am trying my absolute hardest to look beyond all of those things to discover how your brain works, how you analyse things.
“What I would say is, you want to dress in a way that is respectful. Dress in a smart, sensible way where you feel yourself.”