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Legal case studies and written exercises

As part of the recruitment process, in this kind of exercise you are given a set of papers relating to a particular situation and asked to make recommendations in a brief report. The firm will pick a case study relevant to the work they do. You are provided with a large amount of factual information. 

The most common written exercise is writing a letter to a client on whether or not to proceed with a business proposal, once you have read the relevant documents. You may be asked to present advice to the client (usually played by a partner) or answer questions on the case. You are being tested on your ability to: 

  • Analyse information
  • Think clearly and logically
  • Exercise your judgement
  • Express yourself on paper/ present yourself to a client

Examples of exercises

  • Investment project - given a bundle of documents including letter from the bank, background information on accounts. Should the client invest?
  • Write a report summarising the information given about an energy firm wanting to take over an urban community regeneration scheme. Look at the strengths, risks, obstacles to scheme and suggestions about whether it should move forward.
  • Given a lengthy consultant's report with half an hour to read and then draft a presentation recommending whether to go ahead on buying the company - followed by questions.
  • The client, a steel company, is losing money due to a rival. There's also a proceeding against your client. The rival company is thinking of merging with / acquiring your client's company. Look at the extract of a contract between the client and the steel supplier and advise your client of the pros and cons regarding the proceeding.
  • Given an accident and medical report and photos - written answers to a series of questions.
  • Proposed M&A - pick out the relevant parts to read and then present to the interviewers on what you feel is the correct course of action.
  • Legal interpretation question based on fictional health and safety legislation.
  • Interpret a section of the mental health act - answer questions from the interviewer.
  • Employment service contract - review in order to answer 10 set questions.
  • Five passages to rewrite in layman's terms.
  • Draft a letter of complaint to a local electrical store regarding faulty goods.
  • Read a case study on police ill treatment and then draft a report on the legal matters arising from it.

Individual tasks

Candidates generally work independently on such an exercise and their recommendation or decision is usually to be communicated in the form of a brief written report and/or a presentation made to the assessors. Ensure your thought processes are clearly articulated and available for the scrutiny of the assessors. Of paramount importance, if the brief requires a decision to be made, ensure that a decision is made and articulated.

Group tasks

You may be asked to do a case study as a group. It is likely to be along the lines of the first two exercises in the example with information given to the group to sift through and pull out the key facts. At the end the group will be asked to present to the interviewers, outlining the issues involved and key recommendations and then take questions as a group.

Letter drafting criteria

If in the exercise you are involved in drafting a letter, as part of the assessment the interviewer will check that it:

  • Protects the interests of the client
  • Meets the client's objectives
  • Addresses all relevant factual and legal issues
  • Identifies relevant options
  • Is logically organised
  • Is consistent and coherent
  • Is clear and concise

Other preparation

In addition to the general preparation your course provides, you could also:

  • Find out what sort of cases your employer specialises in
  • Practice a Watson Glaser test, a critical reasoning test often used by firms at assessment centres
  • Practice 'skim' reading which is an important skill. This feedback from a candidate demonstrates this:

    'The exercise was very time-pressured and I made the mistake of reading all of the information given before starting to write anything down. I got the impression that not all of the info was supposed to be relevant and that they were testing our ability to sift through written material to extract the most important things.'

Don't focus on the technicalities

Non-law students often do well on these exercises as they do not have the relevant knowledge of the law and so focus on sifting the information, whereas law students often get too involved with trying to understand the information in legal terms.

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