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Interviewing trainee candidates

Andrew Fleetwood blue L website 3

Some people think we ask weird questions on our application forms for intern / trainee recruits.  We’re fine with that.  We think that only people on our wavelength will fill in the form in the first place.

Our interviews continue in the same vein.  We ask open questions and encourage people to talk.  We let the stars shine but the less stellar are given just enough rope.  The latter is rare, thankfully:  to get to the interview stage with us means a lot.  It means we’ve spotted something in your form that makes us think you stand out from the crowd and will fit in here.  We’re pretty choosy: five out of six applications don’t make the cut.

We don’t test legal knowledge much, but we reserve the right to throw you a curve ball on your dissertation topic.  In fact, we reserve the right to curve ball you on just about anything.  A recent highlight for me was a fifteen minute philosophical debate.

But my favourite interview question involves a scrap of geometry.  Lawyers are sometimes a bit too keen to embrace their relative innumeracy compared to, say, accountants.  But I want lawyers who can count because I run a business and so do my clients.  Arithmetical rigour and mathematical awareness are both part of the job.

This little question normally fills about five minutes of the interview.  You get random guessers who throw out answers.  You get those who reach for a pen and paper and start to draw diagrams.  (What they draw is sometimes fascinating.)  Some need gentle coaching from start to finish – we’re not monsters – and one or two crumble in blind panic, forgetting their arithmetic.  Most get the answer, although it’s touch and go for some.

But we aren’t testing candidates’ recall of high school maths.  We are testing whether they can handle an unexpected question, keep their wits about them under pressure, reason carefully, appreciate perspective and have the grit to work through a problem from beginning to end.  We’re checking whether the candidate in front of us can be, with training, a translator, a guide, a counsellor, a sympathiser and a protagonist.  In short: we’re checking whether the candidate has what it takes to be a Gilson Gray lawyer.

So what’s the question?  If you think you’ve got what it takes, apply for our next intern round and maybe you’ll find out!

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