This is a question which appears in slight variations in many application forms. It’s plainly intended to test the all-important commercial awareness. So, how should you go about answering it? Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Brexit! Well, maybe not.
What employers are saying
I always spend time over the summer talking to key legal employers to make sure I keep in touch with what they are looking for. I have asked widely whether they welcome students answering the news question with a take on Brexit. Overwhelmingly the advice I received is not to go there. Of course you need to know what Brexit is. You need to know that many consider that it threatens the country’s economic stability and employers’ profitability and that there is massive uncertainty. If you want to be a lawyer it would be really good to know that there is now a pending appeal to the Supreme Court on whether Article 50 can be triggered without a vote of Parliament. All of this is a given but try actually writing about something else.
Well for a start nobody knows what “Brexit means Brexit” means. Are we going to have a hard or a soft Brexit? Is there any chance we won’t have a Brexit at all? Banks are threatening to leave the UK, is that posturing or a real risk? What deals will the UK government do behind closed doors to keep industry here? Did Nissan really get no promises before deciding to invest in a new plant in Sunderland? It’s really tough to write convincingly about something so unclear. The developing situation mean that you might spend days perfecting your answer only to discover, just as you are about to submit, that some news item has changed everything. I started writing this post before Thursday’s court decision on triggering Article 50. I have had to update it, proving my own point!
How will Brexit affect your chosen employer?
This is often a key part of the news question and it’s usually a good idea to approach this by way of a SWOT analysis. What strengths does an employer have to take advantages of opportunities and what weaknesses might exacerbate the risk of threats? SWOT gives you a good framework on which to pin your answer. So choosing a news item which genuinely offers both opportunity and threat is a smart idea. Do you think your chosen employer is salivating over the opportunities of Brexit or struggling to think of any? You’ll probably be better choosing to write about something where your chosen employer will perceive a clearer balance between the positives and the negatives.
How will Brexit affect you?
Good answers to news questions usually allow you to show how the story is particularly relevant to you and why it has piqued your interest. Of course, if you have experienced any of the effects of the abhorrent rise in racism then this must feel deeply personal. Some will already have experienced the cost of the falling pound, but generally we are probably fairly untouched at the moment. Many of us share a concern, even a fear for the future, but it would be hard to write about this in a particularly personal way. Much better then to look at your interests and how news events impact on those interests. Do you have a clear interest in green technology and are you applying to an employer with significant interest in the energy industry? Maybe you could write about the government’s stance on renewables? What if you are an overseas student and your chosen employer is engaged in some high profile transaction relating to your home country? It will be relatively easy to make your answer personal. These sort of answers are likely winners.
Have you actually done any research?
This question is testing the extent to which you are following the news and thinking about its impact on your chosen employer. Talking about Brexit might indicate that you have not been living under a stone for the last six months but hardly shows a passion for following the news. It isn’t going to show you to be the thoughtful and analytic person you probably are.
Brexit is sitting in the background – find something else to talk about!