Most law interview include some form of case study exercise and the prospect of it can be terrifying. What are employers looking for and how can you go about preparing for it and presenting it? There’s no simple formula but I do have some tips.
Keep calm and get reading
You’re very likely to be faced with a lot of reading to get through in a short period of time. You don’t have time to panic! The exercise is designed to put you under pressure and to see how you respond to it. Get reading.
The key to success is going to be the extent to which you can structure your presentation. If you’re asked to advise, it is very unlikely that the direction of your advice will matter. The top candidates will manage to give a clear and coherent response. It can help if you think through outline “headings” in advance, that way you can start creating notes for yourself under those headings as soon as you start working.
It’s quite common for you to be asked to advise on the desirability of a company takeover. Here are some things you might want to consider:
1. How is the transaction going to be financed?
This is where you will be able to showcase your understanding of City financing. The answer is not likely to be through bank borrowing or the use of cash! You’ll impress if you can think back to transactions you’ve read about in the press and comment on how they were financed. Relate this to the problem in front of you.
2. How will the transaction play in the market?
This is the time to comment on the synergy (or otherwise) between the two businesses. Ponder potential competition issues. Do you think a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority might be needed? What are the PR implications for the proposed transaction? Can you reference back to takeovers in the press which have perhaps attracted opprobrium or positive comment?
3. What about employees?
If your client takes over a company then the employees of the target company will normally become the employees of the predator company. Will you need to think about structuring redundancies? On the other hand will there be employees you really NEED to keep, how will you try to tie them in? Is the pension pot fully funded? What are the implications if it is not?
Does the target company own real estate property freehold or hold leases? Are the properties correctly valued in the company’s books of account? When do the leases expire? Are there break clauses? What about dilapidations? If you’re a law student and you’ve studied Property Law, you will be expected to be able to give advice on the real estate issues. Think about intellectual property. Are rights properly protected?
You probably don’t need to know much about this, but at least nod to the likelihood that there will be tax implications. Can you think of takeover transactions in the news which appeared to be all about minimising tax liabilities?
6. Is there any outstanding litigation?
Explore the chances of success and consider whether settlement needs to be considered.
If you have these “headings” in your mind as you start to read it will be easier to come up with a structured presentation. Recognise that you probably will not pick up on everything in the paperwork. Be ready to be challenged. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have done badly.
You will impress if you think through answers carefully and if you’re able to look back at the paperwork and find things you’re being asked about. Don’t be afraid of silence! You might need time to think, that’s normal and any pause will feel longer to you than to anyone else!
Remember that lawyers like to give carefully considered advice and will often stop and think when they are with clients. You can think during an assessment process.