Aligning Yourself to the Firm in Applications and Interviews

I once asked a family friend what the secret to her long and happy marriage was. Her answer? “Shared values”. That’s all she said. She made it sound so achievable in its simplicity….

So, is that really the secret to every successful long-term relationship, marriage or otherwise? It certainly seems that most law firms agree that it’s a good place to start, with many firms’ recruitment literature giving good indications of the importance that they place on getting the right people for their organisation. Phrases such as ‘we are looking for someone who matches our values’ and ‘we want people aligned with our core values’ come up a lot.

It’s for this reason that I find myself saying the same thing when I’m talking to anyone with an interview at a law firm coming up: “Try to align yourself with the firm’s values and culture when answering questions.” Most people agree that this sounds like a good thing to do. But they don’t always know how to do it. As with many things in law, it starts with…..

Doing your Research

I always suggest starting with the firm’s own website. This is a place for firm-driven information. The firm can say what its values are and market its strengths, in the hope of converting website visitors into clients. Often, in the “About Us” section of a firm’s website, there is some sort of statement as to what the firm is all about. Something like:

“We are a forward-thinking global law firm with expertise in M&A, Technology and Communication and Private Equity. Our people are driven to be the best in their field, with a real focus on building long-standing client relationships. We recognise the importance of collaboration and we work across offices and borders to ensure that our clients get world-class legal solutions and service.”

If you can remember what the firm has said about itself when you are in the interview room, this can show that you have done some research. You’ve at least looked at their website. Check. But this is actually the minimum they would expect of someone wanting a job in their organisation! But if you really want that vacation scheme or training contract then it’s all about making links between you and the firm.

Take the example mission statement above. I would suggest reading it again, this time picking out and underlining the key words that tell you something about what could be important to this firm. For example:

“We are a forward-thinking global law firm with expertise in M&A, Technology and Communication and Private Equity. Our people are driven to be the best in their field, with a real focus on building long-standing client relationships. We recognise the importance of collaboration and we work across offices and borders to ensure that our clients get world-class legal solutions and service.”

Once you have these key words, you can use them to come up with examples from your own experience that match (as closely as possible) those ideas. I often suggest splitting an A4 piece of paper in half with a vertical line down the middle, and writing the key words on one side of the page and giving evidence from your own experience on the other side. For example:

Key Word(s) My evidence/example

  • Forward-thinking – Duke of Edinburgh Award – expedition planning-contingency plan due to bad weathe
    Global – Educated in Dubai for most of secondary school. Spent last summer on a 4-week trip to Africa to expand experience and volunteer in a school building project out there. Pro Bono-Death Penalty Project – USA
  • Driven -Planned and organised a sponsored exercise marathon. Raised over £1,000 in first year so aimed to double that in second year. We actually raised £2,854 so we exceeded our target
  • Building relationships -Work Experience- return every summer to my part-time job at Co-Op. Always stay in touch with manager. Built up trust and reliability over the years. Recently been promoted to til supervisor during university holidays
  • Collaboration – Team-work – captained university Rugby Team to semi-finals of Inter-University Competition 2015 and 2016
  • World-class -Achieved top marks for Contract Module in first year. Play trumpet to high level but working towards Grade 8 this summer

Looking beyond the Firm’s Website

Other resources you can use to build up a real picture of the firm include the following:
http://Twitter – look at any social media links for the firm. This is a really good way to build up an understanding of what is important to the firm.
http://Law Careers.net this has a ‘Meet the Recruiter’ and a ‘Meet the Lawyer’ section.
http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/ – the ‘True Picture’ part of the Law Firm section can be very insightful.
https://l2b.thelawyer.com/
http://Legal Week

If you can successfully align yourself with the firm then you could well be lining up that vacation scheme or training contract!
(If you are a Warwick Law student and want to discuss this further or have any questions about this then please get in touch with our Senior Careers Consultants for the Law School – Valerie Matthews-Lane and Rachel Vacalopoulos).

Rachel Vacalopoulos


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