As part of a law firm’s assessment day or open day, you could be asked to prepare a presentation in advance or given time on the day to prepare one. Graduate recruiters use presentations to test for the potential skills needed to work in law: communication, planning and organisational skills. A solicitor’s job is all about nurturing and strengthening client relationships so candidates especially need to show firms that they have strong communication skills.
Your assessors will want to see that you can:
- digest a large amount of information
- identify the most important discussion points
- communicate your findings in a clear and compelling manner
- present to a group of people confidently
- build rapport with your audience
Our tips below will help make sure your presentation ticks the right boxes.
Presentation topics and how to prepare them
Learning the topic on the day
Some firms will give you a topic on the day followed by a set amount of time to prepare. For example, at previous TARGETjobs Inside City Law events, hosted by law firm RPC, students have been given the following topics to present on:
- Should you require a license for recreational use of a drone?
- How safe is the internet for children?
- Should athletes caught taking performance-enhancing drugs be banned for life?
- Should a tax on sugar be introduced?
- Should learner drivers be allowed to drive on the motorway?
- In this digital age, should we expect our online activities to remain private?
- Should prisoners have the right to vote?
- Do premiership footballers deserve all the rewards they get?
Preparing a topic in advance of the assessment day
If you are asked to prepare a presentation in advance, the topic could be on a more technical subject or about you, such as why you want to be a solicitor or your hobbies and interests.
If you have the freedom to pick your own topic, make sure you pick something appropriate. Most importantly, pick a topic that you can talk about confidently and enthusiastically. ‘It’s easy to tell whether a candidate is interested or just going through the motions,’ advises a recruiter at a City law firm. ‘I want to see a real, genuine passion for law and this will come across in a candidate’s demeanour.’
Consider the length of your presentation – do you have enough to say? Conversely, avoid choosing something too broad, such as the impact of Brexit, as you’ll only be able to scratch the surface in the allocated time.
Think about the audience listening to your presentation
A strong presenter (and solicitor) will consider their target audience and how they can appeal to it. At an assessment centre or open day, your audience will most likely be members of the firm’s graduate recruitment team, lawyers and other aspiring solicitors. Think about how to engage with them in terms of the tone, content and style of your presentation.
- Ask yourself ‘What does my audience want out of this presentation?’. In this case, they want to see if you’re the right fit for the firm so you need to make a good impression.
- Maintain a professional but approachable tone of voice. Don’t act as if you’re talking to your friends, but avoid being too formal.
- Consider how much knowledge your audience will have on your topic. Avoid using jargon that your listeners may not be familiar with, but don’t offend them by over-simplifying things.
Keep your cool: confident and relaxed body language is the key to a good presenting style
Recruiters want to see that you can instil confidence in your audience and make them believe what you are saying. How you present yourself will play a huge part in this so make sure you’re using positive body language.
Smile: it will help relax the audience and in turn help you relax. Use natural, open hand gestures and avoid any body language that creates barriers or makes you look nervous, such as crossing your arms, fidgeting, slouching or playing with an object, eg jewellery or keys. Speak slowly and leave plenty of pauses; a rushed presentation is difficult to follow.
Use eye contact to build rapport
It’s really important to strike up a rapport with your audience – eye contact is a useful way to build rapport and engage your audience. Chances are you’ll be presenting to more than one person so try to share eye contact between different members of the group.
How to structure your law presentation
Your audience needs to follow your presentation easily so a logical structure is important. A presentation should tell a story. While it doesn’t need to have a strict beginning, middle and end, it may help to loosely follow the following old adage. Law firms recommend that you follow the structure of ‘Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you’ve just told them.’
Tell them what you’re going to tell them
Introduce the audience to yourself and your topic. Explain why you are presenting and what your audience should get out of the presentation. Phrases such as ‘I’m going to cover three main points’ help.
This is the main body of your presentation. Aim for three key points that have clear links between them. This will help both you and your audience transition smoothly between points and will make your presentation more memorable.
Tell them what you’ve just told them
End your presentation on a positive and powerful note. Drive it home by summarising your message and key points. If you feel it’s appropriate, thank your audience for their time.
Be cautious about using humour in your presentation
It can be tempting to crack a joke to break the ice, but be careful. If appropriate, a light touch of humour can be effective; however, recruiters generally don’t recommend trying to use humour during a serious presentation.
If you do want to experiment with humour in your presentation, here are a few golden rules.
- Don’t make a joke just for the sake of it. Only use humour if it really ties in with your presentation.
- Use your common sense to decide whether humour would be suitable or not. Have you built up enough rapport with your audience?
- Avoid any sensitive or offensive topics.
- Sarcasm is a definite no-no.
- One joke is fine but leave it at that. It’s good to show that you have a sense of humour, but you also need to know when to be serious and professional.
Presentation practice makes perfect
If you are given a presentation to prepare in advance, it’s worth having a practice run. Either record yourself or ask somebody to watch you. This is a good chance for you to check a few important details, including:
- Are you speaking clearly and at a steady pace?
- Does the presentation run over the time limit? Or is it too short?
- Do you have any nervous habits you need to watch out for?
Aim to be familiar enough with the order of your presentation that you don’t need to rely on your notes. If a candidate reads off a script because they are worried about missing out key facts, they fail to connect with the audience. Instead, take a few cue cards with key pieces of information on them to act as prompts if needed.
You don’t need to memorise your whole presentation word for word. In fact firms suggest that candidates should practise their introduction and then let the rest of the presentation flow naturally. If you make a positive first impression, it makes the whole presentation so much easier.
Don’t panic if you make a mistake in your law presentation
Don’t panic if you mess up. It’s very interesting for law firms to see how you react and recover. If it’s a minor stumble, stay calm and keep going. Show the recruiters that, if you do make a mistake, you can keep your cool and not crack under the pressure. If it’s a more obvious stumble, take a pause, compose yourself by taking a sip of water and then carry on.
Most importantly, don’t let an error cloud the rest of the presentation, assessment centre or open day. Firms still make offers to candidates who stumbled in their presentations; they look at your performance at an assessment centre as a whole.
Be prepared for questions from the firm and other candidates
If you know about your topic in advance, it’s a good idea to predict the questions you might be asked by your audience. When it is time for the question and answer session, stay calm. Listen to the questions carefully and don’t be afraid to take a few moments to think before answering. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question. Don’t expect to know the answers to all of the questions you will be asked. If this happens, don’t try and guess or pretend you know. Just be honest and offer to find out the answer.
How Covid-19 may affect open days, presentations and assessment centres
In this article, we write about law events as if they are going ahead in a face-to-face environment. However, if firms do switch to virtual events, much of the advice we give still holds true. In a virtual open day or assessment day, talks and networking sessions will be held over a digital platform and you may be provided with a video tour of the office. It is also possible to deliver presentations using video conferencing software including video calling and screen-sharing.