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How you can make a good impression at your interview with Baker & McKenzie

If you get through to the interview stage with Baker & McKenzie, you will have already impressed them with your application and passed two online tests on situational judgement and verbal reasoning. This means the firm already knows you are a high-calibre candidate; the interview stages are about finding out more about you as a person. It’s therefore important for you to have the confidence to be yourself.

The initial telephone interview

The initial interview is conducted over the phone with someone from the graduate recruitment and development team. It will be structured around competency-based questions that seek to find out if you have the key skills that Baker & McKenzie are looking for. You will need to use examples from your own experiences to demonstrate how you meet these requirements, so make sure you have thoroughly researched the firm’s key competencies, values and areas of practice beforehand. The interviewer will want proof that you are articulate and confident in expressing yourself.

The Baker & McKenzie assessment centre

Before you turn up for the Baker & McKenzie assessment day, make sure you do the following:

  • Review Baker & McKenzie’s competencies.
  • Review the interview process so you’re comfortable with what will be involved.
  • Take a look at the employees featured in Baker & McKenzie’s graduate website; use this to identify the dress code and plan your interview outfit. The employees featured indicates that you need to keep things formal; for men, a dark suit, a low-key shirt, smart black shoes and a neat haircut. For women, smart dresses or blouses with a knee-length, dark skirt, minimal jewellery and natural make-up. Black shoes with a manageable heel are the way to go; don’t risk an embarrassing fall!

On the day

Interviews are held at Baker & McKenzie’s office at 100 New Bridge Street in London; this is near to St Paul’s, so there will be plenty of street maps around to help you out. When you arrive, make sure you’re polite and friendly to everyone you meet; Baker & McKenzie place a heavy emphasis on their ‘culture of friendship’, so a good first impression is vital.

The assessment day will be split into three parts, one of which will involve a group exercise. Each member of the group will be given a business scenario to read over before the group comes together to assess it. You will be judged on your contributions to the group, how well you work as part of a team, your commercial awareness and practical approach to problems.

Baker & McKenzie – first interview

The first interview, conducted by a partner, is said to cover the following:

  • Working through a client problem.
  • Your motivations to work in commercial law and with Baker & McKenzie.
  • Content of your application form and CV.

The client problem

In this exercise, you will likely be required to debate a point of law and answer questions posed by the employer. The exercise is designed to test the following competencies sought by Baker & McKenzie:

  • Intellect
  • Persuasiveness
  • Quick thinking and flexibility
  • Confidence
  • Desire to learn.

Your approach: The important thing to remember is that this exercise is designed to examine your thought processes and assess the above qualities and your potential as a successful lawyer, rather than your existing legal knowledge. You’ll need to show flexibility of thought; if what the interviewer says causes you to change your opinion then say so and explain why. Don’t back down too easily though: be confident and persuasive but show that you are willing to adapt. Explain each step of your thought process to Baker & McKenzie’s interviewers.

Motivation to work in law and with Baker & McKenzie

Your approach: You’ll already have covered some of this in your application form, but in the interview you’ll be required to expand on what you wrote and make it really clear that you understand Baker & McKenzie and the trainee scheme. This is a good time to bring up your research about the firm and talk about some of their cases and transactions, such as their landmark tax case against the US Internal Revenue Service on behalf of Symantec Corporation, or their reports, which can be found on their website. Talk about why these subjects interest you and why you think you’d be suited to the work involved. It’s also a good idea to show that you’re aware of the sorts of seats that will be available to you, such as employment law; emphasise the kind of experience they could give you.

Baker & McKenzie – second interview

The second interview, conducted by an associate, covers:

  • The candidate’s achievements and interests.
  • Competencies and knowledge of commercial law.
  • An in-depth discussion about a current issue affecting the profession.

Knowledge of commercial law and commercial awareness: In this interview, candidates will be expected to talk confidently about an issue affecting the commercial law sector. If you referred to a particular commercial law case in your application, brush up on this before the interview. Baker & McKenzie has past briefing papers for advising Eurozone on its website: read these to get an idea about the commercial issues affecting the legal profession, and to learn about the work commercial lawyers do. This will not only help with your commercial awareness, but will give you some ideas for handling the client problem in the first interview. It’s also a good idea to read legal publications as well as newspapers such as the FT in the run-up to your interview. Develop your own ideas and opinions about the issues you research; Baker & McKenzie are looking for intellectual ability, enthusiasm and commitment, and this will demonstrate all three.

Some questions to ask the employer

At the end of the interview you will likely be given an opportunity to ask the employers a few questions. This is not just a chance to get some more information about the job: you can impress by asking thoughtful questions that demonstrate enthusiasm and intellect.

Most importantly, don’t ask the interviewer what they think of you. Baker & McKenzie specifically advise on their website: ‘Never ask how you’ve done. An interviewer may feel that it’s inappropriate to discuss this at the time.’

A good idea is to incorporate your research around Baker & McKenzie into the question. For example, you may want to mention a particular case, such as the firm’s involvement in Sephora's acquisition of beauty e-tailer Luxola Pte. Ltd., and ask about the level and type of input trainees had in the case. If you know who your interviewer will be, look them up online and research some of the cases or transactions they’ve been involved in and then ask them about the trainee input on those cases; this will show that you’ve gone the extra mile in your research. You could also ask about particular aspects of the trainee scheme, but make sure that the information isn’t already available on the Baker & McKenzie website.

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