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Cross-reference and set your own questions: the CMS partner interview

Don't just regurgitate a news story: think about how developments affect a client's business.

Various reports suggest that the partner interview has a very loose structure and that it is up to you, the candidate, to direct the discussion into areas you wish to talk about. It’s expected that you will use this training contract interview to showcase your commercial awareness. Rob Wilson, managing partner of CMS' Edinburgh office, says that candidates must show that they are "commercially astute" and understand that "the practice of commercial law is not for those who are fascinated by the academic study of law."

How to approach:

  • Think about which of CMS’ key sectors (such as energy, corporate, and banking and finance) as well as its more niche areas (such as the environment practice) interest you the most, and consider it in the context of recent happenings in the business world. But you have to do more than regurgitate a news story. Think how you can cross-reference to business news stories and current affairs that relate specifically to your chosen sector, namechecking recent deals from the markets that interest you. 
  • It’s a good idea to trawl through the CMS graduates’ Facebook page before your assessment day, as the team sometimes use it to highlight current issues that could be used as talking points in interviews. In the past, posts have called attention to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s latest Budget and its tax breaks for fracking – what implications would this have on CMS clients in the energy industry?
  • The graduates’ Facebook page also occasionally flags up the achievements of the various offices in the CMS network. What do these achievements tell you about how certain sectors are performing globally, and what does it say about where the firm’s strengths lie? Following the firm on Twitter can also be useful for getting insights into what the organisation considers to be its major advances and achievements across the sectors in which it operates.
  • Now consider the CMS network itself. Former candidates advise interviewees to show their awareness of the network in the interview, as it is a major part of CMS’ identity as a firm (what has the merger between CMS and Scotland-based law firm Dundas & Wilson meant for the firm?) and it is also the key to the future. You need to think about how you can bring the CMS network into your interview in a way where it genuinely advances the discussion, not just for the sake of it. Consider which secondment opportunity (including UK seats as well as seats across Central and Eastern Europe) is most relevant to the area of practice which interests you. The Moscow office, for example, is a hub for energy and real estate work; the Aberdeen office is important for the firm's oil and gas practice.
  • Don’t be tempted to blag it – reports indicate that this doesn’t go down well and that it’s better to be honest if you find you’re getting into a topic that’s out of your depth. Instead, you can try and steer the partner to talk around the issue, showing that you have perspectives on related issues.


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