The document review exercise at the Simmons & Simmons assessment day

You're looking for content errors, such as conflicting information and inconsistencies.

This exercise is one of the stages in the Simmons & Simmons assessment centre for training contract applications. Some past candidates have described the exercise as enjoyable; for others it was ‘challenging’.

Applicants are given half an hour to look over a set of legal documents before being interviewed by partners who will ask questions based on the documents themselves.

How to approach:

  • Stay calm and establish the facts. How many documents are you looking at? You are likely to have several pages. Try to identify what kind of legal documents you’re dealing with, their subject matter and their objective. Is it a draft letter, a contract? Since the financial markets are at the crux of Simmons & Simmons' work, there is a good chance that your documents will be finance-related, perhaps referring to a share buy-out scheme, a company merger, shares in an acquisition or tax.
  • Scan through all the documents once. You’re reading for gist – it’s very likely you won’t have time to go through every page with a fine-tooth comb, so try to pinpoint the important parts of the documents. Don’t worry about covering everything (the time limit will make that impossible). As you’re reading, take in the format and structure of the documents. Be aware of spelling, grammar and layout (formatting) errors as you read. There may be wrongly-labelled graphs or diagrams. But what you’re really looking for are content errors, such as conflicting information and inconsistencies in terms. 
  • Don't worry too much about your level of legal knowledge – this exercise is given to law and non-law students alike. Your understanding of law is not what's being tested here. Instead, think about why Simmons & Simmons is giving you an exercise like this – what’s in it for the firm? What do the partners want to see from you? Being able to spot typos is important, as attention to written detail and accuracy is crucial to the work of a solicitor. But the document review is more than a proofreading exercise: it’s another way of testing your commercial awareness. Have you been able to recognise the parts of the document that impact on the business deal or on the practicalities of business? Have you honed in on problematic or inconsistent terminology and phrasing?
  • Partners and recruiters are also looking at how you approach an exercise like this. They want to see that you have worked through the documents logically and are making judicious observations, communicating your thoughts clearly and rationally as trainee solicitors are expected to do.
  • Remember, Simmons & Simmons is using this exercise to test the quality of your observations, as well as whether you can navigate your way through the sort of legal documents its solicitors deal with every day. You are not expected to have all the answers. You may find that interviewers will give you a piece of information mid-task that allows you to get a better handle on the document and therefore analyse it in greater depth. Go with their questions and assimilate any information you’re given. There are few wrong answers – even small details can affect interpretation.


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