Juliet Lawson
Juliet Lawson
Senior Associate: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

Words of wisdom for NQs from an experienced top tier interviewer

Last Thursday evening we held our annual Leeds NQ event at Revolution Call Lane, a series of short talks followed by drinks, food and informal networking.

I gave everyone an overview of what we’re expecting from the NQ season this year, where we anticipate roles coming up and what to expect from the process generally. Tom Fleet talked about the market from the in-house perspective.

We had 2 guest speakers – Andy Kay, head of legal at Leeds Building Society, who gave a great insight into working in-house and Louise Dobson, Legal Director in Commercial Litigation, whose informal talk about what interviewers are looking for in an NQ, and how they test for it, stole the show.

For those that missed it, I thought I’d pull out what I thought were a couple of the most useful insights, over & above all the obvious things like knowing your CV inside out, looking smart and well presented, having a decent firm handshake and preparing for competency based questions.

These are some of the things that I came away with –

  • Discretion – an underrated quality. Never refer to a matter by name on your CV that isn’t in the public domain. If you can google it, you’re safe. If you can’t, refer to it on a no-names basis.
  • Talking of discretion….don’t slag off your current firm, no matter how awful a training contract you feel you’ve had. Instead emphasise what you have gained from it, but what you would have liked more experience in, and what you’re looking to build on in your next role. There’s a discrete way to be constructive about your reason for moving on. If you demonstrate a lack of discretion now, how discrete will you be as an employee?
  • Remember the acronym MAD – Made a Difference. Instead of just trotting out what aspects of a deal or a case that you were involved in, try and think of something you did which made a difference. For example, you came up with a new way of dealing with a specific aspect of discovery, which was then adopted by the team.
  • Practice talking about the experience on your CV in a really clear and concise way – this is briefly what the matter was about, this was the objective, these were the issues, this is how it was resolved. Imagine you’re briefing a partner on a call they have to make on it in 10 minutes’ time and they need the salient points. Do this for all the elements of the CV that you may be asked about.
  • Follow up the interview with a nice email thanking the interview for their time and providing your contact details in case they have any further questions. Hardly anybody does it, but it makes you stand out. After all, you’d do it after meeting a client for the first time, it’s only polite.
  • Don’t be afraid of putting slightly more unusual interests on your CV beyond the usual ‘travel’ ‘cooking’ ‘keeping fit’ ‘keeping up with current affairs’ etc. Show that you’re a human being with your own quirks and eccentricities. Within reason of course. Nobody really wants to know that you like dressing up as a Dalmatian on a Saturday night.
If you’d like a copy of our NQ handbook which is a fount of useful information on the NQ market, or you’d like more specific advice on your NQ search please contact me at julietlawson@bcllegal.com or call me on 0113 323 6146.

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