Key Competencies

Key competencies form a significant part of the recruitment process for legal training contracts. Each law firm will have identified its own collection of competencies (skills) that they feel are essential in potential recruits and these will be woven into their application and/or interview questions.

There are some key competencies that all firms will be looking for evidence of to some degree or other – these are:

  • Intellectual Ability
  • Enthusiasm, Motivation & Resilience
  • Accuracy & Attention to Detail
  • Teamwork & Leadership
  • Commercial Awareness (even smaller non-commercial firms will want candidates to know how their business operates)
  • Communication Skills (oral and written)

That said, all law firms will have their own unique set of required competencies. It is imperative that you conduct full research into the firm using every resource available in order to determine the firm’s unique requirements. Only then will you be able to successfully prepare for an interview in order to demonstrate to the firm that you have what they are looking for. Be sure to review The Art to Research and do the necessary research into the firm you are to be interviewed by.

Competency-based questions on application forms and in interviews examine your work behaviours using the premise that past behaviour is the best predictor for future behaviour. Thus, if you can give an example showing that you have used this skill previously then it will be necessarily assumed that you will be able to use it again.  These skills are highly transferable so the examples you use can be taken not just from work situations, but from extra-curricular or study-based activities, for example.  However, if you are applying to commercial law firms and you are able to, it would be wise to use at least some examples from a relevant commercial setting.

The trick to answering competency questions is to use a specific example from your past relating to something that you did, and not to talk generally and impersonally.  The CAR model provides an effective way to structure competency questions (C=context, A=action, R=result) as it enables you to organise your answer with a clear beginning, middle and end. You should familiarise yourself with this here: The CAR Model