Advice needed! 'Describe an event which has recently been in the news'... Watch

sugarcoatedjacket
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Hello TSR

Basically I'm trying to fill out a form for a law firm, and I've come across this question:

Describe an event which has recently been in the news and explain why this has been of interest to you.

Just wondering whether I should use a general example like the Arab Spring or the Bangkok floods or whether I should use a more tailored approach and relate it to one of the firms clients? The question comes under the 'Personal Development' section of the form - are they interested in knowing about me outside of law or should I display commercial aptitude here.

Please advise folks!!

SCJ
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Clip
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I think you should do exactly as the question asks, and describe an event which has been of interest to you. Whether its flooding in Bangkok, or Simon Cowell - I think you'd be better off with something that genuinely engages you; rather than finding a story which you think has gravitas and then retro-engineering an interest in it.
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prettyprettygood
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You're pretty much going to want to research the Eurozone situation anyway, as if commercial awareness is a big part of a given interview, they're bound to ask about this. So, why not research it and put it down as the event which interests you?

I don't know about many people on here, but events which 'interest' me are not the kind of events I would put down on a job application form for a commercial law vacation scheme / training contract. Stick with the economic, the legal, or the political.
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jacketpotato
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Rather than choosing an event based on the characteristics you think it should have, in my view you need to think about what the question is trying to achieve. It is testing: 1) can you describe and explain something concisely and accurately; 2) do you have decent commercial awareness; 3) do you have good analysis skills.

I think something like the Arab Spring or the Bangkok floods is a bad idea - its quite unimaginitative and with the floods in particular you don't get a chance to show what you can do. It wouldn't make interesting reading unless you were able to put a slant on the subject matter. Choosing something you think to be especially relevant to the firm's clients could also be dangerous. IMO the best thing would be to find something people know of but don't necessarily know much about, research it and describe in an interesting way.
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Aerasay
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Pick something you are interested in and is relevant to the firm's practice area. When I did TC interviews everyone answered that question with "the establishment of the supreme court". I had a completely different, local issue of interest to me and of strong relevance to the place I ended up working. The fact I had taken a different issue, I feel, made me stand out and because I was interested in the issue I was able to talk about it with enthusiasm - after all the question does ask for something that interested you!
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Alfiep
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Talk about how the Thai floods have slowed down GM and Toyota's supply and manufacture chains, leading VW to be on track to be the world's biggest carmaker by sales this year.

It shows an event which people have heard of, and an analysis of the consequences of that event for the world economy, as well as showing that you see the globalized connections in everything.

If not that, talk about the effect on the FTSE 100 of all the recent russian resource company floatations. It gives a great chance to talk about the interests of the market in having a large free float, the Bribery Act and corporate governance, and is pretty interesting in its own right.
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But seriously, I don't see the point in picking some worldwide event that you genuinely couldn't give a toss about and then pretending to know all about it. That's a sure fire way of being made to look like an idiot.

If everything goes well, and you get to AC, the obvious question is: "So tell me all about your interest in the Middle East/Thailand/FTSE100" and you can absolutely nailed on guarantee that the person asking the questions will know everything and know that you know nothing, Jon Snow.

If your main interests are X-factor and Kim Kardashian - go with that, and think about what you would advise SYCOtv on their various issues. Think about what you would advise Kim Kardashian in her matrimonial issues and the various licensing tie-ups and exclusivity deals still hanging over from the wedding. Maybe one could postulate what her father might have advised.

If you talk about something that you know about, you can speak with authority and confidence, and there is a fair chance that you might know more than the interviewer on certain aspects.

This is only my opinion, but I'd rather talk as an expert on something I know about and slide in the legal/commercial angle and risk being thought of as an idiot; rather than talk about Greek bail-outs or Chinese energy requirements and guarantee to look like an idiot.
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Kessler`
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Love the SOIAF reference, but can't rep you anymore
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jacketpotato
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(Original post by Clip)
But seriously, I don't see the point in picking some worldwide event that you genuinely couldn't give a toss about and then pretending to know all about it. That's a sure fire way of being made to look like an idiot.
So true, couldn't put it better. I came unstuck on one of my TC interviews when I was asked about something mentioned on my application that I clearly knew nothing about.
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Med2Ky
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Definately agree about coming unstuck in a TC interview on this point: I had an interview with a large US form in London a few years back, and has discussed an aspect of the financial crisis on the application (particualrly, the role of CDO's and derivatives). I was genuinely interested in this, but was butchered at interview- the interviewer was asking detailed questions that I wasnt abl to fully answer (I very much doubt he knew the answer, but that was the whole point).
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prettyprettygood
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(Original post by Clip)
But seriously, I don't see the point in picking some worldwide event that you genuinely couldn't give a toss about and then pretending to know all about it. That's a sure fire way of being made to look like an idiot.
I agree with this but disagree completely about going with what genuinely interests you, if it means something like X-Factor or Kim Kardashian. Any decent firm will not respect such a choice, as it's all part of playing a game. Choose a worldwide, or at least significant event, of economic, political or legal significance, and research it to the point that you feel comfortable talking about it.

Any commercial awareness based interview in the coming year is likely to ask about the Eurozone anyway, and topics like the Thai floods, Legal Services Act, Bribery Act and phone hacking are also pretty likely to be asked. Have an in-depth knowledge of the Eurozone and current state of the British economy, and a bit of knowledge about the rest of these things.

It pains me to say it, but if your true interests are not related to law or business (as they are for most people, myself included), the time for you to discuss them is not during a job interview with a law firm.
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Clip
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(Original post by prettyprettygood)
I agree with this but disagree completely about going with what genuinely interests you, if it means something like X-Factor or Kim Kardashian. Any decent firm will not respect such a choice, as it's all part of playing a game. Choose a worldwide, or at least significant event, of economic, political or legal significance, and research it to the point that you feel comfortable talking about it.

Any commercial awareness based interview in the coming year is likely to ask about the Eurozone anyway, and topics like the Thai floods, Legal Services Act, Bribery Act and phone hacking are also pretty likely to be asked. Have an in-depth knowledge of the Eurozone and current state of the British economy, and a bit of knowledge about the rest of these things.

It pains me to say it, but if your true interests are not related to law or business (as they are for most people, myself included), the time for you to discuss them is not during a job interview with a law firm.
There's a big difference between the questions that you get asked, and the topics that you bring up yourself.

If the firm is so heavily commercial, then absolutely, they might try and bring up whatever heavy issue of the day is weighing heavily on their minds.

However they might not. Interviewers are human, and they might be completely fed up with talking to smart alec 20 year-olds about such things. Not to say that you shouldn't know something about these items. If you are a sufficiently interesting and engaging candidate, I have no doubt that you might have the opportunity to direct the conversation elsewhere.

But this is a world apart from starting this dialogue oneself and inviting this kind of scrutiny. I just don't believe that "research" is sufficient to paper over the cracks.

Moreover, this is making the huge assumption that a firm places more importance on these topics which are after all a matter of general knowledge. Let's be honest, by lifting a handset, they can have much more expert people on hand. They're not employing you for what you happen to know now.

I admit I may be completely wrong, but I think its rather presumptuous to second guess what a firm "respects" as a choice of topic. Simon Cowell's money and Kim Kardashian's money are just as good and just as distributable (as equity) as some monolithic pension fund's. The firm could have a significant media practice, and they might be far more interested in how you would handle Simon Cowell and Kim Kardashian.

Not everyone approaches these things in the same way, but my rationale is that you need to be memorable and preferably in a good way. The worst thing that you can be is anonymous, especially given that most candidates will be roughly the same age, with good A-levels and attending a good university.

"Alison Parker, anyone?"
"Remind me?"
"Grey skirt suit, brown hair. Keele University. Talked about Greek debt,"
"Mm-hm"
"Prajesh Kotecha? Power tie. UCL. Talked about Greek debt."
"Hm."
"Nicola Boginska. Navy dress and glasses. Classics at Royal Holloway. Talked about Greek debt,"
"Ok."
"Jill Kenton. Navy skirt. Warwick. Thinks she could represent Simon Cowell."
"Oh yes, Kim Kardashian fan. I remember her."
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chalks
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(Original post by Clip)
There's a big difference between the questions that you get asked, and the topics that you bring up yourself.

If the firm is so heavily commercial, then absolutely, they might try and bring up whatever heavy issue of the day is weighing heavily on their minds.

However they might not. Interviewers are human, and they might be completely fed up with talking to smart alec 20 year-olds about such things. Not to say that you shouldn't know something about these items. If you are a sufficiently interesting and engaging candidate, I have no doubt that you might have the opportunity to direct the conversation elsewhere.

But this is a world apart from starting this dialogue oneself and inviting this kind of scrutiny. I just don't believe that "research" is sufficient to paper over the cracks.

Moreover, this is making the huge assumption that a firm places more importance on these topics which are after all a matter of general knowledge. Let's be honest, by lifting a handset, they can have much more expert people on hand. They're not employing you for what you happen to know now.

I admit I may be completely wrong, but I think its rather presumptuous to second guess what a firm "respects" as a choice of topic. Simon Cowell's money and Kim Kardashian's money are just as good and just as distributable (as equity) as some monolithic pension fund's. The firm could have a significant media practice, and they might be far more interested in how you would handle Simon Cowell and Kim Kardashian.

Not everyone approaches these things in the same way, but my rationale is that you need to be memorable and preferably in a good way. The worst thing that you can be is anonymous, especially given that most candidates will be roughly the same age, with good A-levels and attending a good university.

"Alison Parker, anyone?"
"Remind me?"
"Grey skirt suit, brown hair. Keele University. Talked about Greek debt,"
"Mm-hm"
"Prajesh Kotecha? Power tie. UCL. Talked about Greek debt."
"Hm."
"Nicola Boginska. Navy dress and glasses. Classics at Royal Holloway. Talked about Greek debt,"
"Ok."
"Jill Kenton. Navy skirt. Warwick. Thinks she could represent Simon Cowell."
"Oh yes, Kim Kardashian fan. I remember her."
At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged conservative lawyer (which I am), I think the right approach is somewhere in the middle. Trying to appear as though you're the world's expert on sovereign debt crises is equally as cringeworthy as giving the impression that you think the world's news can be gleaned from Hello and Heat.

The clear sub-text from the question posed by the interviewer or application form is "...and why is that relevant to our clients/this firm". If the firm has a substantial base of media clients, then a celeb-related story may have some merit if you're able to put a legal spin on it eg what were the moral and ethical obligations of KK's lawyer when they drafted the prenup, if they were aware that KK never intended to see day 73 of the marriage? Or, what do you think the strategy is that's been adopted by Man City with Tevez given the apparently clear breach of his employment contract?

However, if you're sitting down in front of some heavy-hitting banking partners from A&O, then they're going to hope that that you have some awareness of the circles in which their clients move, and the global factors which affect their businesses. That means that you need to be able to demonstrate the dreaded commercial awareness. Just don't come across as looking like the world's expert when you can't be. Try and find an interesting angle, or find a story from overseas. The Qantas crisis here in Oz has raised the spectre of increasing union activity in difficult economic times. That is, or should be, of concern to governments and large corporates worldwide irrespective of their industry as they risk their manufacturers, suppliers and distributors (at home and abroad) being crippled at short notice by strikes by their workforce. What can law firms do to protect their clients in those circumstances?

The message is - talk about a piece in the news which is of relevance to the firm and its clients, but you're not (nor are you expected to be) a Chomsky-esque political/media commentator with startling insights into the events of the day. You can do worse than plagiarise commentary from good quality print media such as the FT to understand what they think are the implications of major events.

If you're insistent on talking about the Greek debt crisis then finish on the following: "I understand that the olive tapenade and tsatsiki markets are on the brink of crash: it looks as though the Greeks are facing a double dip recession". Sit back and watch interviewing partners roll on floor in mirth at your blending of old-school punning with current affairs.

Don't thank me.
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Clip
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(Original post by chalks)
If you're insistent on talking about the Greek debt crisis then finish on the following: "I understand that the olive tapenade and tsatsiki markets are on the brink of crash: it looks as though the Greeks are facing a double dip recession". Sit back and watch interviewing partners roll on floor in mirth at your blending of old-school punning with current affairs.

Don't thank me.
Who writes Jim Davidson's material now that you're a solicitor?
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chalks
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(Original post by Clip)
Who writes Jim Davidson's material now that you're a solicitor?
Who says I can't moonlight?
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geetar
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This. I guarantee the interviewers would remember you for a long time afterwards. Which must be a good thing, right?
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robinhosantiago
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(Original post by Clip)
This is only my opinion, but I'd rather talk as an expert on something I know about and slide in the legal/commercial angle and risk being thought of as an idiot; rather than talk about Greek bail-outs or Chinese energy requirements and guarantee to look like an idiot.
If you still "look like an idiot" talking about those things even after researching them, you shouldn't really be applying to commercial law firms.

I don't know which law firm the poster is applying to, but assuming it's a commercial/corporate one, if they ask you about the news then it's generally a good idea to display some commercial aptitude. That doesn't just mean you have to talk about Greece and Eurozone and nothing else, but make sure the issue has some sort of commercial or current affairs relevance. I'm not sure I'd recommend doing the Bangkok floods. The Arab Spring would be fine because there's a lot of room for progression there - its effect on geopolitics, international relations, oil markets, emerging markets.
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(Original post by robinhosantiago)
If you still "look like an idiot" talking about those things even after researching them, you shouldn't really be applying to commercial law firms.
Totally disagree. I could think of a topic, you could "research" it with all the best intentions, but come back with a load of codswallop.


I don't know which law firm the poster is applying to, but assuming it's a commercial/corporate one, if they ask you about the news then it's generally a good idea to display some commercial aptitude. That doesn't just mean you have to talk about Greece and Eurozone and nothing else, but make sure the issue has some sort of commercial or current affairs relevance. I'm not sure I'd recommend doing the Bangkok floods. The Arab Spring would be fine because there's a lot of room for progression there - its effect on geopolitics, international relations, oil markets, emerging markets.
This thread seems to be a bit pointless without the input of the OP, but there is no indication anywhere that it's a heavy corporate firm. The question as stated only says "Describe an event which has recently been in the news".
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Brevity
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Kingsley Napier have this question...
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Clip
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I didn't listen to any of you guys, and I went ahead with really tacky celeb stories on some of the TC applications, in this "news story" category.

This is part of my "Captain Jack Sparrow" recruitment policy.

Don't try this at home, kids.
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