Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Law firms using “The Apprentice” style selection techniques

In the current climate with lots of conveyancing and property solicitors currently out of work, law firms could perhaps try the techniques used by the BBC in the recent television programme “The Apprentice”.

It would be quite simple to do this and perhaps a law firm could try it out and let me know how they got on. Firstly you put an advert for a conveyancing solicitor somewhere prominent and receive hundreds of applications. You sift these down to perhaps ten and ask them all to come to a selection day at your offices.

Find a time when your wills and probate partner is available as it is often these particular characters who are the grumpiest and most awkward in a law firm, particularly when interviewing potential employees. They also tend to fancy themselves as advocates as they don’t get much experience of the non-contentious side.

You can have perhaps five tasks in the morning and at the end of each one, you could fire one of the potential applicants. The first task could be to put a partner in the room with the applicants and ask them to interview him or her as if they were a client and offer legal advice. At the end of the exercise, the partner could report back to you on the performance of each one of the applicants, then call the applicants into a room to see what they thought of their relative performances. The wills and probate partner could then have the pleasure of pointing his finger at one of them and tell them they’re not hired or fired.

The next task could be to give the candidates a load of children’s play bricks for them to construct a single arch bridge and a house brick placed upon the middle with the structure supporting it. You could nominate a team leader and give them ten minutes to do this and again at the end of this task, fire one of them, leaving you eight candidates to consider.

The next task could be perhaps a drama. You ask the applicants to act out a scene from a famous film and nominate the leading two people that you want to have the parts with the others supporting. Again at the end of it you could fire one of the least enthusiastic.

Of the seven remaining, then hand them a sheet with lots of different scenarios on and ask them to pick one before presenting the scenario in a concise form in 30 seconds. You could assess each performance and then fire the one you didn’t like.

The final task could be to take the applicants down the local high street, give them £10 and get them to come back with more money than they set off with. Give them 30 minutes and wait for the response. I suspect it will be quite interesting to see who has nothing and to see what efforts are made to make more money. I suspect no-one would make more money but the applicant would not know this.

You could then fire two of the least performing candidates. This now leaves you five candidates and they could be spread about the office and interviewed by different partners with different agendas. You could give on partner the job of asking standard questions, like “Where do you see yourselves in five years time?”, and another partner could interview and try and cross-examine them on their CV to see if there are any weaknesses there, the third partner could interview of technical issues relating to their work, the fourth partner could ask them to open a file and demonstrations as to how they would handle certain scenarios from a legal perspective, the fifth partner could have a chat with them to see if they shared the same sense of humour.

At the end of this, you should have a pretty good indication as to who your ideal candidate is, and I would imagine that a law firm would take a lot of enjoyment out of undertaking this task as I am sure the candidates would too (apart from the first two who would not have been with you for very long).

How does this all fit into employment legislation? I’m not 100 percent sure, but I can’t see any reason why such a selection process does not comply with the various regulations on equal opportunities. If it was to work for Alan Sugar, although I have read articles by former “Apprentice” stars that hardly ever saw him and the whole thing is fudged into a television programme and does not really reflect reality. If you think about trying such a technique out, I would be very interested to hear of the results and what the people who went through the process thought.

It’s slightly different to an assessment day. It would certainly only be used having lots of applicants, the legal profession before the recent slump in conveyancing did not happen very often and some firms were lucky to get one applicant for a particular job.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent. He regularly commentates and writes on the state of the legal profession. He can be contacted on .


Anonymous said...

Would a triathlon with the finish being top five to play Russian roulette be a better way so you have the luckiest and fittest as the winner?

Ask a Manager said...

I hope this is a joke and you're not seriously proposing that kind of utter disregard for candidates' time and dignity.