For many of us (second year lawyers in particular) last term was punctuated by corporate events in which representatives of the leading firms came to aid the decision of precisely to whom we should be selling our souls.The flyers which inundated our pigeon holes received a mixed reception. The firms can’t have been too mystified to discover that those which offered us the perfect opportunity to attend glamorous drinks parties at the Randolph and long lunches at Brown’s were actually oversubscribed, whereas the dryer sounding talks were apparently not. We can’t be said to be doing much to alter the image that students are to be won over on superficial grounds!However, we must endeavour not to conform to all student stereotypes. Instead, we must present ourselves as mature, professional ,and socially adept, and must be memorable for the right reasons. Application forms, which are so readily available (although not always accessible), do not appear to be sufficient, nor are many of the coveted firms relying solely on interviews. Increasingly, assessment takes the form of an open day, where one is invited to spend an entire day being tested relentlessly in multiple situations under a variety of guises. The conscientious applicant will be aware that these are not merely ‘informal drinks’, providing the opportunity to chat with the partners and trainees, but constitute a further opportunity for the firms to scrutinise our behaviour and ascertain how we respond to a long day of rigorous assessment.   Naturally, this will be useful to them, as they are looking to recruit people who are capable of maintaining a chirpy demeanour after a challenging day. However, the interview process is unusually stressful as there is the added component of being in an unknown, often intimidating environment, which would be absent from normal working life. The firms ought to take this into account when testing our social skills, which will clearly be completed after the intensive procedures involved in the days.Another area where the firms demonstrate their great expectations is the testing of commercial awareness. We are told that it will suffice to have the level of knowledge of what is going on in the business world that may be obtained through religiously poring over the Financial Times. After all, can we really be expected to have the same degree of commercial prowess as current trainees?It would seem that for some partners the answer to that question is ‘Yes’, even though it is not clear how most people could possibly have developed such awareness whilst ticking all the other boxes in terms of results and extra curricular activities.  And so, it could appear that all work and no play could lead to unemployment, but that depends upon your definition of ‘work’!
Laura McPhee is Social Secretary of the Middle Temple Society.