Excelling at Law Firm Recruitment Tests

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Many people make attempts yearly to get recruited into law firms particularly the top-tier law firms. However, these firms only have a limited number of qualified candidates that they can take in; hence they conduct preliminary tests to help them reduce the number of candidates they need to consider to a more manageable number. These tests come in many forms and for an applicant hoping to get into these firms, the need to prepare adequately for the tests cannot be overstated.

Essentially, there are largely three forms that recruitment tests in law firms take, namely legal knowledge tests, aptitude tests, and a combination of the two.

  1. Legal Knowledge Tests

These tests basically evaluate a candidate’s knowledge of the law, particularly as it relates to the Nigerian Law School curriculum.

Law firms are exactly that – law firms. Therefore, they require that their lawyers be truly grounded in the law. Hence, they may organize tests that assess a candidate’s knowledge of the law, especially as it relates to the type of matters the candidate would work on should s/he be hired into the firm.

A candidate may be required to distil the facts in a case study, analyse the legal issues, provide a legal solution as well as prepare drafts of a wide range of documents.

It may be difficult for you to properly attempt these questions if you have not been revising your law school notes and practising your drafts. Typically, aspirants to the bar, with the excitement of being done with the bar exams, want to forget about studying their law school materials and texts. However, to ace tests like these, candidates would need to revise the Nigerian Law School curriculum and practice drafting.

For the more commercial and perhaps, the top-tier law firms, candidates, particularly NYSC candidates should prepare to answer questions from Civil Litigation, Property Law Practice and Corporate Law Practice. Occasionally, there may be one or two questions from Professional Ethics.

The trick here is to aim to score as highly as possible on the test. This is because places at these firms are highly competitive and the firms typically have many candidates who may take the same tests and score higher than the pass mark. The candidate who will stand out thus needs to score much higher than the firm’s pass mark.

  1. Aptitude Tests

This is a common test with top-tier law firms. Due to the complex nature of work that these law firms do, they require lawyers that possess strong analytical and comprehension skills, which these aptitude tests help to assess.

However, the sad reality is that many candidates do not adequately prepare for these tests; hence, they find the tests unduly hard and sometimes are unsuccessful at the tests. The truth is that these tests are not as hard as they are often portrayed to be if one is adequately prepared.

Law firms typically assess candidates using tests similar to the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). LSAT is the admission test usually administered in certain foreign jurisdictions for candidates intending to be admitted into law schools in those jurisdictions. LSAT usually comprises different sections that test a candidate’s verbal, analytical and quantitative reasoning, as well as reading comprehension ability.

A good way to prepare is to download the past LSAT and similar aptitude test questions online and attempt as many as possible.

A key mistake many candidates make when it comes to aptitude tests is that they are more in a race against time rather than a race to answer the questions as accurately as possible.  Just like any other test, aptitude tests are timed. Typically, candidates are given about 35 minutes to one hour to answer between 30-75 questions. Thus, there is about 1 minute or even 45 seconds to answer each question.

Effectively, what this means is that you should place greater emphasis on answering the questions accurately than finishing quickly or even answering all the questions. If you can answer all the questions within the time that you have, by all means, please do. However, if you cannot, ensure that whatever number of questions that you are able to answer, you answer them correctly.

The other “secret” to excelling on aptitude tests is that the answers, especially in verbal and comprehensive reasoning are more of common sense than literal interpretation. So, when you see a question, the first thought should be “does this make sense”?

  1. Combination of Legal Knowledge and Aptitude Tests

This combination usually offers more “hope” for candidates that believe that they are not so skilled at aptitude tests but still have eyes on some of the top-tier firms. There are top firms that administer a combination of these tests and you would find the mixture in varying proportions. While some firms would have more of law questions and less aptitude test questions, some would have them in equal proportion. Some may even have more aptitude test questions and fewer law questions (this is rare amongst law firms though).

Some firms have these tests in stages. What this means is that one may have the aptitude test as stage one of a recruitment test and law questions as stage two or vice-versa.

By way of general advice, candidates must also ensure that they are commercially aware as this would reflect in the answers they provide on the recruitment tests.

Additionally, candidates should ask questions beforehand to enable them to properly understand the recruitment process for each firm they have applied to.

In the end, candidates should keep a positive mental disposition. The recruitment test is only one stage in the larger recruitment process, but it qualifies a candidate for other stages.


Olukayode Olugbemi is an Associate at the law firm of Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie in Lagos, Nigeria.
While Olukayode was an undergraduate, he represented the Faculty, his university, and Nigeria at several competitions, including the Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, IHL Moot Court Competition, amongst others.
Prior to joining Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie, Olukayode had different recruitment tests and secured offers from various top-tier law firms.

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