About the Government Legal Service (GLS)
The Government Legal Service (GLS) (also known as the Government Legal Profession or Government Legal Department) is part of the wider Civil Service (the employees that support Her Majesty's Government).
Politically neutral, the function of the GLS is to advise the government and government departments on legal issues and policy, as well as to represent it in court proceedings. Unlike private practice firms, working for GLS is to work 'in-house' with the government as the sole client. The GLD employs around 1,800 lawyers, with around 60 trainee positions annually, across four locations: London, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol. The head of the government legal profession is the Treasury Solicitor.
The work undertaken by government lawyers is often politically sensitive, complex, time-sensitive and in the public eye, and includes a wide range of work in both public and private law. Roles include advisory work, preparing legislation, and conducting litigation as well as areas such as commercial and employment.
All applicants should consider the GLS 'Success Profiles' against which all candidates will be measured during the application process which includes:
- Legal professional skills
- Making effective decisions
- Communicating and influencing
- Working together
- Delivering at pace
- Developing self and others
Candidates should also consider the wider Civil Service Success Profiles requirements and the core values of the Civil Service which are integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.
The GLD is one of the government departments in which the Legal Trainee Scheme (LTS) operates - the others are HMRC, the National Crime Agency and Competition and Markets Authority.
Government Legal Service Application Process
Before completing the GLS application process, applicants must make sure that they are eligible in terms of nationality and qualification. It is worth noting that the GLS is not currently offering the SQE route to qualification.
All applicants must hold a minimum of a 2:2 in an undergraduate degree or equivalent - but it is irrelevant which university it was obtained from, or which school applicants attended. Candidates are also not obliged to provide details of GCSE and A-level results.
The GLS application process has four stages which starts with an application form then successful completion of three online tests, a video interview and then attending an assessment day.
The application stage is the first chance to make an impression on the recruiters - as the recruiters won't see your results, university or even your name, it is even more important to sell your performance and ability.
The main part of the online application is your past three years of employment history and descriptions, as well as a section to list any voluntary work. You will be required to input academic qualifications, although these won't be seen by the recruiters. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above, you will be invited to take the first of the online tests.
The online application is relatively straightforward with the accompanying online tests being the much harder part. Do not underestimate these. Unusually for a recruitment process, you have to 'pass' each of the tests in turn, only reaching consideration for the assessment stage if you successfully pass all three of the tests and the video interview.
It is therefore vital to practice and be prepared.
It is also worth noting that after each test there is a period of several days between each test and the link is only emailed to successful candidates. The whole application process therefore takes several weeks.
Situational Judgement Test
This is the first of the online tests. It is not timed. It is estimated to take around 30 minutes to complete the 16 questions. You can only submit each answer once - you cannot return to a previous question. It is completed online on your own computer or device.
SJT considers hypothetical work-based scenarios and tests the applicants' judgement in relation to how they might behave or react to various situations they might encounter whilst working as a trainee in the GLS.
Each scenario is accompanied by a selection of possible reactions, outcomes or actions and you will be invited to select the most - or least - effective of the proffered options. Note, this might not exactly match what you would or wouldn't do; you are asked to consider 'most' or 'least' compared to the rest of the list.
Verbal Reasoning Test
Verbal Reasoning is the second online test and if you pass the SJT you will receive an email with the link to take the verbal reasoning test. This test, unlike the SJT, is timed - you have 24 minutes to complete the whole test, which is eight sets of four questions. This gives you three minutes to answer all four questions as well as read the provided text.
Verbal reasoning tests your ability to understand, analyse and interpret information, usually complex information. Each section of text is followed by a series of questions relating to deductions that you could make from the text. These usually take the format of selecting whether each statement is true, false, or cannot say, based only on what is written in the text.
You will need to practice this skill, both in terms of ability to select the correct answer, and the ability to do this consistently under pressure.
Critical Reasoning Test
The final test that you will be asked to take before reaching the interview stage is the critical reasoning test. This is again a timed test, taken online, and usually, candidates are given 30 minutes to complete. You should note that this is the entire test time, including reading any provided guidance material.
Critical reasoning is crucial for lawyers as it relates to making objective decisions after logically analysing a presented assumption or argument, considering inferences or how to interpret the information provided.
As with the verbal reasoning test you will read a series of passages of text. The questions will relate to different areas - inference, assumption, deduction, interpretation and evaluation. Each one requires slightly different responses but you will be asked, for example, to evaluate whether each argument posed after a text is a strong or weak argument. Or, for example, in relation to interpretation whether a series of conclusions 'follows' or 'does not follow' from the given example.
The final online part is the video interview, to which candidates are invited if they are successful in the critical reasoning. This is again carried out externally, online, using your own computer or tablet. It takes the form of reading a series of text-based questions and after a short period of preparation (say, one minute) you will then have a minute of time to record your answer.
The whole interview lasts around 20 minutes and is intended to assess motivation for application and response to required behaviours integral to the role.
Thorough preparation will be required, both in considering what you might say, as well as practising recording your answers concisely without looking away or getting distracted.
There is a required pass mark. Successful candidates are then invited to attend the Government Legal Service assessment day.
This is the final opportunity to secure a place on the Government Legal Trainee Scheme and is a half-day at an assessment centre. Prior to attending the assessment centre, you will be invited to take part in a video call which will give more information and allow you to ask questions, as well as indicate your preferred department should you be successful in your application.
The assessment stage consists of a written assessment and then a panel interview.
This one hour exercise is designed so that everyone can take the same test. No prior legal knowledge is required although the practical problem presented to you for analysis will be legal in nature. You are to essentially provide a note of advice to a senior colleague on said problem - addressing a number of questions you will be given. Any law which is required will be provided.
The interview will typically last around 70 minutes and be with three recruiters, two of whom will be senior lawyers. The first part of the interview will be defending and discussing your written advice - which you should bear in mind when preparing it.
The second part will be in three parts - the first is a 'behaviour-based 'interview in which you will need to ensure all answers include addressing the key behaviours that result in effective performance, mentioned at the start of this article. Make sure to include situation / action / result for each answer, which will typically be workplace scenarios, say, for example, a confidential situation.
The second relates to strengths, where you will need to demonstrate you are a good fit and have the right personality and traits for the role.
The third is in relation to motivation - why law, why the GLS etc, as well as your knowledge of what and why government lawyers do what they do, and why you want to work for the public sector and in-house.