Interview with a CPS Legal Trainee: Shagana Joseph

Interview with CPS Legal Trainee Shagana JosephIn this interview, Shagana Joseph answers some questions about what made her become a CPS legal trainee. She also shares some information about the process of applying, her motivations for wanting to join the service, as well as tips that we hope will make this application round a successful one for you.

Why did you choose to apply to the Legal Trainee Scheme?
Having worked within the public sector for six years previously, I was always driven by public duty. I have previous experience working with my local authority (Bromley) and the Home Office. Securing a period of recognised training (PRT) within the legal public sector was vital for me. My interest in criminal law and the criminal justice system enhanced with my passion for making a positive difference in people’s lives further motivated me to work for the CPS.

What was the application process like?
It includes a standard application form on the Civil Service website, with a CV attached with employment history details; all references to names, education providers, ethnicity were anonymised. Upon applying, I was invited to a situational judgement test and verbal reasoning test. Following that, there was a video interview, where you have 20 seconds of thinking time and up to two minutes to answer each question. There were a total of three questions.

The final stage involved:
– A legal assessment to which the topic was sent five days in advance
– A 5-10-minute presentation to the interviewing panel, answering the question you will get on the day of your legal assessment
– Finally, a competency-based interview on the Civil Service success profiles with a panel of three members (2 CPS lawyers and one HR representative).

How did you prepare for each element of the application cycle?
For the online situational judgement test and verbal reasoning test, I did as many practice tests as I could find on the internet. Although there are many practice materials available online for which you can pay, I did not pay for any subscriptions or practice tests and completed as many free available practice tests as I could find online. I only undertook the actual tests once I thought and felt ready, i.e. when I scored a min of 60% above in my practice tests.

For the video interview, I prepared various sample answers to a bank of questions that could potentially be asked during the video interview. One question that is likely to be asked is why the CPS so I ensured I researched the CPS fully, its values, work and culture. I then prepared a few answers on potential questions demonstrating my capability, knowledge of work and previous work experiences.
Once I’ve practised my own answers, I then self-recorded myself numerous times to ensure I could answer in two minutes and I kept re-watching my own videos to self-reflect on performance and improve further. Practice is key for preparing for this element of the application cycle. Another key tip I would give is, to be yourself during the video interview. Although I prepared verbatim answers, which I had learned during the interview itself, I answered naturally with the first example that came into mind, draw into few bits of what I had prepared before. But the main thing was, I was myself throughout the interview, and I let my personality show.

For the legal assessment and presentation; once the topic was sent to me, I researched as much information as I could and then condensed my notes. You could potentially be asked anything about that topic, so I think being prepared is key. Ensure you know the topic inside and out, and know the law, as you will be tested on legal intellect. To prepare for the presentation, you could practice your presentation skills so body language, tone, speaking loud enough and clearly. For my actual presentation, I made key bullet points to expand on to the interview panel.

For the final interview to panel, I prepared sample bank answers to various questions I could be asked on the four behaviours of the Civil Service success profiles. I thought of different work situational examples and made sure I chose the best example to highlight my capability and performance. The ‘STAR’ technique when answering the competency-based questions helped. Preparation is key, so similarly to my video interview preparation (as explained above), I practised my answers.

What are your favourite aspects thus far? Would you recommend LTS and if so, why?
My favourite aspect is that there is always something to learn. Every day is not the same, and it is so varied, dealing with various cases. I would recommend it because the legal training programme is structured, organised, and focused on developing each legal trainee’s individual knowledge and understanding. The CPS has a library of resources with a wealth of information on criminal law, practices, and legal guidance. The organisation ensures that the training delivered is proactive, involving each individual legal trainee to participate. Support is readily available either via your supervisor, line manager, or your colleagues in your team.

What myth about prosecuting as an employee of the Crown Prosecution Service would you like to dispel?
The myth I would like to dispel is that you must have criminal law knowledge and experience; I get this question asked a lot from my fellow friends or those reaching out to me on LinkedIn. As I’ve advised them, criminal law knowledge and experience are not mandatory to join the CPS; however, if you can further express your interest and willingness to develop your knowledge in this area of law, it would certainly be impressive. Your skills in your previous jobs are transferrable. Any skillset will be valuable to an organisation like the CPS, so ensure you explain how you can transfer your skills and how you can utilise these at the CPS.

What tips would you give to future trainees?
Don’t stress (although it is normal to have the occasional stressful moments while preparing for the application). Be calm, focused, and the key is to prepare and be yourself! The CPS is a fantastic organisation to work for. Every day is rewarding, but it has to work both ways, so reflect if working with criminal law and the criminal justice system is for you.
Practice your answers while you prepare and on the day of assessments/interviews, be calm, don’t skip meals that day, avoid any distractions from home and treat it as if you have an exam that day (that was my approach personally).

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