Step 7: Completing application forms

This Step looks at completing application forms in legal recruitment: from the different questions asked to how you draw on personal experience to provide evidence for your answers.

Step 7 Resource book

Application forms are becoming increasingly common in legal recruitment. Our resource book provides a comprehensive guide to help you write successful applications – addressing the needs of the recruiter and drawing on personal experience to support your answers.

Step 7 Weblinks

The National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom provides the only official source of comparison information on international education and qualifications.

The central application website for entry to higher education: includes information for prospective students and advice on qualifications.

Step 7 Workshop

If you need to write an application form for a legal position, our online workshop provides a step by step overview of some of the key issues you will need to consider.

You can also read the transcript here.

Step 7 Activities

If you have not completed an application form before, you can practise by downloading our ‘draft application form’.

Download our 'draft application form' here

Step 7 FAQs

Completing application forms

I’ve been applying for training contracts, but have yet to receive even a call back – what should I do?

How many training contract applications should I make?

I applied for training contracts last year and was unsuccessful: can I re-apply this year to the same firms?

Q. I’ve been applying for training contracts, but have yet to receive even a call back – what should I do?

A. Firstly – don’t get disheartened – it can take time (not to mention trial and error) to get this right. Employers tell us that the main reason applications fail is because they are not targeted enough, so ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I research the legal market carefully, and make a considered choice about the kind of firms I wanted to apply to?
  • Did I check the requirements of those firms; and do I meet them?
  • Did I consider my own strengths and what sort of firms are most likely to be interested in my qualifications and experience (in other words – are you sure you’re targeting the right firms for you? Have you considered all the alternatives?)
  • Did I research each individual firm I applied to carefully, to gain an understanding of the sort of work the firm does, the kind of individuals who work there, and what they are looking for in a prospective employee? (Note that ‘one size does not fit all’ and even when applying to similar types of firms, you need to be able to distinguish what makes each firm different from its competitors)
  • Did I consider each question on the application form and ‘target’ each answer in the light of my research?
  • Were my application forms submitted well within the deadlines; did I comply with all instructions for completing the forms; and was my spelling and grammar one hundred percent correct?

If these questions don’t shed any light on the problem, seek some feedback. If you are at the University, make an appointment with a Careers Adviser and bring along a copy of your application form and a list of the firms you have been applying to.  If you are at another university, you should be able to do the same with your own Careers Service.

Many firms won’t give you feedback on applications (only interviews), but it might be worth making a few calls and seeing if you can (politely) get any hint as to why your application was not successful.

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Q. How many training contract applications should I make?

A. Firstly, what matters is the quality and not the quantity of your applications: there is no point employing a ‘scattergun’ approach to applications and firing off lots of half-baked applications. Employers can spot a ‘generic’ application a mile off, and the single biggest reason for rejection is that the applicant has failed to target the application properly. It’s a waste of your time, and their time, and incidentally not great for your morale!

To complete an application well (research the employer; check out what they value most in a trainee; consider your strengths, qualities and experience; review each question and how you can target your answers to a) make the most of what you have to offer and b) ensure the answer is tailored to the firm) can take several days. 

It’s best to draft your application, considering which examples you’re going to use and how; then leave it and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes; and continue this reviewing process until you’re sure it’s as good as it’s going to get.

So the answer is really: however many applications you can make to the required standard in the time you have. For a student combining the writing of application forms with study and perhaps part-time work, producing more than 10-15 high quality application during a recruitment period will be pretty tough, so it’s a major incentive to plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time!

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Q. I applied for training contracts last year and was unsuccessful: can I re-apply this year to the same firms?

A. The best thing to do here is to check with each firm first, before you go to the time and effort of revisiting old ground. As a rule of thumb, it is usually only worth making that call and indeed re-applying if you have something fairly substantial and new to add to your previous application. For example, it may be that since last year you have secured valuable relevant work experience or your grades have significantly improved – in which case, explain that in your phone call, and seek the firm’s advice.

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Step 7 In brief

Download our quick guide to writing application forms for law.


Practice areas

Information on different areas of the law: what it covers, what it's like in practice, current issues, and further information.

Case studies

University staff pass on their experience of what it's like to work as a lawyer in practice.