Securing a law training contract will be playing on all aspiring solicitor’s minds at the moment. The competition for roles is often fierce, and young future lawyers need to brace themselves for applications, interviews, and assessment days. Worried? Fear not, we spoke to future trainee lawyers Nuri Mirwani, Megan McMellon and Aliana Chambers, along with recruiter Jessica Booker, to get their top tips on how to get a training contract. This is what they told us:
By Editorial Team. Published 02 February 2017. Last updated 01 March 2022.
1. Get yourself organised
Nuri: It’s always a good idea to show your interest at an early stage. Research when application dates open and apply early, not too close to the deadline.
Aliana: Plan and write your applications as soon as they open, and make sure to prioritise those that operate on a rolling basis. As a guide, I submitted my rolling applications roughly a month before the deadline to ensure I got a place on an assessment day.
2. Do your homework
Nuri: Keep up-to-date with the commercial news before any legal interviews or assessment days; it’s important to be able to show that you have a good knowledge of the industry as well as the law itself. Don’t be too last minute with this preparation either. You should be reading up on legal news for a few months in advance of your applications so that you have a good foundation of knowledge. Firms will know if you've panic-read articles the day before.
3. Make sure you know what you're applying for
Megan: It’s really important to consider what type of firm you are looking for and why. By researching different firms thoroughly and attending as many events as possible you can build a picture of how firms differ and which one would suit you. If you really want to work somewhere, that enthusiasm will show in your application for a training contract.
Jessica: Many people make the mistake of sending in applications to firms they know little about as a back-up. Recruiters at these firms can tell when an applicant is simply reciting what they have read in a promotional brochure. You need to show the personal side of why you chose to apply and relate that back to your own interests, rather than appealing to what you think the firm would like to hear.
4. Be genuine
Nuri: Firms want to get to know the real you, so it is important to stay genuine. If you’re undertaking a vacation scheme it’s important to make a good impression, but you should try to enjoy your time there as well, because it is a fun and exciting experience.
Jessica: Don’t overwrite and try too hard to impress by using flowery language. Instead, make sure your application recognises your strengths and the individuality of experiences and achievements you may have.
5. Don't be too rehearsed
Aliana: Interviewers will easily spot when you’ve planned specific answers. Instead of writing a script, think of three key points or examples for each interview topic and make sure you’re comfortable expanding on them when speaking aloud. Try to arrange a mock interview with a tutor, friend or a member of your careers service, as these can help to make a difference and calm your nerves about the experience.
6. Show that you have paid attention
Nuri: Before your exit interview in your vacation scheme, make sure you keep a note of everything you have done during your time at the firm so you are able to talk about work that has interested you and why. This will look impressive in a training contract interview.
7. Spend time perfecting your application
Jessica: You need to make sure you check your application for silly mistakes or anything that spell check will not pick up on. Make time to take a break, so you can come back and check again with a fresh pair of eyes, or ask someone you trust to proofread.
8. Be polite
Aliana: It is important to make a good impression, especially if you are attending a vacation scheme. The vacation scheme itself focuses less on your legal and business knowledge, and more on how hard-working and comfortable you are in a working environment. Throughout the scheme, make sure you present yourself well by being polite, punctual and enthusiastic, and really do make every day count.
9. Make it personal
Jessica: Try to engage with a firm before applying for a legal training contract – whether that be at open days or events on campus – so you can learn from real people with an insight into life at the firm rather than just reading promotional brochures. Remember the application form is not about the firm – it should be all about you – so try to tie everything you say back to you. This will make the application feel personal and show why certain aspects are important to you.
A version of this article, written by Millie Pierce, appeared in our Verdict magazine.
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