"The most important factor to take into account is whether the firm can deliver your ambitions. For example, do their largest and most prestigious practice areas match your own areas of interest? It's worth ensuring that the firm is investing in the growth of these areas since it is more likely there will be opportunities to qualify in an area you're really interested in. Check how much input you'll have into the departments (seats) that you see. It's no good joining a firm with a key practice area of interest if you won't have a say over whether you experience it.
Also think about the kind of clients and deals they work on; are they one of the top or mid-tier firms who work on high-value international transactions for global companies? What kind of exposure would you have to high level work and clients as a trainee with that firm?
Finally, consider where they're based and where they have other offices. Are there opportunities to work in any of the other offices? International firms will expect you to have a global outlook and be open to working overseas at some point in your career."
"Without wanting to pile on the pressure, we make a note of the good candidates at our events but we also remember those who've made a poor impression. The key is to make sure you're prepared; don't just rock up thinking you can have 'a bit of a chat' with representatives from a firm.
Do your research, think about some intelligent and thoughtful questions and make sure that you tailor them to the person you're speaking to. For instance, asking me about the nitty gritty of a deal might make me doubt your common sense and how well you've thought your question through.
Firms are looking for likeable and confident trainees but don't be that person who takes this too far and gets overfamiliar (particularly after a few drinks!). I've had candidates squeezing my arm and even winking at me. You need to get the balance right; get involved in conversations without dominating them, ask insightful questions, talk to a variety of people, enjoy the free food and drink within reason and finally avoid overstaying your welcome at the end. Nobody likes a lingerer!"
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"The most common mistakes we see are candidates not proof-reading carefully enough and/or not researching the firm well before applying. Simple errors can occur from relying too heavily on spell-check or copy and paste functions. Lawyers have to be meticulous in their work as an error in a contract can change the meaning. We're looking for people who can demonstrate the same level of care. My advice would be to print out what you've drafted and read it on paper rather than on screen. Your eye is more likely to see the changes required. If necessary, ask someone else to check it for you.
The second main error is not researching firms well and making generic applications. We want to know why you'd like to work here and generic wording, such as "I would relish the chance to train at a leading firm who work on ground-breaking deals such as [insert deal from the news section of our website] isn't likely to answer to demonstrate this convincingly. Good research is likely to lead you to make fewer applications but of far better quality."
"When presenting your strengths and weaknesses the recruiter is looking for evidence that you are aware of the areas that you excel in, as well as those areas that you are conscious of a need to improve in.
The key is self-development and research. Research of both the firm you are applying to and yourself. Make sure you understand the competencies that a firm is looking for and if your weakness falls in one of these areas, ensure that you demonstrate to the recruiter why it is important for you to work on this weakness. For example, you may not be the most confident presenter but understand that a legal career will involve pitching to clients. It is, therefore, an area that you will focus on developing through volunteering to take the role of presenter in group tasks at work/university.
It is not a trick question when asked to discuss your weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, we are simply looking for evidence that you are able to push yourself to develop and that you would be successful in an environment where constructive criticism is given in order to help you reach your full potential."
Megan Caulfield, a third-seat trainee at Ashurst LLP, reflects on her experiences in the department during the first seat of her training contract
Ashurst, Olswang and Hogan Lovells have all published their retention numbers this week, reporting various degrees of success.
For Ashurst’s full Lex 100 2015/16 profile, see here
Ashurst is a ‘market leader in a number of fields’ and handles a ‘broad range’ of ‘high quality work’. The large City player offers trainees the opportunity to represent a ‘high calibre of clients’, and its large network of 28 offices in 16 countries ensures that work with an ‘international focus’ is regularly handled. The firm has a stellar reputation for private equity, dispute resolution and projects work.
Ashurst has retained 95% of its 20-strong second year trainee cohort, with 19 of those in London accepting permanent newly-qualified (NQ) solicitor contracts at the firm.
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