Pick the right firm for you
You might think you want to work for a large commercial firm. After all, these firms often have the biggest budgets and can invest in glossy marketing materials and fancy events. But take a step back and think about whether this is really the type of firm where you would flourish. Whilst acting on behalf of big clients on complex, high-value deals can inevitably be exciting, the likelihood is that, as a junior lawyer, you will get very little client contact and will often be left with administrative tasks which seem peripheral to the matter. Are you prepared to do this type of work? How can you make it clear in your application that this type of work will drive you?
Likewise, it is easy to be drawn in by the glamour of boutique firms specialising in, say family or media law. But the reality is that the spread of work you get exposed to over your two years of training could be much narrower than at a larger firm. Are you committed enough to a particular area of law to make such a decision so early on in your career? If so, make sure you highlight exactly why in your application.
These are all just examples of course, but weighing up the pros and cons of different types of law firms and aligning them with your own strengths and interests before you apply is extremely important. Once you’ve decided, make sure that your application form demonstrates why you would be a good fit for a specific firm. The same is true for interviews – make sure you are drawing upon relevant examples to convey your motivation for joining that particular firm. Think about what experience you have, what qualities you possess and what your goals are. Recruiters will be able to tell quite quickly if they think you would be a good fit for their firm, so choose wisely.
Get some experience
Do you have any legal or otherwise relevant work experience? If so, could you get any more? The more work experience you have, the more informed your decision as to whether to pursue a career in law will be and the more you will be able to convince recruiters that your decision is, indeed, informed. What’s more, you will have plenty of practical examples to draw upon in your application form or at interview. Law firms invest a lot of money in their trainee solicitors and want to be sure that you’re in it for the long-haul so be sure to show them the extent of your dedication.
Attend an open day or other event
Many law firms hold open days or other events where you can come into the firm and meet individuals who work there. This is a great way of getting an insight into a firm’s culture and seeing what type of people the firm recruits. Another great tip is to keep a record of the names of the people you meet. You could mention your attendance in your application form or at interview, which is another great way of demonstrating your commitment to a particular firm.
Speak to the careers service
Most universities or law school providers have careers services, law schools in particular will have careers advisers who are specifically experienced in reading through training contract applications so make sure you get someone to read over yours. Not only can they pick up on potential typos and spelling mistakes but they will know what kind of content can make your application stand out and capture the attention of recruiters at law firms. Careers services often also offer interview advice or mock interviews. This is invaluable because it gives you the opportunity to have a ‘practice run’ and obtain feedback on your interviewing technique before you go into the real thing.
Use your contacts
Get family, friends or other acquaintances to look over your application form. In particular, if you have any contacts who are lawyers or recruiters, ask them to read over it. Fresh pairs of eyes can not only spot errors but also bring new ideas to the table, in turn making your application more interesting and engaging.
Get paralegal experience
If you haven’t been successful in your search for a training contract this time, consider getting a job as a paralegal. Many trainees are sourced from firms’ own paralegal pools. Getting a paralegal job is a great way to experience life in a law firm and is also a good way to find out what type of work you might be given as a trainee solicitor at the firm. And if you make a good impression, your supervisor and other colleagues may be able to put in a good word for you if you decide to apply for a training contract. Some firms will even allow you to skip the first stage of the application process which external candidates will always have to undergo. To top it off, you’ll be earning money and gaining experience while you apply!
Read training contract guides, such as The Lex 100
Publications such as The Lex 100 work closely with the UK’s top law firms and are packed full of advice from recruiters and trainees themselves. Take advantage of the resources available to you to perfect your application and interview technique.