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A graduate researching law firms

How to research training contract applications

In order to stand out from other graduates who want to become solicitors, do a thorough job of researching law firms and tailor your training contract applications to each organisation.
'Read about the firm and mention the key things that attract you to it – it shows that you really are interested in us.'

You will need to do your research into law firms to succeed at interviews and assessment centres during the training contract recruitment process. We give you a handy list to use when researching each firm below. Most of the information can be found in a firm’s employer hub or in their Inside Buzz report– an invaluable survey of their current trainee solicitors. ‘Someone who has done their research on the firm and their career path stands out,’ explains the graduate recruitment and development manager at Mayer Brown. ‘We receive lots of generic applications from applicants who have sent blanket applications to, say, 40 City law firms, whereas I’m looking for evidence that the applicant has gone the extra mile to find out about the firm and what we do. Read about the firm and mention the key things that attract you to it – it shows that you really are interested in us.’

The law firm's background information

For the law firms that interest you, find out:

  • What areas of legal practice they cover
  • Which of those areas of law it is strongest in/known for
  • Who its clients are
  • Where its offices are
  • Who its main competitors are
  • The firm’s history and defining moments – has it merged over the years?
  • Number of partners and fee-earners
  • The diversity of its legal staff – how many of its partners are female or from an ethnic minority background
  • How, where and why it is growing
  • Big news from the last year to two years – any noteworthy cases or transactions, new offices, new clients, effects on the economy, any mergers with other law firms
  • What it offers that’s unique compared to its competitors
  • What is the culture of the firm – the Inside Buzz reports are invaluable here

The firm’s training contract structure and offering

Find out:

  • How many trainee solicitors the firm takes on each year
  • If it offers a structured four-seat rotation training contract (most firms do) or a non-rotational system such as that used at Jones Day
  • Whether it offers secondments to clients or to its overseas offices during the training contract
  • What university degree background and qualifications are required – does it have a minimum A level requirement?
  • If it will sponsor you through the legal practice course (LPC ) – and conversion course (GDL or CPE), if relevant
  • What competencies and specific skills are needed
  • What does the recruitment process involve – type of application, assessment centres, types of interviews
  • Contact details for applying
  • The training contract or vacation scheme application deadline
  • How does its trainee starting salary and pay on qualification compare to other law firms
  • Whether it offers any perks or benefits, eg gym membership, pension, bike to work scheme, retail vouchers
  • Whether trainees are given the chance to do pro bono or corporate social responsibility (CSR) work, such as volunteering at a legal centre or reading with local school children
  • What you can about the partners who’ll be interviewing you from the firm’s website or their LinkedIn profile: what area of law do they specialise in, did they train at the firm?
  • About its retention rates after qualification

The law firm’s culture and appeal

You need to:

  • Find out about the firm’s ‘core values’ and aims
  • Investigate the firm’s reputation
  • Think about how the firm likes to see itself – how does it portray itself on social media?
  • Find out if socialising among staff is encouraged, eg Friday night drinks, netball or five-a-side football teams
  • Think about how you view the organisation – what attracts you to the firm?
  • Ask yourself why working for the firm appeals
  • If you have done a vac scheme or open day at the firm, sum up what struck you about its culture, work, clients, training
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