How to research training contract applications
Every law firm you apply to for a trainee solicitors job will have a different recruitment or application process. The key is to understand the firm you are targeting and tailor your application accordingly, using your work experience, academic achievements and extra-curricular activities to show how well suited you are to the job on offer. It's important to consider what recruiters are really looking for in applications and how to make sure you give it to them.
‘Someone who has done their research on the firm and the 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 the firm – it shows that you really are interested in us.’
Researching law firms for training contract applications
Before making your training contract applications, it’s essential that you thoroughly research each law firm you might want to work for. Firstly, think about the specific area of law you’re interested in (such as tax or personal injury) as well as the location where you’d ideally be based. Once you’ve narrowed these aspects down, you need to do some extensive reading around each firm that you're applying for. There are two benefits to proper research: firstly, the information about salaries, the working culture and the structure of the training programme will help you determine whether you would actually enjoy working at the firm. Secondly, the more you know about the firm, the easier it will be to put together a tailored (and therefore more impressive) application.
Thorough research is the key to a good application – you’ll need to be able to express why that particular organisation appeals to you and convince recruiters that you're making an informed decision. TARGETjobs has compiled information about law firms’ salaries, working cultures, training programmes and application processes as part of our Employer Hubs. You’ll also find advice from our law experts about how to answer specific application form questions and tackle firms’ interviews and assessment centres, plus Inside Buzz reviews from current trainees.
Research recent cases and link them to your skills and competencies
It’s a good idea to regularly check the news sections on the websites of the firms you’re applying to. These will help you to find out about the cases that the firm is currently working on – you don’t need to learn every last fact and statistic, but with every case you come across take a few minutes to think about the work that would be required of the solicitors. For example, if the ‘case’ is an international transaction, the solicitors would have to liaise with parties from both of the countries involved. They would need to have strong communication skills (and perhaps even a second language) in order to do this successfully. Would you be suited to this sort of work?
Once you’ve read around a few of the firm’s cases, you should feel confident that you can bring these up in an interview. If the interviewers ask you why you want to work for them, you can give specific examples of their projects and explain how your skills would come in handy.
How to present your achievements to a law firm
Before you complete any form, consider the specific competences the employer is looking for and tailor your answers accordingly. If you are applying to a number of firms it is very tempting to cut and paste answers to similar questions. However, unless the wording is identical your response will not answer the same questions and will stand out for the wrong reasons.
You should use a range of recent examples, drawing from academia, work experience and extra-curricular activities. Structure your thoughts to include the context of the situation, your particular role, what barriers you had to overcome, what the results were and any learning points. All the information you include should be relevant, up to date, truthful, specific and concise.
Your application is all about selling yourself but don’t be tempted to exaggerate any areas. Academic grades will be checked and referees called on. Honesty is a key attribute for a lawyer.