What's behind a successful Ashurst application? A convincing covering letter

'We ask for a covering letter so candidates don’t have to shoehorn things they want to tell us about into set questions.'

The emphasis of the online application for a training contract or vacation scheme at Ashurst is on a 1,000-word covering letter, addressed to the firm’s graduate recruitment partner. Although there are set boxes for candidates to list work experience and academic results, it is the covering letter that allows to you to stand out from other candidates, who also have the stellar academics and work experience needed to get a place at the firm. In requesting a covering letter, the firm is assessing how you write, how you structure your reasons for applying and why you’d be an outstanding trainee outside the constraints of the application form, explains the firm's graduate recruitment team. ‘We also ask for a covering letter so candidates don’t have to shoehorn things they want to tell us about into set questions,’ says the graduate recruitment and development officer at Ashurst.

Make sure you meet Ashurst’s expectations in your covering letter

You can find four application hints and tips on Ashurst’s website – they are there for a reason, so ask yourself whether you have paid attention to each piece of advice before you submit your application. One of the tips tells you that the covering letter format tests whether ’you can express yourself simply and clearly. Lawyers are meticulous and accurate and, if your form isn't, you're unlikely to be invited to interview.' The firm’s recruiters go on to advise you to avoid being ‘overly wordy, formal or over-familiar’. Why is this important to the firm? From your early days as a trainee solicitor, you will be expected to communicate clearly and professionally with other lawyers and, crucially, with clients. They want to see evidence in your covering letter that you have the potential to write succinctly and achieve the right professional tone. You are told who to address the covering letter to, so stay clear of ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, which is overly formal and shows you haven’t paid attention to the instructions on the application form. Equally, addressing the graduate recruitment partner by his first name is overly familiar. For more help on the tone and structure of covering letters, read our law covering letter advice article.

Get to know the firm 

One of the firm’s hints and tips is to ‘get to know us (if you haven't already) by reading through our website and talking to some people who work here’. Vacation scheme experience, both with the firm, is useful for getting to know a firm – as are open days, campus events and presentations, and any interaction with firm’s representatives at law fairs or careers service workshops. ‘Remember the recruiter or trainees’ names at a law fair or workshop and mention that conversation in your application,’ suggests the recruiter. ‘A good candidate will ideally have chatted to us at our stand at a university law fair, and/or attended one of our workshops. The more contact you've had with a particular firm, the more you will understand it and your application should be stronger as a result.’ If you have carried out a vac scheme with the firm, what was it that made you want to build your career there? Are you attracted to the practice areas? The culture? The clients? If you've carried out vacation placements at other firms, what was it about those experiences that made you decide that you’re better suited to this firm?

Think ahead to the interview

The firm’s hints and tips on its website reminds you to use the covering 'letter to shape your interview’. Ashurst's recruiters will have studied your application before an interview so make sure you are comfortable being quizzed on anything you put into the covering letter; feel confident that those examples will continue to show your skills and knowledge in the best light at interview.

Make the most of the firm’s additional online help before completing your application

The graduate recruitment team have let us know that they use the firm’s Facebook page to post additional advice on applications, as well as insights into their practice areas, so make sure you monitor their social media pages to improve your application chances.

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