The two application questions Ashurst uses to test your commercial awareness

The firm is interested to see a consistency of approach in the choice of firms you’ve applied to – either in size of firm, location or practice area.

The Ashurst application form for training contracts and vacation schemes asks you two specific questions, as well as stipulating that you upload a covering letter, work experience details and academic results. In the application form questions, as in the covering letter, Ashurst’s HR team are testing your ability to write clearly and convincingly – but this time to a shorter word count. Make sure you also read our advice on tackling a covering letter to Ashurst.

Ashurst application question: How is the legal landscape changing and what are the challenges facing Ashurst? (250 words max)

Here, you are being tested on:

  • your commercial awareness – what has been happening in the legal world and how is it relevant to Ashurst? Don’t be tempted to just look at stories and trends from the last few months but aim to show a prolonged interest in legal news. Legal aid cuts have been big news in the last three years but are unlikely to impact City law firms such as Ashurst. The effect of emerging economies on commercial law firms’ businesses, however, is relevant. Read our popular commercial awareness article for advice from recruiters and trainees on how to demonstrate your commercial awareness. As one trainee points out: ‘Looking back to the application process, I wish I'd had a better understanding of how law firms operate as a business and what’s important to them, aside from providing advice to the clients. As with any other business, a law firm needs to keep a careful eye on the bottom line, its profitability and cash flow. Recruiters are keen to hear an appreciation of that from candidates.’
  • your ability to connect those changes to the law firm’s business. You might want to consider the increasing global nature of the firm’s business. How has this affected the firm’s strategy around opening overseas offices? Where has Ashurst opened new offices in the last two years?  What do you think the firm is hoping to achieve by those moves? 
  • your research on the firm’s practice areas. Ashurst has a particularly strong banking and finance practice for a firm of its size. How have post-credit-crisis banking practices affected the firm? 
  • your talent for constructing an argument and persuading your reader in 250 words.

Ashurst application question: How is Ashurst different to the other firms you have applied to? (250 words max)

The firm is interested to see, firstly, a consistency of approach in the choice of firms you’ve applied to – either in size of firm, location or practice area. A candidate who has applied to a mix of national, regional, US, magic circle and City law firms does not convey a focused career plan. Secondly, the reader wants to know how Ashurst stands out in your list; make sure you demonstrate the research you’ve carried out on the firm here. When we interviewed ex-Ashurst recruiter Amelia Scott for our ‘Five minutes with…’ series, she emphasised that Ashurst recruiters ‘want to be made to feel special; in-depth research about the firm – far beyond the highlights gained from a ten-minute Google search – really tells me that the candidate wants to work here. Follow a deal in the press over a significant period of time, for instance; this suggests that you have been keen on us for a while, rather than just before making your application.’

So what from your research makes Ashurst stand out for you as a great place to complete your training contract? Is it the clients that Ashurst serve? Is it the firm’s expertise in banking and finance? Is it the profile of the partners that you’ll be working with? Is it the choice and training you’ll receive on rotation? Or is it something else that you’ve identified as important?

Remember that a good answer to this question indicates that you have a desire to work for a City firm and that you genuinely want that firm to be Ashurst. Your desire should be backed up by specific reasons and knowledge about the firm.

Remember the word count

Make sure you stick to the word count the firm has stipulated on both questions – it’s there for a reason. Don’t over-write, as that could suggest that you can’t follow instructions. However, don’t under-write either – you could be missing an opportunity to sell yourself. Like the covering letter, Ashurst is looking for polished written skills in these two additional questions.

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