Going beyond the call of duty: what Baker McKenzie look for in a training contract application
Key things to remember
Apply well before the deadline, to allow for technical glitches or surprises. Also, the firm recruit on a rolling basis - increase your chances by getting your application in early.
The number one thing to remember when writing your application is that Baker McKenzie is a commercial law firm. The form asks specifically about your interest in commercial areas of practice, so keep things as relevant as possible. It’s okay to have an interest in non-commercial areas of law, such as family law, but don’t let it seem like you’d prefer to work in practice areas usually covered by smaller firms. Baker McKenzie’s website makes it very clear that the firm is well informed about the global economy, so you need to show that you are too.
Filling in the Baker McKenzie application form
Covering letter (word count: 750 words max)
Unlike in many other law firm applications, candidates are required to produce a covering letter as well as answer a series of questions.
The covering letter asks for:
- Reasons why you are interested in becoming a commercial solicitor.
- Reasons why you have applied to Baker McKenzie.
- What three skills you possess that demonstrate you are suited to the role of a trainee solicitor.
Point of the question: assesses what drives you, your knowledge about the role of a trainee solicitor, understanding of the firm and training programme, self-awareness, and your ability to communicate concisely and focus on the most relevant points.
- Talk about your interest in law in general – the word ‘commercial’ is there for a reason.
- Say that you’ve been following the impact of Brexit if you’ve only been reading about it at a superficial level; being aware of it isn’t enough, you need to have carefully considered the implications for the legal profession and, particularly, for Baker McKenzie and its clients. You’ll probably have to elaborate on your opinions at interview.
- Talk about all of your interests, activities and responsibilities here – this is the chance to do that in another section of the form.
- Stick to the word limit (750 words maximum). Baker McKenzie want to see that you can follow instructions and write concisely. Any extra words will be lost upon saving your application.
- Think about Baker McKenzie’s culture and values and how they relate to you. For example, the firm makes a point of conducting pro bono work on a regular basis; is this something you’ve done and want to continue doing? (But be aware that all law firms exist to make a profit, so pro bono should come across as just one aspect of your interest in the firm).
- Consider what you want from your working environment and think about how Baker McKenzie could provide this.
- Talk about the nature of the training programme and which aspects of this appeal to you and why. For example, how will the seat rotation scheme affect your development? How would a seat in dispute resolution benefit you?
- Emphasise any experience you’ve had in a law or commercial environment – work experience, a part-time job or open days for example.
- Have a thorough look at Baker McKenzie’s website and read through some of their latest deals. Think about why this sort of work appeals to you.
- Talk about any particular commercial law cases or developments (particularly involving Baker McKenzie) that have caught your attention recently and explain specifically why they interest you. Don’t mention anything you don’t feel comfortable discussing and explaining in-depth, though.
Filling in the activities and interests section of the Baker McKenzie application form
There are four questions in this section. Note the different word counts:
- 'Baker McKenzie place great value on diversity and inclusion. Please outline how you would apply the principles of diversity and inclusion in your role, drawing on any initiatives that you may have been involved in. (250 words max)*'
- 'Excluding work experience, please detail all the events you have attended/organised which demonstrate your commitment to increasing your understanding of a career as a solicitor. (250 words max)*'
- 'Please give an example of where you feel you have gone above and beyond the expected level of service with a customer or client? Or alternatively where you have received outstanding service. What makes you feel this was beyond the expected level? (300 words max)*'
- 'Please detail all your key achievements and interests to date. Use this section to tell us about any academic prizes, events, societies or roles with community programmes that you feel are significant in supporting your application. (300 words max)*'
Point of the questions: assesses experience, self-awareness, commitment to law and commercial law, ability to communicate well, ability to write succinctly, and whether you’re a good fit for the firm in general.
- Repeat too much of what you said in the covering letter.
- Choose vague examples that could be true of any graduate – instead, emphasise the things that make you stand out. For example, many aspiring lawyers will have an interest in debating, so if you do put this as an interest pick out something about it that makes you stand out; highlight if you’ve won any mooting competitions or been president of a debating society.
- Try to find an example that can be related to the competencies needed to be a good solicitor. For example, the firm wants to see that you’re able to build relationships with clients. Have you had a part-time job or role where you had to provide a service? Have you taken part in an extracurricular team activity? Talk about your duties in the role, and a bit about what you learned.
- Show that you’ve done something with your interests. A lot of candidates may write that they’re a member of a sports club, but a candidate will only stand out if they can demonstrate that they did something productive with this – such as organising specific tournaments or recruiting good quality members.
- Include interests that aren’t specifically related to law – the employer wants to see that you’re an interesting all-rounder.
- Think about the firm’s culture and values and try to show that your activities and interests fit in with these. For example, Baker McKenzie have won awards for their social mobility, inclusion and diversity; if you’ve done voluntary work that shows you're also committed to those values, this may give you an edge at the firm.
- Mention any part-time jobs you’ve taken on to help fund your studies – you might not think they’re impressive, but this shows commercial awareness, tim management and responsibility.
- Baker McKenzie are looking for intellect and initiative – highlight any occasions when you have gone beyond the call of duty; did you successfully overhaul your student paper or introduce a new policy to your student committee, for example?