How to answer Norton Rose Fulbright's training contract application questions

Norton Rose Fulbright is looking for evidence of a wide range of skills in your answers to its five application form questions for 2017 training contracts: commercial awareness, team working, leadership, resilience, academic excellence and self-awareness. We offer tips on answering the three toughest questions below.

It’s worth noting that all five questions in the 2015/16 form have strict word counts of 150 or 200 words max, which the firm has reduced from last year: do not exceed the word count. Norton Rose Fulbright’s graduate recruiters want to see you can follow instructions and communicate succinctly – both important skills in successful lawyers.

Describe your involvement in any extracurricular activities, including any positions of responsibility held. (150 words maximum)

How to approach this question

  • You may not have enough space to cover all your extracurricular activities in 150 words, so focus only on the examples that are most relevant to Norton Rose Fulbright and the work you will be doing there. For example, you will be obliged to complete seats in banking and corporate and, probably, an international or client secondment. Choose examples that demonstrate your commercial awareness, such as part-time jobs at big companies, or that show your enthusiasm for other cultures – Norton Rose Fulbright want candidates with a ‘global mindset’.
  • By asking specifically for positions of responsibility, Norton Rose Fulbright is looking for evidence of leadership, time management and decision-making skills. Don’t just list your positions of responsibility; describe what, for example, captaining the university hockey team involves: arranging fixtures, organising teams or boosting morale. Have you taken your team further up the league? Have you avoided relegation?
  • If you have any experience that demonstrates your enthusiasm for law, include it here. Examples could include taking cases for the Free Representation Unit (FRU), mooting, or having a role on your university law society committee. Don’t use unimpressive examples just because they’re related to law, though – saying that you signed up for the law society is not as impressive as achieving promotion in a part-time job, for example. You need to show that you’re proactive and motivated: examples where you only played a passive role are not helpful to your application.
  • If you’ve received any prizes for coming top of your cohort in, say, your first-year exams, then don’t use the limited word count mentioning them here. The firm has introduced a new section, which gives you the opportunity to tell its recruiters about such awards as well voluntary work later on in the application form.

Tell us about a project you have recently worked on as part of a team. Describe your role, the outcome, and what you learned. (150 words maximum)

How to approach this question

  • Choose a different example for this team work question and the other similar question on the 2015/16 form: ‘When have you worked under pressure? Please use a recent example to demonstrate how you overcame the challenges faced.’
  • Try to choose a relatively recent example, as requested in the question – if your best teamwork example is from school, the recruiters could infer that you haven’t been team-oriented as a university student.
  • Think about the business principles and values Norton Rose Fulbright details on its website: quality, unity and integrity. What role did you take on the team and how did you work with the rest of the team? How did your approach demonstrate that you share these values? How did you make sure you provided a consistently good service? Were you united? What expertise did you pick up along the way? How did your actions show that you are trustworthy and fair?
  • As Jillian Dent, trainee recruitment advisor at Norton Rose Fulbright, explains: ‘In this section we are interested in learning how effectively you work with people. Tell us not only what you learned but how this may be relevant to a future career in law.’
  • Don’t be vague or generic: use ‘I’ rather than ‘we’. Describe the role you played and how you affected the outcome.
  • Be sure to answer the second aspect of the question about describing what you learned. This is crucial – Norton Rose Fulbright wants to know that you are someone who develops over time and can analyse and improve your own performance. Did you learn something about how to ensure successful teamwork, for example? Or perhaps, despite your success, there was a hiccup along the way that could have been prevented – how would you avoid this in future?

What issue have you been following in the press and how might this affect our global practice? (200 words maximum)

How to approach this question

  • There’s no substitute for research here – reading as much as you can about Norton Rose Fulbright and its clients is the first thing you should do before you attempt to answer this question. It’s a good idea to choose an issue that involves multi-national businesses or national governments – Norton Rose Fulbright places a heavy emphasis on its international nature and expects candidates to be very enthusiastic about the international aspect of the firm’s work, so you need to demonstrate that you are capable of thinking on this sort of scale. Where are these clients based? Which key industries do they operate in and how might those industries shrink or grow in the coming years?
  • Jillian points out: ‘In this question, you should demonstrate your commercial aptitude and awareness of our business. We are looking for trainees who are business minded and can apply that knowledge to the issues affecting our practice and our clients.’
  • This question is not about flattering Norton Rose Fulbright – avoid clichéd expressions such as ‘Norton Rose Fulbright is one of the world’s biggest law firms’. Instead it tests your commercial awareness, ability to identify trends, persuasiveness, creativity and ability to recognise the needs of the client.
  • Keep up with business news by reading trade publications and quality newspapers (such as The Financial Times), and by watching business news bulletins. If something in particular sparks your interest, expand your research around that particular issue.
  • Don’t waste the word count weighing up the pros and cons of your approach, as you might in an academic essay. Rather, decide on your central idea and commit to it.
  • Be prepared to expand on your answer at interview.
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