Getting a training contract with RPC: basic questions and the application form

RPC works with some big commercial clients and there will be a lot of competition for training contracts. You’ll need to give your application more than a little TLC to get in to RPC.
All recruiters enjoy a little bit of flattery. To do it well, you will have researched the firm and know more about it than your favourite television show before you start your application.

This is intended as a guide to the basics of the RPC application form. If you want more advice on some of the trickier application questions check out our advice on answering RPC’s advanced questions and the interview stage.

Points to remember before completing RPC’s application form

  • Go online and look at RPC’s manifesto – slogans such as ‘get real’ and ‘rip up the rule book’ suggest you should talk less about your passion for obscure old legal dramas and more about current affairs, possible uses for technology in-practice and innovation in law.
  • Answers on the application form are limited to 250 words each. Make sure your answers are within the word count – a solicitor needs to convey as much information as possible as concisely as possible every day. The firm is testing your ability to communicate succinctly.
  • Graduate recruiters from RPC have said at TARGETjobs Law How to Get Hired events that they prefer candidates with at least two pieces of legal work experience – attending open days, workshops or firms’ presentations on campus all show a commitment to law.
  • Don’t forget other good examples of legal work experience, including vac schemes, mini-pupillages, work for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or experience with the Free Representation Unit (FRU).
  • You are a human being – RPC also want to know that you have a life away from law. Make the most of any extracurricular activities and part-time work. Don’t try to force a connection where there isn’t one, however. You may have done part-time work in a bar but don’t try to pass this off as legal work experience – instead focus on the people skills, resilience and time-management skills that you gained.

RPC training contract application question: what are your main interests, activities and pastimes?

You can try to list interests and personal hobbies with the goal of sounding like a multi-talented law prodigy, but you could come across as fickle and without commitment. Consider using proactive pastimes such as team sports that will demonstrate your ability to work with others. You could also use an activity that has taught you a new skill or involved a level of personal development.

Perhaps you’re an avid amateur historian and photographer? Or you’ve worked for the student newspaper? Have you ever been worried about protecting content? Intellectual property? Don’t go overboard, but any brushes you’ve had with these topics might be worth mentioning when you’re applying to a law firm with a thriving media practice. Show your workings by explaining what (positive) personality trait drove you towards these activities, what you’ve learned and how you managed your time.

RPC mentions on its website that it looks for courage and a pioneering spirit. If you have broken new ground while working on a project or a hobby, it might be worth trying to use that in an application. How did you plan for and approach the unknown? If you’ve had to overcome a serious problem personally or professionally, try to articulate the processes you went through and show RPC that you can deal with tough situations.

RPC training contract application question: state your reasons for applying to RPC

All recruiters enjoy a little bit of flattery. To do it well, you will have researched the firm and know more about it than your favourite television show before you start your application.

Actively look for cases that RPC has worked on and say why they interest you. What about the firm’s social life and culture attracts you? What about their ethics? Think about what seats you may be in on a training contract and whether you will be seconded to other offices. RPC has grown and changed significantly over the last 20 years; what about this has captured your interest – short and long term? You can also find some insights into the culture at RPC from RPC’s trainee twitter feed @lifeinalawfirm.

Know the differences between RPC and other firms. Be specific – mention names, dates and unique points of law. A quick Google search or glance at the RPC graduate website simply will not be enough to carry you through this type of question. If you’ve had the opportunity to speak to someone at RPC during a vac scheme, open day or law fair, then mentally play back your conversation and try to use it to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to name-drop anyone you’ve had a conversation with before. Recruiters remember promising students at law fairs and may have made a note of your name. It also shows good interpersonal skills on your part.

RPC training contract application question: please describe an achievement of importance to you

RPC asks on its application form for an achievement of ‘importance to you’. It’s giving you your opportunity to stand out. So whatever you do, DON’T SAY: your degree or dissertation. Every applicant will have a high level of academic achievement – you won’t stand out.

The recruiters are trying to judge your compatibility with the firm as well as your ability to measure your own success accurately. Climbing Kilimanjaro seems to have become a popular answer to achievement questions. However, all this really demonstrates is strong legs and enough money for the flight. Use the points below to help guide you:

  • Check past cases and areas of practice that RPC was involved in and see if anything triggers a memory of your own achievements which you might be able to relate back to them.
  • Think of something that you put a lot of time into and make sure that you can talk about problems and solutions that cropped up during the project. What would you do differently next time? Make sure that you can explain specifically how you personally made a difference.
  • Seek out and use the highest achievement of any longer projects and try to quantify your achievements. If you're talking about volunteer work, perhaps it would be the moment you raised enough money to meet a goal, or when you stirred your fellow group members to action and surpassed a target.
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