How to make your CV and covering letter memorable to Slaughter and May
The Slaughter and May training contract and vacation scheme application forms are structured in the exact same fashion:
- Personal information
- Secondary education
- Undergraduate degree – this includes a full breakdown of your modules and marks.
- Postgraduate and additional degrees
- Language skills
- Covering letter/CV – you are only able to upload one file, so if you are submitting both a CV and covering letter they must be together as one document. Only .rtf or .pdf files are accepted. This section also requires you to upload the details of a referee.
- Equal opportunity and diversity
- Complete submission
Writing a Slaughter and May worthy CV
Training contract applicants
Structure is important – assessors may only look at your CV for 30 seconds, so every section needs to be clearly labelled and have a definitive purpose. Get to the point quickly by starting your bullets with verbs that clearly display the skills you’ve developed – ‘mediating’, ‘liaising’, ‘negotiating’, ‘analysing’, ‘chairing’, ‘researching’, ‘identifying’, and there should be more besides. Start each bullet by thinking about what knowledge or competency you want to draw out from it. By doing this you should also be able to avoid repetition.
Any legal experience or knowledge that you have is crucial – those of you who have a vacation scheme under your belts should be squeezing that lemon dry until the pips squeak. However, that may still not be enough – have you been part of your university law society committee? Have you written any law-related articles for any student, local or even national newspapers? Are there any activities or workshops that your university runs to get local schoolchildren interested in law that you’ve been a part of?
You’ll be asked for a breakdown of your modules as part of the online form, so don’t worry about breaking that down on your CV – subject and predicted grade is enough.
Vacation programme applicants
The advice for training contract applicants above remains relevant to you, but you may find that you have a heavier reliance on non-law work experience and extracurricular activities. This is no bad thing, as Slaughter and May recruiters are keen on recruiting people from different backgrounds with a variety of skills and knowledge – roughly half of the firm’s lawyers studied degrees other than law.
You will, however, still have to show that your experiences have developed skills that are relevant to becoming a trainee solicitor. Remember that the scenarios are not as important as the competencies you developed from them. A few simple examples include:
- Running a marathon – more important than running the marathon in under two hours is the work ethic and training plan you had to implement and follow. It doesn’t matter if a solicitor can run long distances, but they do need to be very driven and able to plan things out in advance.
- Starting a new society – the context of the society may be of relevance if, for example, you started a new charitable society. It could potentially tie into your application if you wanted to refer to pro bono work, but that explanation is not for your CV, it’s for your covering letter. Your CV should detail who you had to work with to get the society started, what planning and budget you had to manage, whether you had to delegate responsibilities among a team and how successful you were – how many members does the society now have? Has this grown from previous years as a direct result of your efforts? Being able to bring people on board with your ideas is a crucial skill for any aspiring solicitor.
- Running your own YouTube channel – it doesn’t matter what you do, whether it’s comedy film reviews, your own independent films made with friends or promotional material for a cause you’re interested in. What does matter is whether you appreciate the medium you’re using, and if you’re savvy enough to recognise the commercial opportunities having your own channel represents. That does not mean you need to have the aim of running the channel at profit, but there are many skills around publicity, conveying your messages, showing an authoritative voice and even appreciating the legal environment of this sort of media, eg copyright infringement laws. Just don’t reference your penchant for surfing around for cat videos in your spare time.
What to put in your Slaughter and May covering letter
Training contract applicants
Everything in your covering letter – save the niceties of any professional letter (addressed to the relevant Slaughter and May contact, introductory paragraph and sign-off) should be keenly focused on expanding the most relevant aspects of your CV – with the emphasis on expansion, not repetition. If you’re simply repeating what you’ve already said, then either the example you’ve chosen isn’t suitable or you haven’t made an appropriate link to the work you’ll be doing as a trainee solicitor.
There are many aspects that you need to consider, but Slaughter and May has made some of these very obvious:
- The rotations at Slaughter and May are structured in a particular fashion that is unique to the firm; you should therefore be able to explain why that structure suits you both in terms of where your interests lie, and how it will develop you for your future career.
- There’s plenty of information out there on the specific tasks you’ll be expected to undertake on your training contract. You should therefore be able to make clear the links between your part-time work, extracurriculars and degree to be able to confidently assert that you’ll be more than capable of fulfilling those requirements.
- International secondments are available at Slaughter and May, but don’t wax lyrical about your wish to travel far and wide. Remember that the firm is a business and, as such, secondments will be based upon business need. You language skills or familiarity with another culture will be more valuable than your desire to go jet-setting.
- Do the basics well – concentrate on making sure your answer clearly demonstrates your understanding of Slaughter and May’s business model, your responsibilities on the training contract and how you fit the bill before trying to embellish your answer with any colourful additions. Remember that Slaughter and May want a distinct set of skills first and foremost – tick those explicit boxes before trying to add a little extra.
Vacation programme applicants
Whether you’re applying for the one-week winter vacation scheme or one of the three three-week summer programmes at Slaughter and May, you will be placed with an associate and a current trainee solicitor for the duration. You must appreciate the opportunities that this will present to you, but be realistic – you’ll be involved with the associate’s work but you won’t be thrown in all guns blazing. So, what are the tasks you’ll actually be doing? Do your research, find that out and ensure your covering letter highlights those key skills.
You should additionally consider the additional elements of the work experience programme: workshops and other training as well as interactive case studies could all be present, so consider what you’ll learn from these. Find out as much as possible so that you can clearly differentiate between what Slaughter and May will be teaching you compared to another firm. If you can identify one or two workshops that really catch your eye and explain neatly how you expect to benefit from those sessions in both the short- and long-term, then it’ll be clear that you’ve decided to apply to Slaughter and May based on much more that reputation alone.