What really stands out in an application form?
It takes a lot of time to get an application to the standard it needs to be to stand out. We receive over 3,000 applications a year, so it is very competitive. The stand out forms are the ones where the applicant has clearly undertaken a lot of research and tailored their application to demonstrate exactly why they are applying to Norton Rose Fulbright. We understand how long it takes to properly research and complete an application form, but it is definitely worth spending that time to ensure you give yourself the best chance of progressing to the next stage of the assessment process. It’s great to read about interactions that students have had with the firm at events as this shows pro-activity and enthusiasm to find out more information that might not be on our website. A good rule of thumb when reviewing your application is ‘if I remove the firms name and swop it for another, does it read the same?’, the answer is yes then it is too generic!
What criteria do you mark candidates against in job applications?
There are various competencies that we are assessing when screening application forms. Strong communication skills are an essential part of becoming a successful solicitor. The application form is the first opportunity we get to assess a candidates written work and we expect to see clear, concise, typo-free answers demonstrating excellent communication skills and attention to detail.
What kind of extracurricular activities really impress you on an application?
The great thing about Norton Rose Fulbright is that we have a really diverse range of people working at the firm, with various backgrounds, personalities, experiences and interests. We have no preference on what extra-curricular activities students get involved in, as long as you have passions and hobbies outside of the general university workload. We want to hire well-rounded trainees so activities demonstrating an interest in law are fantastic, but we also want to get to know you and what you enjoy doing in your free time as well.
What are the main reasons you reject a training contract or vacation scheme application?
Answers that have just been regurgitated from our graduate recruitment materials and lack any personal touches one of the main reasons. Remember, the team who are reviewing your application are the same team that created the content on the website so it’s very easy to spot! Generic answers that could be referring to any international law firm is also a common reason we reject applications. Make your application easy to read and ensure you’re making concise points that add value - there is a word limit so every word counts! Finally, spelling and grammatical errors. It’s always a good idea to check you have the right firm name and have spelt it correctly!
How can candidates get across their commercial awareness in an application?
Commercial awareness is quite tricky to demonstrate in an application form so it’s something that we test more rigorously further along in the assessment process. It’s important that candidates really understand the work we do, what we specialise in and the types of clients that we work with. A solicitor is no longer just a legal advisor but someone who is also very business-minded. You need to be aware of what is going on in the world and the impacts certain things have on the firm and our clients. We are not expecting candidates to be experts in the commercial world but a general understating and genuine interest is needed. It’s also really important to remember that in an interview you could be asked about anything on your application form, so ensure that if you mention a legal case/news story you feel comfortable talking about it in further detail.
Vacation schemes and other work experience
What do the vac schemers who go on to get a training contract at your firm do on the scheme to show they’ve got what it takes to be a successful solicitor?
A vacation scheme is a great way for students to showcase their interest and enthusiasm for the firm. We put together a packed schedule of talks, training sessions, networking opportunities and social activities, so we want the schemers to really get stuck in and say yes to all opportunities that come their way. If you’re asked if you would like to be involved in client calls or other pieces of work, say yes! It’s a great opportunity to go outside of your comfort zone and experience what it is like to work at the firm. Our most successful vacation scheme students are the ones who ask questions in sessions, successfully work to deadlines, turn up to events on time and make the most of networking opportunities.
How do you assess vacation scheme students?
Feedback on candidates from partner supervisors and other colleagues is key when we are deciding on training contract offers. Candidates take part in a group exercise which they are assessed on, and the week culminates with an interview for a training contract with two partners.
How can people make up for the fact that they haven’t done any work experience at a law firm?
Non-legal work experience is just as important. There are so many interpersonal and transferrable skills you can gain from a variety of jobs. The key is being able to demonstrate how the skills you’ve gained are relevant to the role you are applying for, and essentially, why they would make you a good solicitor.
How can somebody make the right impression at a law fair?
Law fairs are fantastic ways to speak to multiple employers all in one day, so it’s really down to the students to make the most of that opportunity. Do your research on the firms attending and decide who you want to speak to, as well as questions you want to ask. It’s a really great opportunity to gain valuable insights that may improve your application form and confirm whether Norton Rose Fulbright is the right firm for you. It’s really frustrating when students come over, take some merchandise and run!
Assessment days and interviews
What skills and competencies do you look for candidates to demonstrate on assessment days?
There are various parts to the assessment day allowing candidates to demonstrate a variety of skills. Communication, teamwork, desire to learn, resilience and time management are just some of the competencies that we are assessing. Ultimately we are looking to see how you might perform as a trainee – we are looking for potential.
Thinking about your assessment day, what skills are you looking for from the group exercise?
Communication, team working and time management are key to a successful group exercise. The group task is a great way to really understand how people like to work and it definitely highlights certain personality traits. The whole idea of a group exercise is to show that you can work with others effectively and we understand that everyone wants the chance to shine but you must respect other candidates – it’s a group effort. We are also not just looking for the loudest person in the room. The candidates who listen, encourage and suggest ideas are the ones who do well.
What’s your advice to those who don’t feel comfortable speaking up in group exercises?
We understand how nerve-wracking attending an assessment centre can be, but it’s your opportunity to show to us why you would make a fantastic future trainee. Communication is a key part of being a successful solicitor and something that will become part of your day to day job. Don’t worry about getting it wrong, or asking questions. We can only assess what we see in the exercise so it’s vital that you engage as much as you can – this will not only help you, but your teammates as well.
What kind of questions should candidates ask at interview? What shouldn’t they ask?
Use the interviews as an opportunity as ask questions that will further your understanding of the firm and influence your decision as to whether Norton Rose Fulbright is the right firm for you. Partners are looking for enthusiastic and engaging candidates who want to know more - they are not looking to be asked technical questions that have no relevance.
Law firms tell us that they try hard to encourage STEM students to apply for training contracts. The link between law and science may not be an obvious one. Why do scientists make good lawyers?
Scientists share many of the same skills and attributes that we see in lawyers. They are extremely analytical, can work with a large amount of data and are very research focused. Successful legal teams are made up of people with an array of skills – it’s great to have a range of perspectives.
How can non-law students show their commitment to a career in law when they haven’t necessarily been exposed to university law societies, law clinics and mooting events?
It’s really important that non-law students proactively engage with law societies during their time at university. Law firms generally work a lot with law societies as they are a great way to promote events and opportunities to students. First Step, our scheme for first years is a great chance for law and non-law students to come in and experience working in a law firm at an early stage.