How to get ahead and secure a training contract in your first year

It’s now more important than ever to get hands-on experience at the start of your undergraduate degree, and Clifford Chance has the perfect opportunity for you to do so.

  • Last updated Nov 26, 2020 10:24:30 AM
  • By Raphael Jucobin
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It’s common knowledge that breaking into the legal industry isn’t a piece of cake – you’ll no doubt have heard about the cut-throat competition for securing vacation schemes and training contracts once you reach your second year. Opportunities could also become more competitive as the long-term effects of Covid-19 become clear. 

This means that it’s now more important than ever to get hands-on experience at the start of your undergraduate degree, so that you can stand out further down the line in what will undoubtedly be a competitive market. Students who have shown a willingness to invest in their future early on will invariably have a higher chance of securing training contracts on graduating – or perhaps even before.

Clifford Chance’s multi-award winning SPARK programme will provide you with an insight into one of the most prestigious commercial law firms in your first year at university, all the while giving you the opportunity to earn a training contract and improve your career prospects as you look ahead to your career after graduation. 

What does SPARK consist of?

You’ll be plunged right into the heart of the firm in a five-day placement that will see you further your knowledge through interactive classroom learning – whether that’s in the all-important commercial awareness or in the variety of sectors of law the firm operates in. You will then be able to put that knowledge into practice, as you spend time with lawyers working in a range of practice areas.

This is a rare opportunity for someone right at the start of their education to experience the fact-paced and challenging environment of the legal industry. Over the course of the week-long placement, you’ll be able to develop skills such as problem solving and communication skills, as well as the necessary insight to understand legal and business decisions.

What are the benefits of the SPARK programme?

As well as undergoing a practical experience in your first year with one of the major players in law, Clifford Chance’s SPARK placement puts you in the running for one of the more coveted training contracts in the industry.

What’s more, you’ll be paid a £450 per week salary (thank you very much!) and there will be a range of opportunities for networking, as you’ll come across key figures from across the firm’s departments. Not only will you be able to build your peer and professional networks, but you’ll also be able learn more about a range of practice areas as you shadow a host of legal professionals.

What happens at the end of the placement?

After the scheme ends, the very best candidates are invited to apply for a place on a bespoke SPARK Training Contract assessment day. If you're successful, you would be wrong to think you won't hear from the firm again until you graduate! 

As a future trainee, the firm will have an active interest in your professional development, with schemes such as a two-year trainee buddy programme, invitations to exclusive events, and the opportunity to undertake paid summer internships throughout your degree through Clifford Chance's award-winning LIFT programme! 

Even if you are not offered a place on an assessment day, SPARK gives you the opportunity to take your first steps in the legal world at a firm with international stature. Gaining work experience at Clifford Chance, one of the top City firms in corporate law, is bound to stand out on any CV. 

"Our SPARK programme is designed to kick-start your career”, explains Yasmina Kone, Graduate Recruitment Specialist at Clifford Chance. “We recognise the importance of providing meaningful work experience opportunities early on in your studies, and giving you the tools to build the foundations for a successful career."

It’s a unique chance to get ahead of the pack early on in your studies by securing the all-important training contract, as well as being an experience you can use alongside your studies – whether that’s in law or in another subject – to prepare for a future career. 

When does the programme take place?

The SPARK programme will take place in two separate sessions, which will be held next summer – the first from June 21 to 25, and the second from July 12 to 16. You’ll need to be in your first year of higher education, and the opportunity is open to both law and non-law students alike.

How do I apply?

Applications are open now, with the deadline on December 10. You’ll first need to fill out an online form, after which you will be sent a critical reasoning test should you fall into the target groups – that's if you are in your first year of a three year degree or second year of a four year degree. Once you’ve passed these stages, your application will be screened by the graduate recruitment team and successful candidates will be invited to a virtual assessment day taking place between January 18 and 25. This will comprise of a written exercise and a 75 minute commercial interview with a Partner and Associate.

If you’re a high achiever with an interest in carving out a career as a legal professional after your studies, this programme could very well be your way into the industry.

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