So you’ve decided you want to become a solicitor but where do you start with the application process?
Training contract application form?
The dreaded application forms, so many and so little time! One thing I learnt in my experience of applying for training contracts – only apply to those you genuinely want to train at.
If you want a good work life balance don’t waste time applying to the Magic Circle firms. If you want to be working on share purchase agreements for household names perhaps the small high street firm isn’t for you. Think about what you want from a firm then do your research to find the firms that offer that and apply accordingly. Whilst making more applications could give you more opportunity of getting a yes, you are at danger of spreading yourself too thinly or ending up a firm not right for you.
Spend quality time on each application and tailor your answer to each question, don’t cut and paste generic answers, as much as you may think it’s not, it is VERY obvious. Also stating why you want to work for Addleshaw Goddard is all very well and good but probably won’t go down too well on an application to Slaughter and May. Set aside time for making applications and don’t leave it to the last minute. Most forms can be saved so don’t feel you have to do it all in one go.
Preparing for interviews
So you were successful at the first stage, great stuff! Now what?
The more work you put in now, the less stressful the interview will be. You’re likely to have a few weeks before the interview, make use of them! Interviews will usually consist of a short chat, competency based questions and a short presentation by you. Having to present has always brought me out in a cold sweat; I hated presenting and thought I’d be fine when I went into the interview… WRONG! My first presentation was more cringe-worthy than I care to recall but one thing I learnt is to work on your weaknesses beforehand. If presentations scare you, rehearse, rehearse again and then rehearse some more.
After the experience of my first presentation, when I next had to present nobody was safe, be they boyfriend, colleague or cat, if they stood still long enough, I presented to them. It felt silly, but it worked. I grew more familiar with my content and more comfortable speaking out loud.
Whilst the questions you may be asked are endless, they all seek to discover what you’re good at. I struggled with this initially and felt like I was blowing my own trumpet, but a firm invests a lot of money in a trainee and you have to convince them that you’re the ideal candidate, there will need to be a certain amount of blowing of your trumpet!
Sit down, look at the firm’s website or check them out on AllAboutLaw.co.uk. What skills are they looking for? Grab a sheet of paper, write them down and also note how you’ve demonstrated those skills in the past. It’s best to use different examples too, from work experience to academic achievements to sporting success.
Ah, the assessment centre. It’s akin to an episode of Art Attack in some ways, making giraffes out of paper and skyscrapers from spaghetti – no really!
Some firms prefer to herd all their candidates together and see how they cope throughout various exercises. There are team exercises, an interview, presentations and an ‘informal’ lunch.
I found the day helpful in two ways. Firstly, I got to see who I was up against. Some had an attitude as stiff as a board, silent and in the corner. However, most of the candidates were of such a high calibre and I realised why I had received so many rejections… the competition was tough!
Secondly, the feedback was really detailed, I was told that my presentation was fantastic (victory dance), and I was made aware of things I could tweak, so my hard work had paid off and I could use this experience to further improve.
Dealing with rejection
The first time you receive that letter, you know – ‘thanks but no thanks’ – it gets you right there, it’s personal and you’re obviously not good enough. WRONG!
Any rejection is tough but use it to your advantage. Find out why your application wasn’t taken further and work on the feedback. As cliché as it may sound use each rejection to make your next application stronger.
Hundreds of budding lawyers apply for each position so don’t take the rejection personally. Just keep at it! You will get tired of the whole process and wonder if you’ll ever land the Holy Grail that is a training contract but persevere.
I kept all my rejection letters (there’s quite a few), and when September 1 came and I started my training contract, I thoroughly enjoyed ripping each and every one of them to tiny pieces!