What are law firms looking for in a training contract applicant?
The recruitment process for training contracts can be a competitive one. Over the 2017/18 academic year, 7348 graduates completed the LPC, a number that outstrips the number of places available on training contracts with only around a 2% success rate in applications.
In order to secure a placement at the law firm you’re interested in, you’ll need to stand out from a crowded field, whether that’s in your application form or at the interview stage. Here are a few key aspects that recruiters look out for when sifting through applications.
Showing an astute understanding of the factors that affect the areas the firm works with is a great way of scoring points in the application process. For this, you’ll need to do thorough research, looking at a range of elements that can legally affect the way a business is run, from current affairs to the latest legislation - keeping abreast of all of this is known as commercial awareness.
An effective way of carrying out your research in order to build up your commercial awareness is to work through the PESTLE formula - to find out more about the different factors involved in this method, you can check out our article on how you can use this formula.
For a more general way of keeping your commercial awareness up, you could read a newspaper’s business section, or more specifically the Financial Times.
Attention to detail
When filling out your application, it’s important to triple-check for any spelling or grammar mistakes, as any slip up can cost you dearly. Having an eye for detail is a crucial skill as a solicitor, and recruiters will be quick to discard your application if they pick up on any mistakes on your copy.
Detail is also important in the way you tailor your application to the specific company. If you can show that you’ve done your research on the practice areas of the firm and on any significant cases it’s worked on, it will show a genuine interest in working for them. They will also look for any understanding you have of what their particular training placement consists of, and what aspects interest you specifically, such as a mentorship programme.
A good communicator
Being able to clearly get your points across is also an important skill that law firms look for in a candidate. With writing a central part of the role - from legal drafts to research and case notes - you should make sure that what you write in your application is clear and coherent.
There’s no need to write long and convoluted sentences filled with legal jargon; it’s best to keep it simple. A team player In your application, you might be asked to highlight a time when you’ve needed to work in a group to complete a task.
This is invariably an opportunity to talk about some of the work experience you’ve accrued over the years, legal or otherwise, and will show to the person going over your application that you’re open to input from others and are looking to take on new information when working on different projects.
Do I need to have a law degree?
Having a law degree is not a prerequisite for moving on to a training contract, although you will have to complete a year-long conversion course - from autumn 2021, this will be covered by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). Many firms will look to take on law graduates who have taken part in their vacation schemes, but they will also try to recruit from different academic backgrounds in order to obtain a diverse range of expertise in various fields.
Where can I find out more about training contracts?
For more information and the latest opportunities for training contracts, you can check out our law jobs hub now.