What makes a good training contract application?
You may be in the process of applying for a training contract, and are probably eager to know what you can do to ensure your application is successful. Law firms often get hundreds, or even thousands, of applications each year for just a couple of places, so you must make yourself stand out from the crowd. Here are a few tips for you to do just that.
Before you apply for a training contract
Even before you start your application, make sure you know what you want to get out of the experience. Make sure you know where in the country you want to work, what area of law you are most interested in, and which law firms you want to apply to.
There’s nothing worse than putting in all the hard work and effort to secure a training contract, and then discovering that you are better suited to another area of law. Furthermore, if you are genuinely interested in a firm, your enthusiasm and interest will be clear in your application. Once you find a few firms you are particularly interested in working with, make sure you follow them on social media or sign up to their Google alerts, to keep up to date with their work.
While you’re doing this, keep working hard at university and achieve good results in all of your modules. Law firms see the final results for all of your modules (even the ones you don’t think matter) and a low grade may be what makes you lose out on your dream training contract.
“Why do you want to be a lawyer at our firm?”
This question may appear on your training contract application, and it’s important that you answer it well. Firstly, it’s vital that you highlight why you want to be a lawyer in the first place. Try to avoid generic statements such as “I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was four.” It’s false and appears frequently.
The best responses have an interesting story that makes the candidate stand out. Consider if you have had any personal involvement with the law - perhaps a family member sought advice from a personal injury lawyer or a commercial lawyer gave a talk to your sixth form. With regards to why you want to work for the firm, ensure your application is tailored to each specific firm you are applying to. It’s a good idea to mention specific initiatives the firm has carried out or companies they have worked with.
Commercial awareness questions
Commercial awareness is a vital part of any training contract and involves staying informed about developments in the commercial sector. Don’t worry if you haven’t studied law - just ensure you have a good overview of what is going on. A good way to expand your knowledge is to read the news and keep up-to-date with how legislation is evolving.
Many training contract applications ask about a recent news story that has particularly interested you, so ensure you regularly read the news to find topics that interest you and that you can research further. One thing that’s important is to avoid talking about stories you hear all the time (Brexit, COVID-19) and instead go beyond the headlines.
While you may be focused on the career side of the application, don’t neglect your academics. If you have qualifications from abroad, make sure you include an explanations of your grades and an equivalent (for example, if your grades were equivalent to an A* or whether they were similar to A Levels or GCSEs).
Make sure your grades match the minimum requirements of the firm. Don’t apply to a firm that requires a 2:1, if you have a 2:2. Given that many firms have stringent academic requirements, you may feel tempted to lie. Whether the lie is about your overall university grade or your GCSE History, avoid it at all costs. When the firm finds out, it will be incredibly unlikely that you will get an offer and you may even have one rescinded.
However, if your low grades were due to extenuating circumstances, be sure to mention this in your application and provide plenty of detail. In addition, one thing many applicants forget is to talk about extracurricular activities, even if you think they are irrelevant. Be sure to link these experiences to your application- for example how being events manager of the first aid society taught you how to manage time wisely and stay calm under pressure.
Last minute checks
Before you send off your application, be sure to proofread and get someone else to review it. Ensure everything is spelt correctly and all your grammar and punctuation are correct. Make sure you stick to the word count and try to avoid using long, complicated words that you wouldn’t usually use. Furthermore, being punctual is key. Start the application early. Some firms even assess applications on a rolling basis. This means that even if you apply before the deadline, if other people applied before you, many of the spaces on the next stage of the application process could be filled. Thus, it is in your best interests to submit your application as soon as possible.
Hopefully you find this advice helpful, and best of luck on your application.