How to get a Training Contract: Part 2 – The Dreaded Application

When applying for training contracts, I would definitely always advise applying for a vacation scheme at the same time. Most firms offer vacation schemes during the summer and they involve you spending a week with the firm. This gives you a really good opportunity not only to get to know the firm, but also to really demonstrate your abilities to them. Also, lots of firms recruit predominantly from their vacation schemes and so it’s definitely a good opportunity to take. I also did a mini-pupilage at a barrister’s chambers. I found it was really useful to get a contrast and find out where it is that you fit in and what you want to do.

For simplicity, I have split this blog into three installations; Part 1 – ‘Before you apply’, Part 2 – ‘The Dreaded Application’ and Part 3 – ‘The Interview’.

Don’t make too many applications – this is a matter of opinion and people give differing advice on this but I would advise not to. I can remember how arduous a task filling out applications is but remember that it takes a long time to fill in any application form well. If you are getting through them too quickly it may mean that you aren’t doing it to a good enough standard and it is far better to do a few applications really well than to do lots quickly. I do know from experience that if you are a law student, you are incredibly busy as it is, but it really does pay off to put that extra time in.

Also remember that firms like you to be interested in them – although I know it is really tempting to copy and paste, it is a dangerous approach to completing applications. Lots of the questions are very similar, but with small (and crucial) differences and you run the risk of not answering what they want you to if you go for generic answers across the board. It will appear that you aren’t really interested in the firm in question. Try to make the application specific to the firm. (i.e. impressed with their client base, include names of clients etc.)

In that vein, don’t be tempted to apply to a broad spectrum of firms. If you apply to lots of different firms at all ends of the country it will be really hard to convince them at interview that you are specifically interested in them and serious about working in that region. Remember that you are likely to be asked at interview where else you have applied. Consider the financial investment that firms make in training people. They want to know that you see a future working with them and that you are worth investing in for the long term.

In terms of tips for the content of application forms, I would suggest starting by making a list of all of the skills that a firm is likely to want you to demonstrate, for example; ability to work well in a team, time management, effective communication skills, good organisational skills, integrity, ability to talk someone round to your point of view. An enthusiasm for law, but also for life in general. Lots of firms will tell you what they are looking for in people. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, but also try not to come across as being too cocky – once again it is about finding the right balance.

Once you have filled in your forms –

  • Use the careers service – they are invaluable – they will check your form and suggest ways to improve on it.
  • Get someone to proof read for mistakes. An application with errors on is very likely to be rejected. It is very easy to proof read your own work and not see your mistakes. You don’t need someone with knowledge of law to do this If you don’t want someone else to proof read your application, then leave your form for 24 hours and then come back with fresh eyes to check it before sending. This is SO IMPORTANT – you don’t want to be out at the first hurdle just because of some silly typos.
  • Submit your application in plenty of time – submitting on/just before the deadline doesn’t look good as it will seem like you have rushed it, or that the firm in question is a last minute option.