Applying for training contracts is a difficult process. Every application requires you to invest a significant amount of your time researching and ‘getting to know the firm’ to ensure that your application stands out from the crowd. There is nothing more disheartening than hitting send on an application that you rank as one of your best, only to receive that dreaded rejection email shortly afterwards. However, it is important to remember that being unsuccessful at the first hurdle does not necessarily mean that your application was not worthy of an interview, or that you were not in fact the right fit for that firm. Leading firms receive hundreds of applications for their Vacation Schemes and Assessment Days, and inevitably good applicants can get lost in the sheer volume of the competition.
One of the most useful tips for any aspirant trainee is to be as targeted in your approach as possible, and to take the time to plan how you are going to get your name ‘in the door’ so that you are recognised by the trainee recruitment team before they read your application. There are three key opportunities and ways of doing this:
Law fairs are as useful as you choose to make them. Before attending, be sure to draw up a list of the firms that you are interested in applying to, and make sure that you speak to their representatives manning the stand.
Ask questions, be engaging and make it your personal mission for the day to have your name noted. Interpersonal skills are vital to any aspiring lawyer, and demonstrating these skills in a written application is not an easy thing to do. These initial conversations at law fairs, then, provide a great opportunity to demonstrate these skills and strengthen any future application that you might submit to that firm in the future.
Similarly to law fairs, open days provide a great opportunity to enable you to add context to your applications. Following up on those initial conversations with recruiters at law fairs by attending that firm’s upcoming open day is a brilliant way of demonstrating your interest in the firm. Open days are also a great source of information, and well directed questions and good note-taking can go a long way to ensuring that your application is dialled in to what that firm is looking for.
Finally, it is not always possible to attend a law fair or an open day. In this scenario, do not be afraid to contact the firm directly, to see if it would be possible to attend the office for an informal conversation with the trainee recruitment team to discuss the application process, training contracts and the firm more generally. This might seem daunting (and in many cases it might not be possible to arrange) but you are more likely to walk out the door in a stronger position for a training contract than you were before you entered.