When writing about your work experience, give your application a slimming down and cut out irrelevant or unnecessary generic clichés such as ‘passionate’ and ‘motivated’ that are hugely overused and don’t tell anything to the recruiters.
Tighten up your writing and answer the question directly. Make sure your answers are tailored to the particular section of the application. This means no cutting and pasting and no repetition. Don’t just give a replica of your job description, state precisely what you have contributed to and learned and explain how it helped you develop skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, leadership and commitment. Moreover, avoid overly flowery language that doesn’t showcase your skills. It’s always a great idea to abide by George Orwell’s rule to ‘Never use a long word where a short one will do’.
Also, know what to leave out. If there’s not enough space to list all of your previous experience under the “activities, interests and positions of responsibility” question, lead with what’s most relevant to City lawyers.
There is no denying that securing a vacation scheme can be extremely hard. You may be tempted to apply for as many law firms as possible as to increase your chances in hope to make it to the interview. While a scattergun approach to applications has been proven to work for some, if you try to apply for too many firms, you may risk spreading yourself too thinly.
Jane Croft-Baker, a graduate recruitment specialist from Clifford Chance said the main reasons applications are rejected is because candidates haven’t taken the time to sell themselves properly. Yes, it’s going to be time-consuming and take energy but if you’re rushing through the process, most firms will easily pick up on this.
Equally, it is not wise to put all of your eggs in one basket and only apply to one or two firms, hoping that you’ll be the lucky one. Aim for 6-8 firms and do extensive research beforehand. Take your time drafting your application meticulously and tailor your answers specifically as this will help you stand out from the crowd.
Competition is fierce and it is likely that you will receive some rejection letters. But don’t be disheartened! Even the best candidates do not always get a placement in the firm they hoped for.
Having a vacation scheme may be winning ‘half the battle’ to securing a training contract and starting a career as an aspiring solicitor. But don’t despair if you haven’t secured one yet. Some law firms do take on graduates who have not done a vacation scheme, which suggests that it is not the end of the world if you fail to secure one. The most important thing is keep looking, keep applying and you’ll reap the rewards. Maybe think of looking into high street firms and don’t be under the illusion that high streets are a place for City rejects. Having good academic grades is still important but at this early stage of being a solicitor, you want to get as much work experience to bolster your skills and CV as possible. Consider broadening your search criteria too, which will introduce new firms into the mix, thereby increasing your chance of vacation scheme success.
The takeaway message is that you don’t necessarily need to have a formal vacation scheme to secure a training contract. There are often more training contracts available than places on vacation schemes too. Also, don’t be opposed to applying for other legal work experience, which can be very useful in demonstrating your commercial awareness. Legal experience such as pro bono work for the Citizens Advice Bureau, time at local law centres or experience at businesses akin to the type of law you wish to practice are all good ideas. They will help to show your commitment and perseverance, which will in turn increase your chances of success.
The most important thing of all is to never give up! Securing your dream vacation scheme experience is possible and it is paramount that you believe in your ability to achieve success.
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