Firstly, let’s talk about how I developed my commercial awareness whilst studying. The most efficient way I built my commercial awareness without it eating into my studying time was by spending 30 minutes to 1 hour a day doing this. I did this whenever I had some free time, and, alternatively, I also spread this time out throughout the day.
As you will find in my other blogs, you can build your commercial awareness by reading, but if you are short on time you can listen to a podcast or watch a video on the go. I would try to listen to podcasts whilst I was getting ready to go to university in the morning. I also found it most convenient having news apps on my phone, because it allowed me to read articles here and there no matter where I was.
By building my commercial awareness on a daily basis, it made it easier when I would make applications. Instead of scrambling for what to talk about, I would just draw from my previous drafts and bank of information. When you know what law firm(s) you want to apply for, you can use that commercial awareness slot and alternate between researching general commercial affairs and specific law firm information/news.
The best way I prepared myself was by accessing the application way in advance to when I actually wanted to apply. For example, if an application was open from September and closed in December, I would make sure to have accessed/checked through it in September.
By checking out the application ahead of actually applying, it gave me more than enough time to start thinking about what I wanted to write and also allowed me to complete parts of the application here and there – in between my school work. Then, on the day of submitting the application, I would just be doing some final editing – not composing any (new) answers.
What was most efficient for me was accessing the application and copying and pasting the application questions into a Word document. This allowed me to refine my draft over time and get it reviewed by others. (It is best to make your application outside of the actual form so you do not risk losing your work, can properly spell check, etc). It also meant that I could draw answers from my previous applications when making new ones, instead of starting from scratch, thus saving a lot of time.
Of course, you should not completely copy your answers from one application to the other, but you will find that most law firms ask very similar questions, so you can tailor it. Similarly, with cover letters I would develop my draft on Word and then submit it on the online form once I was happy with it.
It is ideal to submit your application with, at most, a week before the deadline. This is what I always aimed to do. This meant that I could mitigate the risk of missing deadlines. It also gave me spare time if any unforeseen circumstances arose, like an essay or ‘homework’ I was behind schedule on.
When you rush an application, it creates a risk of submitting a weak one. In hindsight, I wish I had known that it was better to submit a handful of high-quality applications, as opposed to 20 ‘okay’ ones. Otherwise, you will find yourself increasingly getting rejections and having to spend more time on trying to succeed.
If you prepare and pace yourself well enough when making law applications, it will reduce instances where you are rushing last minute to complete one or don’t have enough time to complete one at all.
I remember the stress and anxiety of rushing to complete applications hours before the deadline, and on one occasion, just completely quitting the application because of how intense I was feeling. I called my friend that night and decided that the stress that would follow in the next few hours wouldn’t be worth it. Especially for an opportunity I wasn’t immensely passionate about and quickly started applying for because I had seen the deadline.
Similarly, I had been offered an interview on the date of my final exam and I decided to turn it down. I did have the option of doing the interview earlier or a little later, but I knew that I had to allocate any remaining time I had in my final term to my exam. I had already been offered a summer legal internship, so I acknowledged trying to secure this as well would’ve been great, but overkill.
There was a time in second year, where I was offered an interview for a top three magic circle law firm, and I also had two essays due in two weeks’ time. I decided to spend a whole week solely preparing for the interview, and the second week trying to complete two essays. I received a third in one of the essays, and it was obviously the worst thing I submitted. I actually had a few seconds left to submit.
In third year, I had redeemed myself and discovered a balance that worked for me, that leaned way more in favour of my studies. I also learnt that I only needed 30 minutes – 1 hour a day preparing for interviews, and anything else I tried to previously do was ineffective overkill. (Read on to find out how to prepare for interviews).
My most successful applications, including the ones where I received offers, were submitted during times where I had made only a handful of applications, and didn’t neglect my studies.
Also, spreading your application drafting over a period of weeks gives you time to repeatedly refine your draft and apply any new tips you may learn along the way. It also gives you a good amount of time to get your draft approved and make changes to a standard that you are happy with.
In terms of scheduling your student and career life, it is best to make applications when you are most free. For example:
If you have been invited to complete an interview/assessment, you can use your law application time to prepare for it instead – it is not advisable to add on more hours onto the application time you already do.
You can also tailor your commercial awareness time to help you prepare for that aspect of your interview. During times where you are preparing for an interview/assessment, you can vary/switch up your schedule and spend 1 hour a day preparing, instead of a few hours on Wednesday and Friday – for example.
Being flexible and pragmatic with your time is great but that should not entail increasing your workload and over-exerting yourself. It is natural to feel pressured, but you will know you have created an efficient system when you don’t have to rush things or make any overwhelming/drastic changes.
Finally, make sure you are giving yourself time to also relax and recuperate.
For more tips, you can check out my personal blog site. Here is my blog on how to avoid burnout and when to take a break from applications
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