Published on April 16, 2018 by isabellaford

With all of the information that’s available on the internet, it’s easy to get caught up in what advice is genuinely good advice, and what might be a little misleading.

Therefore, we’ve compiled for you a list of tips and tricks that don’t quite do you any favours – so make sure to give these a wide berth should you read them anywhere…

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 1. Just copy and paste

Copy and pasting your application, regardless of how similar the firm is, is never a good idea.

Along with the fact that each application should be tailored specifically to the firm in question, you may well forget to change the name of the firm at least once. And just think how truly awful that would be.

Copying and pasting from the website of the law firm is another thing that graduate recruiters do not appreciate – it not only shows a lack of effort, but is easily recognisable.

It is good to keep in mind that graduate recruitment trawl through an incomprehensible number of applications; make sure that yours stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

2. It’s okay not to put down every qualification

Law firms ask for all of your qualifications to get a well-rounded view of you as an individual. Often it is tempting to leave out lower grades, especially if they are the exception rather than the rule.

However, rather than leaving them out, use the extenuating circumstances section if it applies to you. If not, consider what you have learned and how you have developed since receiving the lower grade, as this may come in handy at interview.

Please note that this includes university modules as well! I have been made aware of instances where a firm rejected a candidate for amalgamating modules to provide an average grade on the basis that it demonstrated a lack of effort and commitment.

3. Apply to as many law firms as you can

When applying to law firms, quality rather than quantity really are words to live by. You will be much better placed having sent off fewer applications that you have spent more time on than a large amount of rushed applications.

It can sometimes be hard to work out which few to select, which is why research is absolutely key. Decide which areas of law you think you may have an interest in and find firms which fit within these as a starting point.

Want to know more about the different areas of law? Take a look at our handy guides, including what sort of individuals would suit each  one!

4. Non-legal work experience is less important

Legal work experience is extremely valuable as it demonstrates your dedication and commitment to the profession. However, one should not underestimate the value of non-legal work experience as many of the skills law firms look for are gained here. Therefore, make sure to highlight these skills in the work experience section.

If you are limited with the number of work experience placements you can enter on the form, make sure to give as wide a variety as possible to allow graduate recruitment to get a better understanding of you as an individual.

5. Make sure you use sophisticated language

People often believe that everyone in the legal profession uses sophisticated and elaborate language at all times.

However, in your application, it is much better to keep your language clear, simple and concise, so that graduate recruitment can easily understand the point you are trying to make. Using sophisticated language only serves to complicate your message.

Yet, this does not mean that you should abandon your writing style. Rather, refine it so that it is continually consistent and to the point.

There’s also nothing worse than using a thesaurus to look up variations of a word, using one you’ve never heard of before, and then accidentally using it in the completely wrong context. This is more common than you’d think.

6. Don’t worry about commercial awareness

The concept of commercial awareness continues to be an elusive one. However, since you will be expected to demonstrate commercial awareness at every stage of the recruitment process, it will do you no good to ignore it.

If you are finding the concept difficult to understand, spend some time researching and make an effort to keep up-to-date with current affairs.

Find a topic that interests you and keep informed of any progressions or advancements.

Did you know: we can help with commercial awareness! Just take a look at our new blog series How to Discuss, which delves into the latest news stories and reveals the best way to broach them if asked in an interview.

7. It is important to mention all your skills

The space you have for each question is limited, and therefore you will need to select a few skills, with examples, to use for each. By insisting on mentioning all your skills, you may fail to answer the question and match your skill set with the needs of the firm.

Deciding which skills you want to highlight will largely depend on your research of the firm, from which you will develop a greater understanding of what they are looking for in a candidate.

8. The longest part should be writing your application

I have mentioned research several times already, highlighting how extremely important it is as part of the application process. The research should absolutely be the longest part of your time spent on the application.

It truly can make the difference between your application being a noteworthy one or not.

You need to demonstrate an understanding of the firm and its values, which primarily comes from having spent a large amount of time researching before you even begin to think about writing your application.

The first firm you research will always take the longest, but the process will become less complex the more you explore.

Want more help researching law firms? Take a look at our blog post 4 Essential Law Firm Research Strategies!

9. All law firms want the same thing

Of course, there are qualities that are universal. However, you would not approach applying for a Magic Circle firm in the same manner that you would a high street firm. As mentioned, targeting your application is extremely important.

Consider what experiences and skills would be best suited to the firm you are applying for, then try your best to incorporate these into your answers.

A good way to understand what it is that a firm wants is to get exposure to the firm directly, whether this is through insight days, open days or law fairs.

Find out more about what a law firm open day entails with our free guide here!

10. Having bad grammar and punctuation won’t make or break your application!

Grammar and spelling mistakes are often the pet hates of graduate recruiters, who see too many applications to be sympathetic to persistent errors.

This is something that can easily be avoided with little extra effort, so make sure to check your application several times before pressing send!

A useful tip is to get someone else, whether a friend or family member, to check through your application. Sometimes a fresh viewpoint is extremely helpful in identifying errors you would otherwise have missed.


Without a doubt, the application process, regardless of what you are applying to, is rigorous. However, by following the appropriate advice rather than misguided thinking, you can be successful in achieving your goals.

Want more help with your applications? Read these next:

Published: 16/04/18     Author: Radhika Morally


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