With more and more sources telling us that the application is one of the most important parts of the training contract assessment process, it is important and therefore, often stressful to try and make it perfect.
But we’re in this together and as I move into my second application cycle,I am going to give you some golden rules to follow that will really help your application.
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One question people tend to ask themselves is “how many training contracts should I apply for?” I know lots of people who somehow applied for 11 firms within one cycle and that was the key to their success at one of those firms.
But the truth is, the more firms you try and squeeze in, the lower the quality of your training contract applications will tend to be.
So make a long list, an impossibly long list, and then shorten it and shorten it again until you have a core amount of firms (preferably between 5 and 8).
If you apply to a larger number, your applications are likely to be less thorough and well thought out. When doing this you have to take into consideration type of law you want to practice, where you want to practice geographically, as well as simply the time you genuinely have to complete these applications.
Despite any perceived time crunch, you have to take your time over these applications – another reason why 15 applications are probably too many.
The completion of any application should include an extensive research period on each firm.
You should get a feel for the firm and have answers to questions such as: “What practice area of [your law firm choice] interests you the most and why?” As well as, “What made you apply to [your law firm choice]?”
Also, you want to fill out an application with a real intent to get past the initial application and make it to interview and doing this research now will make the further stages in the process a lot easier on you.
It is obvious that in an application form you should play to your strengths and really highlight everything you are good at/involved in that makes you look like a well-rounded candidate. But don’t leave anything relevant out.
Recruiters at these firms have to read piles of training contract applications for an often very small number of successful candidates – you want to ensure that you are the one amongst many that stand out.
So, if you have a hobby or some experience that is peculiar for a student to have but you can use that to highlight skills which are relevant for what you are applying for. Don’t leave it out. For example, a friend of mine is on a juggling team. Not your average solicitors’ hobby but great for showcasing perseverance, commitment and teamwork.
Often the sad truth is, if you know someone, this will place you miles ahead of other candidates. Perhaps it won’t be a literal push forward in the rankings – as this would be massively unfair.
However, having some insider knowledge after an in-depth conversation with someone at the firm you are applying to will be invaluable in perfecting training contract/ vacation scheme applications.
To do this, you can use LinkedIn where many professionals are happy to help you with your career based endeavours, attend law careers fair in your area or at your university and network with potential firms, or send a quick email to someone at the firm you are interested in politely asking for some guidance.
Most people in the industry are very willing to help if you just have the courage to ask.