Starting your vacation scheme and training contract applications can be a bit daunting so here a few useful tips to get you on your way!
There will be a couple of general questions on the applications, such as ‘why law?’, ‘why commercial law?’ or ‘tell us about a recent news story that has interested you.’ In addition, there will be several competency questions which will come up time and time again such as ‘name a time you faced a challenge and how you dealt with it.’ In order to save some time by not having to write answers out again to similar questions, draft the answers on a word document first. This will also allow you to keep refining your responses and check for spelling and grammar errors.
You will inevitably be asked in the application ‘why this firm?’ and it is really important you don’t generalise in your answers for these questions. The best thing to do is talk to a member of HR at a law fair or apply for an open day at your desired law firm, you can simply ask them the same question, ‘what sets you apart from other law firms?’. You really need to be able to explain why you have chosen to apply to this particular law firm instead of others. It might be the type of work they specialise in or the type of clients they have, just make sure you can back up your answer with examples and be specific.
The deadlines for the applications are made known well in advance. Make sure you give yourself time to really answer the questions well, to sleep on your answers and make any changes if necessary. HR will be able to pick up on rushed applications so don’t risk it! Bear in mind that some firms take rolling applications (this means they review the applications and give out interviews as the applications are sent in), so the earlier you get your application in the better.
I know this is common sense, but it’s really important there are no spelling or punctuation mistakes. HR are inundated with applications and they will be looking for reasons to throw your application away. In addition, lawyers need to have attention to detail, especially in relation to written documents so any mistakes will not be looked upon favourably. Print out the application before you send it to have a quick check and even give it to someone else to read who has a fresh perspective.
This is one of the most important training contract application tips. When it comes to training contract interviews, they could ask you about anything you have said. So make sure you don’t embellish on your application as this could be brought up later on! If you say you have an interest in something, be prepared to speak about it and be questioned on it. While interviews are the second stage, it’s important that your application is accurate so it does not cause you problems later on.
While the best approach is quality over quantity, still give yourself enough chances by sending several applications out to firms. While you will inevitably have your favourite firms, spread your net a bit wider by applying to other similar firms. By sending off more quality applications, you increase your chances of getting an interview. I know people who’ve been really picky and only sent out two or three applications and came back with nothing, so just keep an open mind.
Words: Lauren Tai
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