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Expert Insight: French and Italian (Herbert Smith Freehills)

Future Herbert Smith Freehills trainee Claudia has a wealth of law work experience – which is pretty impressive for a non-law student. Find out how she did it, and secured her training contract, here.

claudia seeger
Claudia Seeger

Name: Claudia Seeger

Year of Qualification: 2020

University Degree: French and Italian (UCL)

Work Experience:


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There’s nothing more difficult than navigating the bumpy (but incredibly rewarding) terrain of training contract applications, least of all if you are from a non-law background and have absolutely no idea where to start your journey.

The good news is that every single non-law trainee has been in the exact same position as you now. While each applicant’s path varies, there are many similarities that apply to us all along the road to a TC – here’s what I learnt through both my own personal experience and by speaking to others.

How do I choose a law firm?

The first step of your journey is to be completely honest with yourself in regards to what you would like from a career.

Do you want to work on billion dollar non-contentious deals or would you prefer to work in a smaller family law firm handling divorces or child matters? Do you want to work in a small team or do you thrive better in a larger team? What sort of clients would you like to be working with?

Make sure that you aren’t simply copying those around you; only pick the firms that are best for you.

Once you have an idea of your own expectations, start researching the various firms and what they offer:

However, the most beneficial way to learn more about a firm and its work is to meet their employees: try to apply to open days or networking events for any firms that interest you or try to meet trainees at your university law fair – people really are your best resource!

If you follow these steps, you’ll soon be able to whittle down the number of firms that you’re interested in and gain a clearer idea of what will work best for you.

Find out more on how to get into a law firm’s open day here >>

How do I write a great application?

The best way to write a great application is by tailoring your answers to the firm, so it’s important to thoroughly research the firm beforehand.

Whilst many people think this means listing as many facts about the firm as possible, it’s more impressive when you pinpoint facts about the firm and relate them to you. For example, explain why the firm’s clients appeal to you and what skills you can bring to help with these clients.

I’d also really recommend (where the word count permits) linking your work experience back to the firm itself and mention how the role will help you as a trainee and at that firm specifically.

Remember that it’s not essential to have a mass of legal work experience to write a great application: all work experience can be related to a career in law and are often an interesting way to relate your skills to the firm.

As an example, I spent six months of my year abroad working in Paris and mentioned how my experience will enable me to interact on a more personal level with the firm’s French-speaking clients, so never underestimate your work experience!

A former graduate recruiter once told me that if your application doesn’t make you feel a little bit sick at yourself (and if you’re not embarrassed to give it to your friends to read) then you aren’t bigging yourself up enough! The point of an application is to really sell yourself to the firm so take every opportunity to do so.

Take a look at our blog post 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make on Law Firm Application Forms >>

How do I succeed at interview?

Before attending any interview, it’s important to understand what format the interview will be taking. If this information isn’t automatically stated by the graduate recruiters, don’t hesitate to send them an email asking for confirmation.

The most important step for succeeding at interview is preparation: if you know the firm inside and out and know yourself inside and out then you will go a long way!

Take the time to prepare answers to questions that will undoubtedly come up – ‘why law?’, ‘why this firm?’ – and make sure you can give examples of competencies that are likely to be required for the role (many firms have a list of these on their careers website).

At the end of an interview, always make sure that you have a few questions to ask the interviewer. These questions are often your time to show off how much research you have done on the firm, so make sure you spend some time thinking of these in advance.

Read our article on the best questions to ask at the end of an interview here >>

Most importantly, smile! Interviewers are more likely to remember those that they had an interesting conversation with so try to relax as much as possible, take a glass of water and don’t be afraid to ask for a couple of seconds to think before answering a question.

If you’ve been invited to interview, they already like you!

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