Eloise discusses the factors she considered when applying for training contracts and what attracted her to Freshfields, as well as her top tips for standing out at assessment days which helped her with getting a training contract.

What factors did you consider when choosing which law firms to apply to?

Deciding where to submit my training contract applications was not something I took lightly. Due to my sociable character, it was very important for me to enjoy working in a collaborative environment that encouraged teamwork and co-operation.

In addition, reputation was a vital consideration, with it being a natural by-product of a firm’s standards and opportunities. Training at a reputable firm is likely to result in thorough, high quality development, as well as opportunities to work on a variety of transactions with respectable clients.

Furthermore, working for a company that provided me with the option of international work was essential.

Being able to complete six months of my training contract overseas will be a valuable experience, and will give me insight into an alternative jurisdiction, widening my understanding of the global commercial sphere as a result.

What particularly attracted you to Freshfields?

With multi-national work being conducted in over 200 jurisdictions from 27 offices, Freshfields’ strong global presence is indisputable. The firm provides trainees with a choice of 39 client and 46 international secondments, thus allowing them to work on complex, market-leading transactions.

The training contract structure at Freshfields is uniquely beneficial as it allows those who wish to experience a broader range of departments to pursue an eight-seat training contract, extending the opportunity to work in a diverse range of the firm’s tier one practice areas (which vary widely from Corporate M&A to Commercial Litigation).

With this comes unparalleled training. The value and investment Freshfields places in its trainees is also evidenced by the extra support provided by secondary supervision through Trainee Intake Partners, with both of these features being unique to the firm and indispensably beneficial for trainee self-progression.

Furthermore, Freshfields’ pro bono and community support network displays the firm’s genuine desire to provide assistance to those who require it. For example, they work in close alliance with Save the Children, and also operate an effective scheme which allows people on the streets to undergo work experience at the firm and build a CV.

What are your top five tips to anyone currently completing training contract application forms?

  • Attention to detail – as a lawyer you cannot afford to make any grammatical errors, as this is unprofessional and reflects poorly on the firm you represent. Ensuring that there are no mistakes in your application will demonstrate your ability to maintain the high standards that commercial law firms require.
  • Be specific – ensure that your application is moulded directly towards Freshfields, elaborating on what makes them unique. Whoever reads your submission should feel that you are talking specifically about the firm.
  • Commercial acumen – in order to stand out from the crowd and make your application memorable, you must give detail and use working examples to demonstrate commercial awareness. It does not mean a great deal to simply say that you are ‘commercially aware’ if you have failed to demonstrate this skill and show how you have acquired it.
  • Show character – it is not a problem to discuss non-commercial interests and achievements in your application. Whilst making it applicable to commercial law, do not be afraid to show your alternative curiosities – it adds character!
  • Be genuine and honest – I strongly advise that you portray a realistic view of yourself as an individual. Interviewers will often refer to your application during the training contract interview so make sure you feel comfortable answering questions on everything you have written.

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What did your assessment days involve?

Throughout my experiences, I attended assessment days at various city law firms. Below, I have articulated the different challenges I encountered:

Case study

This involved being given a business scenario to assess, answer questions, and deliver an informal presentation on. I have completed case studies both where you are required to pre-prepare set questions, and where you must answer any questions asked of you in relation to the article (having had time to previously read it). In the former scenario, I would suggest sticking to a relatively set structure, presenting your points concisely and with clarity.

With the latter, do not be afraid to refer back to the article in front of you. Questions are likely to be directly applicable to the article, so use this as a tool to create a working example when explaining a point. Interviewers will not have expected you to remember every fact/figure you have read, so take your time to think and get it right rather than rushing without referral and making mistakes as a result.

Competency interview

This is usually a rather informal discussion of your qualities, attributes, skills, and motivations to pursue a career in commercial law. Preparing real-life examples is a perfect way of demonstrating you truly possess the key qualities required of a Freshfields lawyer. Anyone can say that they are a dedicated person, but giving an example of a time in which you have exemplified dedication shows far more authenticity.

Group exercise

This involved a group of us sitting around a table, with one or two assessors present. We were given a business scenario and asked to have a group discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of a potential acquisition. In this scenario, it is vital to demonstrate that you are a team player. This is because the firm ultimately values individuals that can cooperate and work well with others. At the same time, do not be afraid to demonstrate your own knowledge, just remember to balance this with being collaborative!

Written exercise

Here, the key to obtaining top marks was attention to detail. We were given limited information, with the task being to correct a written email. This involved being extremely thorough and reading the document word for word. I would advise doing this slowly and meticulously rather than rushing through it in fear that the time might run out.

What advice would you give to others attending assessment days?

With all the preparation and knowledge swimming around in your head on the assessment day, it is very easy to forget about the simple things. My advice (albeit easier said than done) would be to have confidence in what you already know. Being stressed on the day of the interview will affect your concentration and is likely to detract from you merely being yourself. Smiling, being polite, making good eye contact and speaking clearly are all simple gestures that are often forgotten. Your mannerisms help form a first impression and we all know how vitally important first impressions are!

Furthermore, I would always be sure to be specific when answering questions. Avoiding detail suggests that you lack confidence on the subject matter and being vague certainly does not allow you to stand out from the crowd. Think about structured but concise answers to questions (for example, with a summary/detail/example structure). I think it is always important to give examples so that you can demonstrate your understanding of the topic.

Answering questions that you are unsure about can be hard, so I would advise to think logically about the issue at hand, and try and apply your existing knowledge to it methodically. If this is not possible, it is best to be honest and say you are unsure. Try to avoid making mindless guesses on the spot – this may expose your lack of knowledge and signal to your interviewer that you struggle to stay calm when put under pressure. Ultimately, if you answer logically and calmly, asking about what you don’t know, the firm will be reassured that you are levelheaded when faced with a challenge.


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