The competition for law firm training contracts is fierce. It’s not enough to have the grades and a strong work ethic, you need to do something different to get noticed.

How To Apply For A Training Contract

To apply for a training contract, you will need to identify the law firms that you want to submit an application to. You will need to work out what kind of law firms you want to apply to. For example, are you interested in commercial law or criminal law? Do you want to work for a city firm or a regional law firm?

You will need to do your research. Once you have chosen which law firms you want to apply to, you need to treat every application like an individual project. Usually, you will need to complete a training contract application form and submit a CV and covering letter to each law firm you apply to.

How Many Training Contracts Should I Apply For?

Five to ten law firm training contract applications are recommended. If you try to apply with too many firms, you risk missing deadlines trying to complete them all. If you only apply to one firm, you risk having no other law firms to fall back on if your application is rejected. You need to apply to just enough law firms, but not too many.

See our dedicated guide on law training contracts for more information.


Stand Out At Interview

Training Contract Interviews

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How To Write A Stand Out Training Contract CV

A stand out training contract CV should contain your academic achievements, relevant legal experience and your interests. Your CV should be no longer than two pages.

Top Tips For Writing A Memorable Training Contract CV

  1. Find a training contract CV example. There are hundreds of successful training contract CV examples online that will give you an idea of what a good CV contains, and how it is structured. Using a training contract CV template will help you to plan and structure your CV to ensure it contains the essentials.
  2. It’s important to find the right CV template for you and this should be used as a guide only. Your CV will need to be your own work.
  3. Start with your personal details. Provide your name, address, email address and phone number so that recruiters know how they can reach you.
  4. Personal statement. Demonstrate why a law firm should pick you for the job. Draw on your academic achievements, legal experience and personal characteristics to give specific examples of how you meet a law firm’s requirements and fit their culture.
  5. Educational achievements. List your academic qualifications in chronological order – starting with the most recent. Include your grades and the name of the institutions you studied at.
  6. Work experience. Give details of relevant work experience, starting with the most recent. For each placement, provide the employer’s details, dates and a brief overview of your role and responsibilities, achievements and skills acquired.
  7. Skills. Expand on the skills that make you the right fit for each law firm you apply to. If you have any technology or foreign language skills, include them – these are highly sought after by law firms.
  8. Achievements. Demonstrate how everything you have learnt has contributed to solving legal problems. If you have received any relevant prizes, awards or scholarships via a work placement, through your education or in your personal life, mention them here.
  9. Extra-curricular activities. Give details of any hobbies or interests, and mention whether they have led to you completing any courses or voluntary placements.
  10. References. Include the names of two references – make sure you have their permission. Ideally, you should provide one academic reference and one work reference.

How To Write A Successful Training Contract Cover Letter

Training contract cover letters are your opportunity to make a memorable first impression with law firms before they even look at your CV. A training contract cover letter is similar to a law personal statement. Your covering letter should be no more than one page and in some cases, law firms will give you a word count for your covering letter that you must stick to.

Top Tips For Writing A Stand Out Training Contract Cover Letter

  1. Use a training contract cover letter example or template. There are hundreds of successful training contract cover letter examples and templates online that will give you an idea of what a good covering letter contains and how it is structured. This will help you to plan and structure your training contract cover letter to ensure it covers the essentials.
  2. It’s important to find the right covering letter template for you and this should be used as a guide only. Your covering letter will need to be your own work.
  3. Keep your introduction brief. Give details of your academic achievements and experiences in no more than three sentences.
  4. Give reasons why you chose the law firm. Provide specific reasons why you are applying to each law firm. Demonstrate that you understand each law firm’s area of legal practice, its values and culture, and explain why these are of interest to you.
  5. Explain how your skills and personality fit with the firm. Give specific examples of how your skills and personality add value to a law firm, and how they fit with their requirements and expectations of you.
  6. Sign-off professionally. Complete your covering letter by thanking the recruiter for taking the time to read your covering letter, give your availability for a training contract interview, and ask them to reach out if they have any questions.

When writing your training contract cover letter, make sure it helps the recruiter. Write clearly and plainly. Use short sentences and paragraphs to prevent your key points from getting lost in big chunks of text. Your writing skills will be assessed when your covering letter is being read, so spend time proofreading and checking it contains everything law firms would want to see.

What Training Contract Questions Can You Expect?

Every law firm has a different training contract application process, but you will find that many of the questions give you an opportunity to demonstrate what makes you different from other applicants. Some of the training contract questions you could be asked, and how to answer training contract application questions, include:

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

If a training contract application asks this question, avoid being overly academic or focusing solely on legal theory. You need to demonstrate how your experiences relate to you wanting to become a lawyer. Make sure your answer is personal, talks about your skills, motivations and relevant experience. You should also cover your short- and long-term career goals.

Avoid giving cliched answers by addressing the specific opportunity being offered by the law firm you are applying to and what they are looking for. You will need to demonstrate how your desire to be a lawyer matches with a firm’s expectations to ensure you are a good fit for each other.

How would you describe your personality?

A lot of law firms ask this question to assess your character. To answer this question, make sure you use the job specification to guide you. The job specification usually features the type of characteristics a law firm is looking for. Once you know what a law firm is looking for, you can be specific with your answers.

For example, if you are determined – don’t just say ‘I am determined’ – this adds no value to your application. Instead, give an example of a time you demonstrated your determination to solve a legal problem. It is important that you can back up what you say when answering personality-focused questions.

Why do you think you are suited to a career with us?

To answer this question, you must do your research on the law firm(s) that you are applying to. Specifically, you should research the key practice area(s) of the law firm, their training program and their culture. You should answer in a natural and structured way, without giving too long an answer.

Law firms are looking for clear communication so that when they first read your answer they can quickly see how you have linked your career aspirations with what they can offer you. You should personalise your answers because they are more engaging and help law firms to build a picture of who you are.

Discuss a news article that interests you and how it is relevant to the firm

This training contract application question is designed to assess your commercial understanding, motivation to join a firm and your analytical ability. For this question, you need to fully research the law firm(s) you are applying to for a training contract.

You will need to go beyond the law firm’s website with your research and look at the type of candidates a firm recruits, the skills and qualities the firm values in its people. You should research the firm’s clients, the sectors they operate in, its market position and its strategy.

Once you have researched all this and you have a better understanding of the personality and position of a firm, pick a news article. Look for a topic that gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of a law firm. Recruiters are looking for an answer that reveals what interests you about their firm.

These are just some of the law firm training contract questions you could face. What is important is that you answer questions honestly and avoid giving generic answers. For guidance, you can find plenty of training contract application examples online.

General Training Contract Application Tips

Here are our top tips for completing a training contract application:

  • Keep your application engaging. If you’re bored by your answers, the recruiting team probably will be too!
  • Don’t repeat examples or content in your application form and cover letter. Try and think of new examples
  • Print a copy of your completed training contract application form and CV for reference at interview
  • Customise your CV for each application to make it stand out from the crowd
  • Be truthful and accurate. Inconsistencies may be picked up during the screening processe
  • Follow the format requested for your CV (if specified) by your preferred law firms

When Do Training Contract Applications Open?

The application window for training contracts varies from law firm to law firm. January and July tend to be the most common months for applications to open. However, you will need to check with the law firm(s) that you wish to apply to for details of when their application process starts.

More Application Tips from Top Law Firms

For more training contract application inspiration, read about what the graduate recruitment teams at Freshfields, Taylor Vinters and Herbert Smith Freehills want from potential candidates.

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