How do I secure a training contract?
How do I secure a training contract?
Billy Shaw is a trainee solicitor at Rothera Sharp where he is completing his first seat in civil litigation and debt recovery. He joined the firm in September 2018 after gaining a first-class degree in Law at Nottingham Trent University. He obtained a Distinction on his LPC modules earlier this year and is due to complete the LLM in 2019.
“Fall seven times, stand up eight” – Japanese Proverb.
The market for training contracts is highly competitive and the application process can be disheartening. It is important to realise that rejection is inherent in this process and you should not let this prevent you from working towards the ultimate goal of securing a training contract.
To give yourself the best chance of securing a training contract, you might find the following tips helpful.
1. A shortlist of firms
Your training contract experience will depend on the type of law firm you train at and the practice areas you sit in. You should therefore seriously consider these factors which have such an impact on your experience. I applied to Rothera Sharp because I was confident that this type of firm would provide a collegiate environment and would offer me with a good level of responsibility that would allow me to develop my skills throughout my training contract.
By creating a shortlist of firms that closely reflect your interests, experience and career goals, you can really focus on why you are a good match with the specific firm. This will allow you to highlight this to the recruiter to demonstrate that you have made the effort to research the firm.
2. How many applications?
“It is quality over quantity that matters” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
You should avoid overloading your shortlist, as this will impact on the amount of time you have to research each of the firms and write the applications. Having a smaller but more considered shortlist of firms will allow you more time to properly consider the applications which will put you in a better position to demonstrate your understanding of the firms within your shortlist.
3. Research, research, research!
Once you have established your shortlist, you should take the time to research the firms within that shortlist. Researching beyond what is on the website is crucial. You want to be in a position where you are confident about the firm’s position in the legal services market, the type of work the firm undertakes, the firm’s strategy and plans for the future, the team, the social aspect and the culture of the firm. Having a knowledge of the firm will allow you to answer questions such as “why do you want to work for the firm?” on the applications.
When researching firms within your shortlist, you should consult news articles, published partner interviews about the firm, any information about deals and cases that the firm has been involved in and any information about awards that the firm has won etc.
It goes without saying that the one of the best ways to properly research a firm is to speak to the team. You can attend law fairs and open days to find out more about the firm’s culture and ask questions. By talking to recruiters at law fairs, open days and events alike, you are more likely to be recognised in the application process.
I found a good way of following up meeting the team is to connect with them on LinkedIn. The people that you have met are likely to be happy to answer any further questions that you have. LinkedIn is a good way to demonstrate your social media footprint, which is increasingly important to firms who want to be sure that their recruits possess the requisite networking skills.
5. Commercial awareness
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin
It is essential to realise that a law firm operates a business. Like any other business, the firm will take a vast interest in the aspects which affect its profitability. As well as researching the firm within your shortlist, you should research the market in which it sits and the legal landscape in general, as this will give you a better understanding of the firm. You should also give some thought to the firm’s competitors and whether they are doing anything notable or different. If the firm has undergone any recent changes, this may also be a discussion point in applications or interviews and so you should explore this. When I applied to Rothera Sharp, I did some research into the firm’s 2016 merger including research into the merging firms and the reasons why law firms may undergo mergers.
Understanding how the firm attracts and retains its clients is another big point for consideration. The legal services landscape is competitive, and firms are always considering ways to demonstrate added value to their clients to attract and retain clients. You should consider how you can demonstrate your understanding of what it means to deliver an exceptional client service with added value.
Finally, you should research challenges to the legal landscape and law firms within your shortlist. You may wish to talk about technology (AI), the economy in general, Brexit, Alternative Business Structures, new routes into qualification, changes to particular areas of law or rises in the Bank of England interest rates, to name a few.
There should be a commercial awareness question on the application; familiarise yourself with current business and legal affairs and take an interest and you shouldn’t go far wrong.
“Know yourself to improve yourself” – Auguste Comte
When researching the firms on your shortlist, you should consider how you can demonstrate that you possess the skillset required by that firm. Communication, analytical, negotiation, writing, advocacy, drafting, client facing and researching skills are a few general skills that recruiters are likely to be looking for. Considering your past legal and non-legal experience, you should clearly display these skills in your applications with reference to your experience.
As well as demonstrating your skills, you can use these sections in application forms or questions in interviews to demonstrate your personality. You may wish to highlight any volunteering or charity work that you been involved with, or any sports teams or social activities that you like to take part in.
7. Get involved
Grasp all opportunities to get involved. You may be able to get involved with a legal advice centre or a society such as mooting or debating. Not only do these activities develop your transferrable skills, but they are a good way of showing that you get involved with extra activities.
Getting involved is also a good way to network with other students and legal professionals.
8. Stand out
Recruiters have to consider loads of applications which contain the same information. You need to make your application different. You may have a hobby or previous occupation which you don’t think is relevant to the application for a training contract, however, if it makes you stand out (and it doesn’t destroy your professionalism), include it in the application.
Thanks for reading
I would like to conclude by expressing my personal thanks for reading this blog post. I hope you have found my tips useful. Sharing the post with others who may benefit from my tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
About the author
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