Training contracts and vacation schemes in the legal profession are more competitive than ever to obtain. Even after going through the arduous process of completing an application form, you are, numerically speaking, more likely than not to end up in the pile not invited back for interview. Notwithstanding this, there are some general pointers you can follow to give your self the best chance of success. Some of these are listed below:
- Don’t lie
Every year, candidates make the mistake of telling law firms what they think those firms want to hear, even if that means stretching the truth. It is true that firms want to see a broad range of experience but don’t be tempted to fabricate these. HR teams in law firms are well trained to spot inconsistencies and dishonest answers. And beyond this, it’s not a great start into a profession where your integrity is paramount. Don’t worry if you don’t think your experience is at the level needed. Contrary to popular belief, law firms understand that it can be difficult to get work experience at a large law firm or to go travelling for months on end. However, if you are serious about being a lawyer, then you should be able to demonstrate in your application what you have done to arrive at that conclusion. Have you attempted to speak to lawyers at law fairs? Have you tried to attend an open day or get work experience in a local practice? Are you interested in the practice areas in which the firm works? This will also allow you to be honest with yourself as to whether you really do want to pursue a career in the type of firm you are applying to.
- Do your research.
Good research is critical and, due to the wealth of content available online, easier to carry out than in the past. However, because of this, firms also have a greater expectation than they previously did of how well informed you are. It is not enough to simply carry out a google search and jot down some points from the firm’s home page. Your understanding of the firm, its practices and clients should be laced into the substance of your application. Your answers should talk about why you are a good candidate, but they should also refer back to the firm so that you can demonstrate that your experiences and aspirations are aligned to those of the firm.
- Don’t be careless.
People appreciate that it is hard to complete multiple applications to a high standard without the odd mistake, but, as far as humanly possibe, you should attempt to avoid these. The legal profession is largely about working in the details (which clients will often over look) and being clear and accurate in your communications. Having an application which contains mistakes will not instill confidence in the reader.
- Do back up your statements.
You can fill your application with several statements talking about your eye for detail or how good a team player you are, but they will mean nothing unless you back them up with evidence. This can be from any aspect of your life but it should be specific and demonstrate clearly the quality you are discussing. For example, you could talk about your experiences of working with others in a student committee or organisation during a particularly difficult period or situation.