How to make your training contract application stand out from the crowd

With an increasing number of students graduating every year it's no surprise that the job market is crowded. The sheer competition involved in obtaining a training contract deters some people from the legal profession. So if you are intent on applying, you need to tailor your application in the way that will appeal to recruiters.

Candy Kobrak, careers consultant at the University of Law, says recruiters firstly look for evidence of academic ability, stretching back as far as an applicant's GCSE qualifications.

But it's also essential to demonstrate a commitment to law and especially to the type of law you want to practise.

Work experience such as vacation schemes or mini-pupillages can help to show this commitment, but, as Kobrak herself points out, "informal legal experience, such as shadowing or spending time in local solicitor firms, is also very important".

You need to show that you possess skills that the firm wants and will benefit from. Non-legal experience such as working behind a bar or in a retail environment can show worthwhile skills like commercial awareness and an ability to deal with the public. These skills are just as vital to your application as those that relate strictly to law.

Be selective about where you apply. "Which firms have you applied to?" is a very common interview question and can often trip up the most able applicants. No recruiter likes to find out that a person has applied to many disparate law firms. It's crucial therefore that you do deeper research about the firms that initially catch your eye in order to narrow down your choices.

In today's globalised world where many organisations work in similar practice areas and operate in numerous jurisdictions, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between law firms.

"For a start, you've got to find out what each firm says about itself – usually by looking at its website," says Kobrak. Being clued up on the company shows that you have taken the time to prepare thoroughly.

However, recruiters know exactly what is written on their firm's website (they probably wrote it) so it's important to do a bit more digging. "Googling" shouldn't be underestimated, nor should client directories such as Chambers UK or The Legal 500. Websites such as Roll On Friday and Law Careers can also help you to keep up to date developments that are occurring in the profession.

Chandni Davda, a student on the newly created LLM LPC course at the University of Law, swears by the Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook, regarding it as "the best source you can use".

Colloquially referred to as "the Bible", it contains the details of almost all the international and national law firms working in the UK and also provides advice on completing applications. To be able to easily access all that information could help you reduce your time spent researching.

Similarly, the University of Law, via their Future Lawyers Network, has created an informative set of careers resources known as Step. It's accessible online contains advice about preparing for interviews/assessment days, writing legal CVs and managing your career.

It's a valuable resource and has even been formally recognised by the Association of Graduate Recruiters who awarded the University first prize in the Best Preparation for Work Initiative (Higher Education) category in 2013.

Despite the resources out there to help, you should bear in mind that lots of people don't succeed in getting a training contract offer first time around.

"You shouldn't lose heart if this is the case and it's important to always seek feedback if possible" says Kobrak. Feedback is a useful tool because it allows you to monitor your own performance. It helps to address the issues and gaps in your application, making you even more likely to succeed next time.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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