Conversation between colleagues

All the gear and no idea?

The end of the Law Fair season is nigh and no doubt you have acquired a plethora of books, bags and bottles, but what next?

This year, for the first time, the shoe was on the other foot and I was talking TLT at Manchester and Leeds Law fair. It was a particularly enjoyable experience because TLT is a firm I am incredibly proud to represent and I am keen to spread the word of its national success story on my home turf. 

Whilst it may have been a memorable experience for me, was it for you? On speaking with a number of you, it was apparent that there was a general theme of disillusionment as to how you should approach the Law Fair never mind the correct approach in your applications to the Law firms themselves.

I am here to help.

I should warn you however, I am not here to help in the usual fashion. I have not reproduced another list of "things to do". You are all too familiar with the contents of that list.

Rather, I completely sympathise with each and every one of you - I know how daunting the holy grail of obtaining a Training Contract appears right now. By reason of our shared feelings, I thought I would reveal to you my approach to applications, to help guide you through your next steps (and to stop any panic setting in!).

Applications

In the first instance, please do sit down and ask yourself - "what is important to me?" 

Answer - Is it the size of the firm, the location or a specific type of firm? 

These are your filters. Go on to LawCareers.net or allaboutlaw.co.uk and apply those filters in your Training Contract search. You can mix up the filters i.e. you could apply two and not the others and you then produce a list of firms under different sub-headings of the main characteristics important to you. 

The word to the wise – "commercial". I remember asking my fellow students why they had applied to commercial Law firms and not one could give me an answer which convinced me they knew or, more to the point, whether these were the type of firms I wanted to apply to.

If you want to work for a Law firm which services businesses as their clients, look at firms that offer Commercial and Corporate Services. If you want to work on a personal level with clients as individuals, look at firms that offer those services such as family and private client law.

Now, read the firms' profiles from the website you compiled your list from. I quickly eliminated firms based on what was written here. On this enquiry you discover whether the firms offer specific departments, what awards they have won, the number of trainee places on offer and the partner/solicitor ratio. You will get a feel for what you want to know about a firm and if it sounds like a good fit for you and if not, remove the firm from your list.

Through this exercise, your large list should become a lot more manageable with in or around 30 firms named. You should now go on to each firm's website and read the literature. At this stage, do not make the mistake of wanting to know everything about each of the firms. If you are in the depths of the site finding out the names of the staff that compose each department, you have gone too far, this is not what is required from you at this stage. 

What you should be doing is reading about the ethos of the firm; what are they looking for in a trainee and do their trainee blogs reinforce this with real life accounts of experiences in the firm? Read The Lawyer, the Law Society Gazette, Lex100.net and Chambers Student to substantiate the firm's own words. From this, you should be able to answer the all important question, "as a trainee of this firm will I be in a position to add value because I am thriving in the work environment?"

If your ambition and personality is a match with the firm then there is a great scope for you to succeed in your Training Contract both in terms of your individual development and your contribution to the firm. Ultimately, this is important because you want to use this as a basis to build a long and successful career at the firm. 

I noted down key things that I liked about each firm and accordingly, I rated the firms with a mark out of 10. Importantly, you should also record which firms offer a vacation scheme and the deadline dates for the application to these and training contracts. Identify which firms state that they prefer early application and others, like TLT, which do not consider all the applications until after the deadline day has passed.

You now need to write two lists. One which is composed of the firms that offer a vacation scheme in chronological order of dates and the same for those firms that only offer a training contract.

Your immediate concern is the first list because vacation scheme deadlines are inevitably sooner than straight training contract applications. I would recommend that you apply to a couple of firms you know are not your favourites as your initial applications. This is important because you will get a knack for answering questions and you want to use you best answers wisely. Subsequently, apply to the firms according to date order. Remember there is room for manoeuvrability in the order you apply. This is dependant on whether the firm has expressed a preference for early applications and if you would like to complete your applications to your favourite firms in the middle of the list to ensure they do not get missed. 

At this point, to help you answer those application questions, I will let the generic advice I referred to earlier take the lead. There are plentiful resources available to you as I am sure you are aware and they will help if you utilise them properly. What I hope you should find however, is that if you have followed my guidance to applications, answering the application questions is easier than you think because the sincerity behind your genuine interest in the firm will shine through.

Just one final tip

Keep a question and answer bank. Here you should detail the questions asked by each firm and the answers you gave in the application form. This is helpful both at application and interview stage because at some point there will be convergence between the questions you are asked between the firms and it gives you the ability to correctly identify which of your life's experiences is the appropriate answer to demonstrate a skill, dependent on the other questions you have answered.

Good luck!

Laura

Laura joined us as a Trainee in our Manchester office after studying law at The University of Manchester and spending time as a Paralegal with Brabners LLP.