Applying for training contracts at a time of uncertainty

Callum Reed gives his tips on applying for training contracts in these difficult and uncertain times.

Suddenly, many of us are finding ourselves adapting our daily routines to the new ‘norm’ – at least for the foreseeable future. For those in the legal education world, this has meant coming to terms with new ways of learning and studying as we are all encouraged to socially distance ourselves to protect others.

In these unprecedented times, what has been most striking is people’s ingenuity and resilience in the face of adversity. I’ve seen plenty of creative working from home stations, including impressively placed monitors propped up by books that have found a new purpose.

Despite the uncertainty, many people’s career ambitions remain unaltered; I’ve seen through the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) how aspiring solicitors remain focused on training contract applications. But, as this new norm tests the status quo, what can aspiring lawyers do to remain focused and motivated in their pursuit? Below are some tips that could help.


For those with applications pending, patience really is a virtue. Law firm’s HR teams, which encompasses graduate recruitment, will be working tirelessly to handle the implications of the ongoing situation. While firms continue to take and review training contract applications, it is likely the task has fallen down the pecking order. However, unless you have heard otherwise, you can assume it is still on their radar and that your application will be reviewed as soon as possible.

Although it is tempting to email and ask for a quick update, keep the above in mind and hold fire. You will be saving the recruitment team another email.

No doubt, it is tough not to dwell on your submitted applications, overanalysing your answers and hoping for an answer on your fate. However, this leads us onto our second tip:

Keep productive

So long as applications remain open, you still have an opportunity to apply. Keep yourself busy and pick your next set of firms to apply to. As always, delegate enough time to properly research the firm and understand why you are interested in them. Applying for other firms you are interested in could help keep your mind off of any submitted applications.

Motivation is half the battle when trying to be productive. Understandably, many people have found their motivation has dropped because of the current situation.

One useful tip to keep motivated is to break the application drafting into 25-minute windows. In those 25 minutes, focus entirely on the task before giving yourself a short break afterwards. It makes the application seem less daunting and you might be more motivated to get started and keep going.

If you are currently working or studying, another tip is to take some time to catch up on those less-urgent tasks. Whether that is getting up to speed with the reading for your course or tidying up your email inbox, you might feel better using your time to complete the tasks you would not usually have time for.

Commercial Awareness

Although it feels like the world has stopped, the economy continues to tick (or splutter) along. It’s important to keep an eye on how COVID-19 develops, as it will continue to determine how businesses navigate these unprecedented times.

When you read the news, do so with an inquisitive mind. Ask yourself: What does this mean? Will companies have to restructure? How will this affect investment opportunities? What law firm departments will find themselves busier at such a time? Having answers to such questions will prepare you for any interview questions you may face in the future.

If you find yourself with more time, why not take the time to scrub up on certain areas you are interested in? For example, if you are interested in working for a commercial law firm, you could do some background reading on mergers & acquisitions. This would also prepare you for typical interview questions.

Look after yourself

Above all else, it’s important to keep yourself healthy.

Even with more time on your hands staying at home, it’s important to find a balance. Take some time away from applications to do the things you enjoy – albeit within the parameters of the current social distancing guidelines. Stay connected by calling or arranging Facetime sessions with your friends. Spend time doing the activities you’ve been too busy for, like learning new hobbies or finally reading that book. Simple things like letting in some fresh air or sitting in your garden can massively boost your wellbeing.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to look after your mental wellbeing. 

This article was first published on 1 April 2020 by The Lawyer and is reproduced by kind permission.

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