Top tips for vacation scheme and training contract applications

Sinead McGrath offers some tips on vacation scheme and training contract applications for junior lawyers.

Man using laptop to search and apply for jobs

Applying for training contracts and vacation schemes can be a daunting process for any student or graduate. With so many firms out there and lots of information to digest, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are some tips to help you with your applications.

Do your research

Research is paramount when it comes to assessing prospective law firms to apply to and there are a lot of different factors to consider. As a starting point consider:

  • the size of the firm
  • the location of the firm
  • the practice areas that interest you

Considering these factors will help you to focus on your priorities and narrow down where it is you want to apply.

Researching a firm will help you to develop an understanding of the firm, what they do, their culture and most importantly why they appeal to you. This will translate into your answers on application forms and help you to stand out from the crowd.

Attend events

Often law firms will hold their own open days or attend law fairs, giving you ample opportunity to learn more about the firm. Under the current circumstances many law firms are still holding and attending virtual events to allow you the opportunity to network with them and learn more about their graduate schemes.

Attending events gives you a chance to show off your research into the firm by asking questions to graduate recruitment, current trainees and employees at the firm. Making a strong first impression can go a long way when it comes to applying at a firm – you never know who will remember you from meeting at an event.

An important part of attending events is making contacts. Maybe there was a trainee you made a connection with or a partner who answered one of your questions that you would like to speak to more. Remember to ask if they're willing to follow up with you over email or LinkedIn and always include a personalised message when you request to connect, to refresh their memory.

It’s not all about legal work experience

When you're asked for your work history it isn’t all about legal work experience. Firms want to hear about your job history to understand what commercial understanding and transferrable skills you have.

Try to draw on your responsibilities and tasks within your job role. Think about why these were important for the business and what it is about those skills that you could bring with you to the law firm.

Positions of responsibility are also a great way to demonstrate team work, leadership and communication skills. Include these on your application to show prospective firms the best of you.

Quality over quantity

While it can be tempting to apply to lots of different firms, remember that it can take a long time to complete the application forms. It is better to complete fewer high quality, well researched applications than to complete many applications in haste that may not be to a high standard.

Remember that many larger firms may receive thousands of applications so their initial shortlisting can come down to things such as a minor spelling mistake when it comes to looking at which applications to progress further. HR teams can also often tell when a generic application has been made which is not tailored to the firm.

Remember

  1. Each firm has its own distinct personality – just because you have researched one firm doesn’t mean your knowledge will apply to all firms. Your application should be able to demonstrate the research you've done on that particular firm
  2. Take your time – start your applications as soon as you can. You then have the chance to save them and return when you want to continue them. This means you can update them after attending events and doing more research
  3. Proof read – always proof read your application. Ask family, friends and careers advisors at university to help you in this, as they may spot mistakes that you miss
  4. Make sure you're aware of deadlines – create an application tracker or diarise important dates so that you know when deadlines are approaching

This article was first published on 30 November 2020 by The Lawyer and is reproduced by kind permission.

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