Talking Trainees

Apply yourself to a proper application

Posted on 01 June 2018

talking trainees-439864-editedIf it’s stress, self-doubt and cringe-worthy clichés you’re in search of, look no further than vacation scheme and training contract applications. Providing answers on applications is a tough skill to master, but if you’re not seeing immediate results, fear not.

I still keep my first ever law firm application as a perfect memento of how a desperate lack of strategy can impale the most well-meaning candidate, and just how much things can improve in a year.

So, with that in mind, I come with the following three nuggets of knowledge which I found crucial to producing an effective application, and which I was fortunate enough to have imparted on me.


Starting with the more obvious piece of advice, do the research. Following a few firms on twitter and reading those student websites isn't proper research. Immerse yourself in the legal industry until you can trot out such tropes as where ambiguous firms are headquartered, and the average PEP among competing City firms.

Read, read and read. There are certain publications produced specifically to help you in this regard, and to help you properly drill down into the differences between firms. Also take opportunities to chat with current trainees because most will be happy to give you an honest perspective.

Don’t waste your words

Arts graduates, listen up. You're given 150-500 words to answer questions, some of which are ambiguous at best. It’s better to punch out three or four points, each of clear relevance, than to waste words by poetically recounting the epiphany which guided you to a career in commercial law.

The best way to make your answers efficient is to draft. Perhaps sculpt out paragraphs as your ideal answers and then edit them down during a couple of rounds of proofreading. It's surprising how economical you can be with words while still driving home the same points. Make sure every word is justified.

Spend some time

This is a two-pronged nugget. Firstly, spending the time on your research means you'll have a much better chance of applying to firms that suit you. When you know what it is about a firm that attracts you, it's much easier to convey this in an application.

Secondly, make sure you spend a proper amount of time on your application. Cobbling one together in a day or so might well work, but it's far less likely to work than a well-planned and thoughtful application which you've carefully crafted. Schedule time to put together the building blocks of your answers and bring them together.

You're always told there’s no one perfect answer, but with a more strategic approach to your applications, you'll have a much better chance of getting as close as possible.

This blog post was written by trainee solicitor James England.

James England

Written by James England

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