February 5, 2016

Applications to law firms – how to stand out from the crowd

The festive season is now behind us and anyone hoping to secure a training contract this summer will know that this means one thing; the application window for work experience and vacation schemes starts to open.

As you are probably aware, whille good grades are important when securing a training contract, given the competitive nature of the marketplace, grades are now merely a starting point. Employers want to know that you are committed to a career in the legal profession and completing work experience is a good way of showing this.

Work experience and vacation schemes are also a good way of setting yourself apart from the competition for a variety of reasons, including;

  • First impressions count - even at the work experience stage, you will work with different fee earners and will start to build relationships within the firm
  • You can include the details on any future applications – law firms receive hundreds of application forms and if you have completed work experience at a firm you are applying to, this will make your application stand out immediately
  • Even if the work experience was not completed at the same firm that you are applying to, it still shows you are motivated and keen which are key attributes for any aspiring solicitor
  • It gives you the opportunity to see what it is like to work in a law firm and what type of law firm you would like to work in – work experience and training contracts are a two-way process and different law firms operate in different ways. It is important for you to consider what type of firm is right for you and first hand work experience is an invaluable opportunity for you to gain this information.

What makes a good application?

Lots of students attend career sessions to receive advice about how to make your application stand out. I remember sitting in numerous sessions of this nature and sometimes the process can appear particularly daunting. However, do not fear, once you successfully obtain a couple of placements, the process becomes much easier.

  1. Research the firm that you are applying to – it is imperative that you understand the firm, its brand and the areas of law that it operates in. Don’t limit your research to the firm’s website, look at other sources such as the firm’s twitter account, local press, Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500.
  2. Think about the type of firm you would like to work for and tailor your applications accordingly. You are more likely to be successful if you have carefully thought about the type of firm rather than do a scattergun approach of applying to lots of different firms without giving the applications much thought.
  3. Mention previous work experience or attendance at law fairs – if you have met a member of the firm during work experience or at a law fair, mention this on your application form as it shows that you have first hand experience of the firm.
  4. If it is not clear in the application process, you should try and find out who the application form should be addressed to. As I've mentioned, law firms receive hundreds of applications, so it is important that it goes to the right person.
  5. When answering the questions, try and get your personality across. I know this can be difficult to do on paper, but give examples that show your interests.
  6. It sounds obvious but re-read your application before submitting it and check for any typos. Sometimes it is helpful to get someone else to proof-read it.

Hopefully these tips will give you the head start with your application forms. RWK Goodman looks forward to receiving your application shortly. Further details can be found here

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