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So, you want a training contract?

24 February 2015

So, you want a training contract?

It’s a date that is ingrained on every aspiring trainee solicitor’s mind – 31st July, the date that the majority of law firms close their training contract applications each year. It’s a date that filled me with dread, usually signalling the start of rejections and endless soul searching about whether I even bothered to try again next year. The “holy grail” of securing a training contract in your second year of university (as a law student), is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule, so how on earth do you go about securing one?

Take the time to find out the kind of law firm you want to work for. If you’re at university, take advantage of all of the careers events that your law society put together and most importantly, go to the law fairs!

I’m the first one to admit that it is hard to get out of the mind-set that you are just going for the free stuff, but law fairs and careers events are perfect opportunities to speak to trainees and get to know a firm better. The trainees are the people that have gone through the process most recently, so ask them about what it entailed and why they chose to apply for that firm. I also think that meeting the trainees is a good indicator of the “personality” of the firm; if you find the trainees are uninspiring and unengaging, then that firm probably isn’t for you.

As trainees, we are asked to feedback to our HR team if there is someone who has particularly impressed us, so please don’t think there is “no point” speaking to us!

Being able to build networks is an essential skill for a solicitor, so get used to it early! If you have any contacts in the legal world, speak to them and try and get as much out of it as possible.

If you’ve spoken to a trainee or someone in graduate recruitment at an event, look them up on Linked In (most will have a profile) and connect with them. I share our latest press releases and trainee blogs, so it is a really good way of keeping up to date with what’s going on at the firm which will give you plenty of information to draw on whilst completing your application. Lots of firms are now very active on Twitter as well and this can be another helpful way of gaining insight into what a firm is up to (and helping showcase your “commercial awareness” on your application form). You can follow us at @brownejtrainees.

Once you understand the kind of firm you want to work for, it is much easier to demonstrate a genuine interest in your application. In my final year of submitting training contract applications, I only submitted three and they were all to similar firms. The applications are time consuming, so use your time wisely, start thinking about them now, and only apply to places where you would actually want to work (obvious, I know). Check your application form for content and typos (again, it sounds obvious but in a career where attention to detail is very important, this is key), and ensure you submit in advance of the deadline!

Good luck!