10 essential tips for submitting a training contract application

I am often asked for one main thing that helps applications to stand out, but I find that candidates often overlook the basics of getting their application right.

So here I list my top 10 essential tips to help you get the basics right, then you can concentrate on the content of your application, and hopefully we'll be meeting at an assessment centre soon.

1. Are you eligible to apply?

Before you start ensure you are fully familiar with our eligibility for applying, and at what stage of your studies or career you should be at before submitting your application. You cannot submit an application for a vacation placement on its own without also applying for a training contract. However you can submit a training contract application on its own.

2. Research and get to know the firm

Shoosmiths are transparent about our culture and the values that we live by. We pride ourselves on being honest and friendly and encourage candidates to interact with us in a number of ways. With a comprehensive website, opportunities to visit the offices at insight evenings and on placements, and meet us at law fairs, there is ample opportunity for you to establish if you suit the firm and more importantly if we suit you! You must be yourself, explore a range of firms and you'll soon know where to focus your attention.

3. Engage with us using social media

Shoosmiths graduate recruitment team frequently post application tips and advice on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. By engaging with us you'll understand more about how we work together across 12 locations, not to mention all of the firm wide news and legal updates you'll read which will ensure you remain commercially aware throughout the application process.

4. Ensure it's clear on paper why Shoosmiths are the firm for you

It is one thing knowing you want to work at Shoosmiths and believe in our values but it is another thing demonstrating this on paper and supporting it with evidence. When answering competency questions reflect on how your skills are relevant to the role of a solicitor, provide clear examples on how you have developed those skills and built relationships, and finally don't forget to tell us how your qualities will make you a good solicitor at Shoosmiths.

5. Submit your application in advance of the deadline

The career area of the Shoosmiths website is very informative, including a whole host of hints and tips as well as sharing first-hand experience from trainee solicitors about their experience. The passionate and personalised responses from candidates who can describe how they will bring value to the firm are the applications which stand out to us and score highly.

It requires time and effort to learn about a firm and create your application to ensure it is specific to Shoosmiths and contains genuine reasons for why you would like to train here. Be sure to have a deadline in your mind to submit your application, which may well be earlier than the firm deadline, so you can fit in your other commitments too.

6. Ensure your application portrays you as a rounded individual

We think there is more to being a trainee solicitor than just good academics. We are looking for individuals who have interests outside of the world of law, and who can bring different ways of thinking to our firm. We want candidates who have sought legal work experience to confirm their interest in commercial law, and who have behaviours and qualities such as confidence, awareness, expertise, resilience and a positive attitude.

7. Accuracy is a vital skill for a solicitor

Your application should be an accurate, genuine and honest account of your past experiences and academics, and we do cross reference your application form against your certificates. Avoid mistakes which could call your integrity into question by reviewing all grades against your certificates when you complete your application.

8. Highlight mitigating circumstances and reasonable adjustments

If you have mitigating circumstances or require any reasonable adjustments ensure you indicate this clearly on our application form and carefully follow our instructions.

Shoosmiths is proud to be a Disability Confident employer. Disability Confident is a government scheme designed to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people and those with health conditions. If you would like more information about this, you can contact Sarah Winship, the firm's Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Manager at [email protected].

9. Get a second pair of eyes to review your application

It sounds simple, but when you've spent a great deal of time and effort completing your application, don't make the error of failing to spot mistakes. By ensuring a peer reads your application you can ensure your attention to detail is 100% accurate, and that the application sounds like you!

10. Take feedback constructively

Securing a training contract is a challenging and often time-consuming process so if you face rejection and are advised you've been unsuccessful try to take any feedback constructively and implement improvements for future applications. We offer full feedback to anyone we have met in person throughout our recruitment process, for example, on a vacation placement or at an assessment centre. Due to the number of applications we receive, we are unable to offer individual advice on your application form, but encourage you to read the advice on our careers blog, and meet us at an event in the future.

If you have any further questions about the application process, you can email me at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.


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