How to stand out on an application form

Trainee solicitor, Charis Brown, outlines several steps to help you to navigate the demands of application writing.

Consider what it is that you are looking for in a firm

During application cycles, it can be very easy to get caught up in preconceived ideas regarding which firms you should be applying to and what it is that you think you should be doing to succeed. You may even find yourself going through these motions without properly taking a step back to reflect upon your own goals and priorities. There is often also the misconception that applying to as many firms as possible will improve your chances. Unfortunately, this approach will likely become detrimental to the overall quality of your applications as you will have less time to spend on each. To avoid falling into these common traps, prior to drafting any applications, I would highly recommend listing at least two or three factors that are particularly important to you in your future career. For example, this could be a specific location, an area of law, work-life balance, or the firm’s culture. Once you have done this, you should gain a more focused perspective, which will then enable you to justify your motivations for applying.

Tailor your application

Having thought about these factors, you will be better equipped to carry out effective research. Starting points for research include looking on the firm’s website to find out about its values and core principles. You can then think about how you embody these values and link this to your own skillset. I would also encourage that you make every effort to attend virtual insight events, ask questions to current trainees and take advantage of the informative and regular social media content provided by Shoosmiths. This will allow you to draw upon your personal experiences when writing your application and you will have more examples to give when referring to what entices you about the firm.

Show your personality

There is no ‘one size fits all’ for a Shoosmiths trainee solicitor and the variety of experience is what makes the firm stand out. What interests you is important, and the firm wants to see this in your answers, so don’t shy away from mentioning things that you are passionate about! Remember that the application process is just as much about finding a firm where you will thrive. This is more likely to happen if you feel like you can be yourself from the outset.

Critically analyse each sentence

This is a method that I found particularly helpful when I was writing applications. Once I had completed an initial draft, I would then colour code and categorise whether each sentence within my answer demonstrated either:

  • my experience, interests and skillset;
  • commercial awareness; or
  • my research into the firm.

This list is not exhaustive, however, if you cannot categorise a sentence under a particular ‘purpose’, then it is possible that you may be able to make better use of your word count. In most cases, you might find that the sentence only needs rephrasing slightly in order to make it clear what exactly it is that you are trying to demonstrate. Once you have analysed the ‘why’ behind your points, your answer should become more focused and ultimately evidence why you should be offered a position.

Triple check it

After the time and effort spent on applications, it would be a real shame to reduce your chances of success due to simple (and avoidable) errors. Putting uninterrupted time aside for the purpose of proof-reading can be challenging, especially as the pressures of application submissions often sit alongside numerous other commitments that you may have. However, managing this is crucial so that you have ample time to review your answers – especially as the best method of review is often to revisit your work at a later date when you have a fresh pair of eyes. Creating self-imposed deadlines that fall earlier to the official submission date can also assist with this and having that safety buffer in place may help you to avoid the stress of any last-minute application panics.

For more application advice have a read of Molly’s blog. It is also important to take the time to ensure you input information accurately, as highlighted here.

If you have any questions you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.


This information is for general information 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. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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