Prepare to ace your application

As the colder days and darker evenings draw in, this can serve as a daunting reminder for prospective trainee solicitors that another training contract application cycle is about to commence. However, this often-stressful period can be navigated with better ease by bearing in mind the following tips.

Apply for firms that fit you

When I first began applying for training contracts, I sent out multiple applications to firms that I felt like I should be applying to, rather than to firms that would actually fit me. On reflection, it comes as no surprise that I experienced little success in my first cycle because I consequently produced rather unengaging, blanket applications. When submitting subsequent applications, I made sure to learn from this mistake and took a step back to really think about what kind of law firm I wanted to work for and what qualities mattered to me. Key factors that I considered included the type of work, corporate responsibility, work-life balance, and the culture of the firm. This time, I had far more success, highlighting just how much the quality of your applications can improve when you have a strong understanding of your motivations for applying, and you select firms where their core values align with your own.

Do your research

Once you have identified what you want your legal career to look like, it’s time to research what firms would fit that expectation. I found that a good place to start was LawCareers.Net, a website that provides profiles for law firms, breaking down their key practice areas, the structure of their training contract, their culture and application process. Once I determined which firms I wanted to apply to, I then turned to each firm’s website to get a better understanding of how they operate and consider why I would be suited to working there.

However, some of the best information I gained came from attending firm insight events and connecting with firms on social media. These are both fantastic ways to network and often produce unique conversations that can really bolster your applications. Shoosmiths are hosting various insight evenings in January 2022 and I strongly recommend applying to get better exposure to the firm’s culture.

You can also follow Shoosmiths on Instagram and Twitter @shoosmithsgrads.

Be your authentic self

Shoosmiths welcomes and values candidates from all backgrounds and disciplines. I therefore suggest drawing on a wide range of experiences and recognising how much strength there is in your non-law experiences.

Think about how any part-time or previous jobs, participation in any societies, travelling nationally or internationally, or any other passion projects could be valuable when working in the commercial world and as a trainee at Shoosmiths, and tailor your application accordingly. Whilst legal experience is useful, the more unique examples can often be the most engaging and allow your authentic self to shine through.

Structure is key

Don’t let the quality of your application slip because of poor structure. Whilst the STAR method is a good place to start (discussing the situation, the task, the action you took and the result), the most crucial thing is to always relate the experience back to how it makes you a good fit for the firm.

For example, what skills did you gain that would benefit you as a solicitor? How did it improve your commercial awareness? How does the experience demonstrate that your core values align with Shoosmiths? Think of each question like a mini essay.

Rejection is redirection

It is easy to feel disheartened when those rejection emails come through. However, I am a strong believer that rejection is redirection and that it will work out in the end as long as you persevere. Channel your frustrations into actioning any feedback you receive, networking, following up on those connections on LinkedIn, and taking all the opportunities you can to get advice on how to be the best candidate possible.

When the next cycle of applications comes around, make sure you have reflected on why you did not succeed before, and what has changed that may allow you to do so this time. All it takes is that one “yes”, and then it will all have been worth it.

Take a look at our other recent posts, or if you have any questions specifically about training contracts, you might find your answer on our FAQ page.

You can get in touch with us about career-related queries at [email protected].


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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