Top training contract application advice

For aspiring solicitors, applying for training contracts can be one of the most daunting and time-consuming stages in their legal career. These five tips from Molly, a current trainee, could help ensure that your application stands out from the rest.

There is no perfect way to write a training contract application and ultimately, the ‘perfect’ application will differ from firm to firm. However, you should always ensure that you get the most out of the application process and really demonstrate to the firm why you are the best person for the job.

1. Be yourself
It might be a cliché but you should always make sure you let your personality shine through. You shouldn’t try to be the person you think the recruiters want you to be because recruiters don’t look for one personality type! At Shoosmiths, personality and individuality are key factors, whether we are recruiting trainees or experienced solicitors. While it’s not always easy to put your personality onto paper, make sure you talk about your interests (especially non-law interests) and the achievements that are personal to you. If you have a keen interest in knitting, then say!

2. Talk about adversity
I subitted applications for training contracts for many years, and when I first started, I wrongly presumed that recruiters only wanted to hear about the good things. Of course, you should sell yourself and your accolades but if you have faced adversity and overcome certain challenges, then talk about it! Most importantly, talk about what you learnt from those challenges and why you are a better candidate because of it. For me, I found more success when I was honest in my applications.

As an example, I didn’t actually get into any of my university places when I finished my A levels because I didn’t get the grades I needed. This felt pretty disastrous at the time – I had fallen at the first hurdle and I struggled with it for quite some time. Once I began to write about this in my applications and explain how I became more resilient and determined as a result of it, I found much more success. After all, everyone is human and recruiters do understand that.

3. Proof read, proof read, proof read
It’s an obvious one but always, always print your applications and proof read them. Or better, get someone else to proof read them. You would be surprised at how many typos and mistakes your application might have. Nowadays, training contract applications are considerably long and there’s a lot of room for error so don’t give recruiters an excuse to immediately throw out your application because you’ve misspelt the firm’s name!

4. Be selective about where you apply
You’re often told that the more firms you apply to the better. However, safety is not in numbers. Personally, I found I was more successful in getting to the interview stage once I started to seriously refine the firms I was applying to. This was largely because I could spend a lot more time on each application and actually put thought into the answers I was giving.

You also need to think about what you actually want from your training contract and apply to the firms that fit these desires. This part can be one of the trickiest because judging a firm from their website doesn’t give an awful lot away. Before you make your application, try and meet the firm at open evenings or law fairs. If nothing else, engage with the firm on social media so that you can get a feel for its culture and ethos. Before putting in my application to Shoosmiths, I had met graduate recruitment, trainees and solicitors from the firm a number of times and I was always impressed about their approachability and friendliness. It was from these meetings that I knew Shoosmiths was the right firm for me.

5. Structure your answers
Don’t treat the application form as a way of just listing your credentials. You should treat the questions as a mini-essay in the sense that you should provide an answer and always link it back to how this demonstrates certain skills, commercial awareness or Shoosmiths values. Examples should always be given and a brief evaluation of why this makes you a great candidate is crucial to helping you stand out!

Applications for a summer placement 2020 and training contract 2022 are now open on our website.

For additional tips and advice about how to tackle competency questions, have a read of this blog.

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.



Read the latest articles and commentary from Shoosmiths or you can explore our full insights library.