Prospective Trainees often receive conflicting, and somewhat unhelpful advice when applying for Training Contracts. Most notably, there are those who suggest doing as many applications as possible to increase your chances of securing a contract, which is not something I’d necessarily advise. The truth is, in my experience at least, that applications are not a one size fits all. Each law firm is different and your application should reflect this. As I look back on my experience of applying for a Training Contract, I’ve compiled a list of what I hope is useful information for those considering a career in law.
- Before starting any application, it’s important to assess what sort of legal work interests you, whether that be private client for example, or multi-jurisdictional deals. As a language student at university, and having worked and studied abroad, I was immediately attracted to Baker McKenzie. With 77 offices in 46 locations, almost every deal you work on has an international aspect, and as a Trainee at the firm, you are often given the responsibility of co-ordinating with local counsel throughout the world.
In addition, it’s important to remember that Graduate Recruitment receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications. Applications that demonstrate that you have taken the time to research the firm, and have a genuine interest in the work that they do, will set you apart from generic ones. In my experience, it is much more effective to do a few, well thought-out and researched applications, than to send 20 law firms the same application with slightly amended wording.
- Apply for Vacation Schemes and Open Days. Whilst a firm’s website will give you a good indication of the type of work that they do and who their key clients are, it is not until you actually spend time working there, and interacting with their employees, that you begin to understand if the firm is right for you. It’s important to understand that applications are a two-way process – just as the firm is assessing whether you are the right for them – so too you should be reflecting on whether you can envision yourself working there. I distinctly remember participating in Baker’s vacation scheme and being struck by how friendly and engaging everyone was. People genuinely cared about how you were settling in and made an effort to involve you in exciting projects. Furthermore, most firms recruit their future Trainees directly from vacation schemes. By participating, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and commercial awareness through conducting research for your department, having a first attempt at drafting documents and sitting in on client calls. You also have the benefit of being assessed over a two or three week period as opposed to during one interview.
- Tailor your experience to what a law firm may be looking for. Whilst participating in legal work-experience schemes is undoubtedly helpful, firms understand that it’s often not realistic to expect students to have obtained legal work experience whilst at school. It is therefore important to focus on what you have done, be it a few weeks of volunteering or working alongside your degree, and reflect on what this has taught you. For example, your part-time job may have impressed the importance of good time management, organisational skills or given you the opportunity to interact with customers or clients. These are all skills that are fundamental to a career in law.
In summary, dedicate time to research the firm, ensure that your application is specific to it, and be sure to reflect on how your life experiences have given you useful skills that will equip you for a career in law.
Eli Clinton-Davis, first-seat Trainee at Baker McKenzie.