Applying for training contracts can be a stressful, long and arduous process. One of the biggest mistakes aspiring solicitors can make when applying for training contracts is not researching the firm properly.

Hopefully the tips below will help you put together the best application that you can!

Decisions decisions…

This may sound rather obvious but it is important to figure out what you want from a training contract and the kind of firm you would like to work for. If you are interested in a specific practice area, there is no point applying for firms that do not offer a seat in that area.

Key things to ask yourself are: structure, location, salary and lifestyle. Some firms get trainees to undertake compulsory seats in core areas, are you interested in these areas of law? Have you got your heart set on working in a certain area, would you be open to moving somewhere else? What kind of work/life balance are you looking for? Having the answers to these questions will really help you to focus on the type of firm you are looking for.

Know the firm

Again, probably rather obvious but one of the most common reasons for rejecting an application is because the applicant did not know enough about the firm.

Law firms want to know that you understand what differentiates them in the legal market. This means providing answers which show that you have done your research about the firm and not just skim read their website. The recruitment process is just as laborious as the application process. You want to make it as easy as possible for the person looking at your application to be send you on to the next round.

Researching the firm goes beyond just looking at the graduate section of the website and regurgitating a few buzzwords in your application. Key topics to research are:

  • what kind of characteristics the firm are looking for in a trainee (and how you tick all of those boxes);
  • key sectors/practice areas;
  • key clients;
  • what differentiates the firm;
  • current affairs - what has the firm been up to recently; and
  • how recent developments in the legal industry might affect the firm (an excellent way to demonstrate commercial awareness).

There are a huge number of resources available to help find the answers to the above questions. Popular choices include: Chambers & Partners Student; The Lex100; Lawyer2B, LawCareers.Net and the Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook (which is available for free from most universities).

With training contract applications it really is a case of quality over quantity. Ten really well researched and thought out applications are far more likely to be successful than twenty scatter gun attempts.

Get organised

Once you have narrowed down the firms you want to apply for, it is a good idea to take note of application deadlines. You do not want to miss out just because you thought applications were due at the end of July, as opposed to the beginning of May.

Proof read

Silly grammatical or spelling mistakes come across as sloppy and can detract from an otherwise strong application. Proof read your answers several times and then get a friend or colleague to give your application another once over.

The application process is a two way street, not only will researching the firm help make your application stronger it will also help you decide whether the firm is the right fit for you.