Isla Grant - A sporting chance
The Olympics. There, I've said it. On the assumption that I'm not now being arrested for misappropriation of the Olympic brand, I thought it might be a good time to draw a few parallels between sporting endeavour and career success (and make timely use of a feature we published some years ago… ).
Training for a training contract is no small thing. Blood, sweat and tears - sometimes all on the same day - will be required. And it's obvious that you're better off approaching the training contract process as if it were a marathon and not a sprint - you're in it for the long distance, not a brief and sweaty lurch to the finish line. To help you maximise your training contract potential, we offer you some instruction on how to get your fitness levels up and your mental attitude honed.
1. Practice - Like all muscles, the brain can atrophy when not used regularly. As such, you need to be doing your research regularly, not in a last-minute rush moments before the deadline. So, keep abreast of big legal news, make frequent visits to the websites of the firms you're interested in, and keep talking to friends, careers advisers and those already in the profession about what you can be doing to get ahead. You might also be surprised by how much knowledge you can accumulate quite quickly. When it comes to your brain, you need to use it or lose it!
2. Have a plan - You'll get nowhere blindly rushing around. As with all seasonal sports, you need to have a plan of fixtures and training sessions to keep everything clear. Visit LCN's Career Path pages as somewhere to start. Next, invest in a large wall planner - dull, but essential for making sure that you fit all your research and applications in with the necessary schoolwork.
3. Talk to experts - The finest athletes would be nowhere without advice from those who have gone before. They can tell you how to spend your time and what to do to up your game. They might be careers advisers (ie, the trainer/managers of the legal world), current trainees (ie, star performers of an earlier generation) or senior lawyers (ie, Bobby Charlton).
4. The competition - Look around; who among your peers is progressing effortlessly through the choppy waters of trainee recruitment? What are they doing that you're not? A bit of industrial espionage is OK - if you have to ask some leading questions to find out their training regimes and copy them mercilessly, so be it. Nothing is sacred in the fight to the top (although you may like to keep your methods hidden from the IOC).
5. Research - This is the equivalent of press-ups or sprints. You really can't do too much of it - it's what keeps you energised, fit and ahead of the pack. Think you've done all you can? Do more! It's like carbo-loading; all that information is the fuel that allows you to keep going.
6. Be realistic - It sometimes reaches the point where you've trained and trained and trained, and given it your all (some would say 110%, but we reject such a ridiculous non-figure). And yet, things just aren't working out as you'd hoped. You're not winning your heats, you're not getting those medals. Time for a dose of reality. Are you really cut out for this particular field of endeavour? Are there insurmountable hurdles (eg, a third-class degree) that no matter which way you approach them, you'll never get over? Get tough and consider whether it's time you pulled the plug and took your skills to another sphere.
7. Finances - World-class athletes need financial assistance and advice, and so you too are unlikely to escape the university/post-grad process economically unscathed. Obviously, where possible, securing a bit of sponsorship can ease those financial worries. Sources of financial help might include the firm at which you've already secured a training contract or, for example, the Inns of Court, if you're headed to the Bar. Where that's not possible, think carefully about your finances, particularly when committing to a post-grad course. If your heart isn't in it or past performance may make success elusive, your money may be better spent elsewhere.
8. Crossing the finish line - Prepare your acceptance speech! You've got a training contract and you can breathe a sigh of relief (and revert to eating chips and curry four times a week). And although this is really just the beginning of your career marathon, with more challenges along the way, as long as you adopt a healthy approach to the journey and a match-ready state of mind, success will be yours.
So there you have it - time to dust off your trainers, do a few star jumps, and limber up as you prepare for the game that is law!