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How to talk about sports in legal job applications

How to talk about sports in legal job applications

Phil Steventon


Reading time: five minutes

I imagine we’ve all played sports at some point in our lives, at school, university or in our social lives.

Whether you’ve played at a competitive level or just for fun, these experiences can be used to demonstrate several skills and mindsets that law firm recruiters want to see in interviews or applications.

It doesn’t matter at what point you’ve been involved with sports (I’m getting involved with one at the ripe age of 34) because what you can get from it can positively impact you and your applications.

Time management

Training and competitions can be time-consuming and exhausting, especially if you work hard during the day or get involved with other extracurricular activities like another part-time job, club or society, for example.

Perhaps training or competitions happen in the evenings or on weekends, or maybe you have to choose between training and missing a lecture or workshop in order to compete. Being able to balance academics with sporting commitments proves to an employer that you can manage your time well and get the most out of the little spare time that you have – it’s a great way to show that you know how to prioritise your commitments.

For example, you might be able to frame it to show that, as priorities change over the academic year, you can be adaptable. For instance, you may have been able to put more focus into sport at the start of the academic year but then, as exams grew closer, you shifted your focus to that new priority to ensure you performed well in your exams.

Aptitude for learning

In sports, ‘aptitude for learning’ might refer to the ability to receive feedback from your teammates or coaches, take that information and apply it to what you’re doing.

If we then take this skill and apply it to applications for legal roles then it could relate to the ability to receive feedback from your colleagues and supervisors and then apply it to whatever task you’re doing.

For training contract or paralegal applications, law firm recruiters won’t expect you to know everything at this stage, but you' will need to show them that you can learn and be taught throughout your tenure with the company. Plus, if you’re involved with sports and can demonstrate  that you’re coachable and able to take on feedback, you’ll likely make a good impression. Feedback is a huge part of the learning journey, at all stages, and it’s important that we’re open to receiving feedback and acting on it.


This leads us on to coachability. Have you ever been asked the question “are you coachable?” Another way of phrasing it is “can you be taught/trained?” Employers want to be assured that you can be taught and trained, especially as they’re going to be investing in you. They want to know that their investment of time, effort and money is going to be worthwhile.

You can show that you’re coachable by displaying your cognitive ability, your passion for learning and adaptability. If we use football as an example, your cognitive ability could be shown by your ability to read the pitch and assist your teammates; your passion for learning could be shown by your constant desire to improve while training; and your adaptability could be demonstrated by how you know when to hold the ball rather than make a run at goal.

Work ethic

Sports can be physically and mentally demanding, regardless of what it is and regardless of what position you play.

Say you’re playing football, you’re a goal down and there are 10 minutes of the game to go. The ability to work hard for the last 10 minutes can show an employer that you can work hard under pressure and that you have the drive to push yourself to achieve the required results.

Or, for example, you’re a goal ahead and the opposing team is making a comeback. Your ability to stay mentally focused and ‘hold the line’ shows you can work hard and maintain a high level of focus and consistency to get the job done.


Most sports will include an element of teamwork in some form. Football, rugby and basketball are obvious examples. But even individual sports like tennis or combat sports like boxing, are more of a team sport than you probably realise. For example, you’ll likely be part of a training group and working with others to achieve results.

You can also think about whether there was an issue  within the team or training group, and what you did to resolve it – for example maybe you had to give an inspiring team talk to encourage the team to make a comeback. This can show the employer your leadership skills, even if you weren’t the team captain or in a high position of influence in that team or group.


Discipline is often talked about when exploring combat sports and martial arts like boxing, judo or wrestling but it goes further than that.

It’s important to understand that, from a training standpoint, the only person you’re competing against is yourself. Your aim each time you train or compete is to be better than you were last time. It’s unfair to compare yourself to anyone else, especially if they’ve been training or competing for longer than you, because no one will have the same challenges, advantages, disadvantages and aptitudes that you have. This is a brilliant attitude to be able to take into the role of a trainee solicitor or paralegal.

While all of these skills and mindsets will serve you well in applications and work, playing sports can also just be a great source of joy and a fantastic way to look after your wellbeing. As aspiring lawyers, It’s so important to seek out things that bring us joy given how hard we work and how much we put into our careers and development as professionals. Trust me, it does a world of good!

How can aspiring lawyers succeed with no legal work experience? LCN takes a look at the valuable transferable skills that applicants can demonstrate and where they can start developing them in this LCN Says