When applying to law firms, whether it is for a vacation scheme or training contract, it can sometimes feel as though the only method to use to get an offer is to apply to as many firms as possible. After all, it makes sense to cast your net as wide as possible, right? Or at least that is what I used to think.
Fortunately, through hearing other people’s stories and attending several law conferences, I have now come to the realisation that making applications to 10 or 20 law firms does not increase your chances of success. In fact, it actually reduces your chances of succeeding as it is more than likely that you will end up failing to produce an application which specifically targets an individual firm. When I started applying for training contracts in my second year at university, I would use this tactic and apply to every firm that I could think of. This would often result in me simply copying and pasting my generic first draft – which I thought was perfect – and upon submission being so confused and angry when I received those rejection emails. Recruiters often advise against making multiple applications as it will be evident in certain applications that the candidate simply copied and pasted and failed to pay attention to the particular culture of that firm. You must take your time with each application and really consider what it is you are looking for as a future trainee.
During this journey, the most important tip I have received is to not be too eager to please any specific firm before they meet my standards. The truth of the matter is that a firm is only as good as the people it employs; the legal industry needs you just as much as you need a training contract. The only way that the firm can function is if it has productive lawyers and once you realise that you are actually an asset within the market (and also if you keep in mind that there are many law firms out there), you start to think less about impressing the firm and more about how the firm has impressed you. If you know your worth this will in turn help with your applications, because if you believe you are the right fit for the firm it is easier to convey that message to your potential employer. Having this in mind can help add a bit of direction when you are doing your research.
The concept of researching a firm before making an application used to be very difficult for me. Online research tends to be quite repetitive and after a while, you start to realise that certain law firms are quite similar. Because of this, I have had to become a bit more creative with my research methods. Besides visiting the firm's website and factoring in the location, application structure, reputation of the firm or trainee salary, you may also want to consider some of the following factors below to help you get a better idea of a particular law firm.
Attend events at firms
Due to the competitive nature of the legal industry, we will not all be awarded the honour of attending open days at law firms. However, there are other ways which can help you get a better picture of a firm. For instance, if you became a member of certain legal societies and networks such as the Law Society or the Black Solicitors Network, you will find that they usually hold events at different law firms. Attending such talks will give you a chance not only to network with different people from different law firms, but also to take a look inside certain firms to get an idea of what their offices are like.
Speak to employees
It is one thing to read about what a firm thinks about itself on its website; it’s a completely different thing to actually speak to someone who works there. Speaking to people who work in the firm – whether legal assistants, trainees or partners – is a great way to get to know more about a firm and understand how it works. It is also important not to be afraid to ask the questions you really want to know (eg, work-life balance or incentives). Reach out to different people and you will find that they are actually very friendly and willing to help.
What kind of a person are you?
I have heard a lot of stories about people who decided to join or stay at a firm which really was not the best fit for them. I believe it is important to stay true to who you are even if it means you may have to wait a bit longer for an opportunity to arise. Hence it is important when thinking about the type of firm you want to train at to also consider the type of person you are and the area of law you wish to qualify into. Would you be able to wake up every morning excited to work or would it be a continuous struggle to get through the day?
Finally, after it’s all said and done, I think everyone's training contract journey is unique in its own way. For those who are still on that journey like myself, I hope you find this useful.
Keeping pushing, never give up.