Back to overview

LCN Says

Top 10 vacation scheme and training contract application tips

updated on 16 October 2023

Reading time: three minutes

In this LCN Says, The University of Law, sponsor of our LawCareersNetLIVE conferences, shares 10 tips for a successful vacation scheme or training contract application.

1. Give yourself time – don’t leave the application until the last minute. Write it, reread it, share it with a careers service or others for feedback, reflect, amend, reread and then submit. Applicants often make basic mistakes in application forms, which law firm recruiters cite as one of the most common ways applicants let themselves down. As such, make sure you don’t submit an application full of typos and grammatical errors.

2. Don’t submit too many applications – do your research to determine which firms you most want to apply to; focusing on a few good ones is much better than trying to apply to many.

Don’t forget that you can meet and learn more about a range of law firms at LawCareersNetLIVE. You’ll have the opportunity to network, hear lawyers speak on the panels and attend different firm-led workshops to find out more about a firm and its practice areas.

You can also keep track of law firm training contract and vacation scheme deadlines via LCN’s deadlines pages. Use our Training contract search tool to find firms that match your criteria. Conducting thorough research and having a smaller list of firms that you’re genuinely interested in will improve your application, which brings us onto our next tip…

For more advice on how many training contract applications you should be making, read this Oracle!

3. Tailor each application to the firm – it’s important to thoroughly research each firm so you can get across in your application why your skills and experience make you an excellent fit for that specific firm. Many questions will look the same and many of your answers will be framed from the same starting point. However, you need to really hone in on the values and culture of each individual firm.

You can delve into thorough law firm research by reading LCN’s Meet the Lawyer and Meet the Recruiter profiles, as well as the Vacation Scheme Insider profiles which give insights into a firm’s vacation scheme. Additionally, our Practice Area Profiles allow you to get a feel for a range of different practice areas.

4. Answer the question – it’s not about you sharing the information you want the firm to know, it’s about answering their question. Sometimes the two things align neatly, but not always. It’s also important to give yourself time to answer all the questions, backing up your claims with solid examples and evidence. Make sure you highlight a range of key skills, such as teamwork, enthusiasm, commercial awareness and drive.

Find out more with our ‘Key skills for lawyers’ page.

5. Be clear – you know yourself and your examples but will someone who has no previous knowledge of you understand the context and nature of your experiences? Be clear to avoid confusion and/or failure to appreciate your points. Make sure everything you write about links to why you’d be a good fit for the firm. For example, if you’re going to mention extracurricular activities make sure they link to a key skill.

6. Don’t make assumptions – if something is important, say it. Don’t assume that the reader will know and don’t make them have to work things out for themselves; tell them.

7. Be authentic – allow the real you to come across through the examples you use and the experiences you reference. Firms don’t want all their trainees to be exactly the same; they want to know all about you and why you’re interested in applying. Be proud of your journey that culminates in wanting to work for the firm you’re applying for.

8. Don’t exceed the wordcount – a wordcount is an indicator of how long a firm is expecting an answer to be, so don’t exceed it or fall too short. You may find your application rejected simply on the basis of failing to follow instructions. Exceeding the wordcount suggests your communication skills lack the succinctness required.

9. Be prepared for the next stage – a successful application is likely to lead to an interview; it’s sensible rather than presumptuous to be thinking about how you’ll impress if you progress.

Get training contract interview advice with LCN’s top 10 tips.

10Learn from success/failure – whether you progress to the next stage or not, ask for feedback. You may not be offered any but, if you are, you can use it to enhance future applications.

LawCareersNetLIVE, sponsored by The University of Law, takes place in ManchesterLondon and virtually in late November and early December. The deadline for applications is 26 October 2023 but offers are made on a rolling basis so we recommend getting your application in as soon as possible.

The application form for LawCareersNetLIVE is similar to that of a vacation scheme or training contract application, so why not take the above advice from The University of Law and use the LawCareersNetLIVE application process as practice? Delegate places are offered to candidates who could become excellent trainees, so it’s a good opportunity to not only practice applying, but also to gain first-hand insight from lawyers and recruiters at the event.

For further information, and to apply, visit the LawCareersNetLIVE website.