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LCN Says

Webinar review: law firm applications – how to succeed

updated on 22 September 2021

As the peak of application season for vacation schemes and training contracts approaches, aspiring solicitors want to present their best selves in the hopes of securing a position with their chosen firm.

LawCareers.Net hosted an insightful application’s webinar, providing tips on how to succeed in your law firm applications. The panellists were:

This article will outline the key takeaways from the event, which you can use to tailor your applications and give you the best chance of success.

Starting your research

Before you begin your applications, you must first create a shortlist of firms you can see yourself working for.

Think about:

  • the different practice areas firms specialise in;
  • who the firm’s clients are;
  • who their competitors are; and
  • which firms do pro bono work.

Another way to narrow down the search, is to start with the top 50 law firms in the UK. Using the factors mentioned above create a list of 15 to 20 firms.

Once you have your list, refine your choices further by delving deeper into your research, so that you have around six to eight firms you will be applying to. By creating a shortlist, you will have the capacity to write stronger applications.

Attend law fairs

Before writing your applications, try to attend an event (in person or virtual) to meet the firm. This will help you to identify whether the firm would be the right fit. Attending law fairs can be one way to engage with firms; they provide opportunities to ask questions of those working at the firms (eg, trainees, associates and partners).

These questions could focus on the experiences the individual has had with the firm or might revolve around what their day-to-day duties involve. This information would be less readily available online and could provide you with an edge in your applications.

Completing your application

A successful application will on average take six to seven hours. Every application must be unique to each firm, which is why doing your research is crucial; look at what sets them apart from other firms and demonstrate why you want to be a lawyer at that firm.

You must be aware of what the firm is looking for from their future lawyers. Make sure you’re answering the questions being asked. Each firm has a different application structure – for example, there may be competency-based questions, in which the best answers can be given using the STAR approach. This involves explaining a situation, the task you completed, your actions and the result of the action. While mentioning factors like teamwork is of value, the firm wants to know about you and your achievements.

Other firms may use strength-based questions over competency. In your response you should emphasise your interests and what you are good at, with a focus on why you would suit the firm.

Try to come across as professional and eager, but also demonstrate your personality. Your application should include:

  • your interests;
  • your motivations;
  • your passions;
  • any work experience you may have (legal or non-legal); and
  • an understanding of the firm’s values and objectives.

As an applicant, remember that law firms are businesses, and they want to do what is best for their clients, while also making a profit.

If you can demonstrate what it means to be a lawyer and what the day-to-day job entails then this adds strength to the application.

Common mistakes to be avoided

One of the most common problems arise when applicants write a generic application (eg, copy and paste their cover letter). Make sure you look at the firm’s website thoroughly, consider the interactions you’ve had with the firm at law fairs, for example, and show that you have done your research. It will be obvious to recruiters if there is a lack of knowledge about the firm.

Do not leave your application to the last few days before the deadline. This makes it more likely that you will have rushed your answers and the lack of thought will show. It sounds simple but make sure you have spelt the firm name right – there have been stories of candidates submitting applications with the wrong firm name entirely. A mistake will raise a red flag to recruiters. Completing your application well in advance will allow you to triple check your writing and help you to avoid silly mistakes.

Don’t forget to mention your non-legal experiences in your application. These experiences show you have a variety of skills that will make you a good lawyer.

You might also want to mention the culture of a firm but only do so if you have heard about it or seen it specifically at an event.

Final thoughts

Make sure your application is well structured, easy to read and grammatically correct.

Bring your authentic self and show your knowledge of the firm and what about them has inspired you to apply.

Good luck to everyone this application season. Hopefully, this article provides an insight into how you can reach your goals.

If you’re interested in attending LawCareers.Net webinars:

Tamzin Bildstein (she/her) is a third year undergraduate LLB law student at the University of Kent.