Sinead Dineen - Five top tips for flawless LawCareersNetLIVE (and training contract) applications
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If you want to be in with a chance of attending one of the LawCareersNetLIVE student conferences which take place in London and Manchester in December, you need to submit a top-class application which is very similar to a law firm training contract application.
LawCareersNetLIVE offers two unique one-day events designed to give delegates a greater understanding of what life working at a law firm is like and to provide opportunities to network with solicitors, recruiters and trainees.
We only offer delegate places to candidates that we believe could go on to become excellent trainees at our sponsor firms and we are looking for the same qualities in that firms want to see when they assess vacation scheme and training contract applications. So while the advice below is focused on the LawCareersNetLIVE application form, it can also be applied to law firm applications.
Here are my five tops tips for a flawless application:
1 - Prove your intellectual ability
All top law firms are looking for candidates with an excellent academic record and our sponsor firms are no exception. In delegate applications we expect to see A*s, As and Bs at A level (or equivalent) and excellent grades (60% and above) so far on your degree. Obviously we allow for mitigating circumstances, but this should be clearly explained, offering a genuine reason for not achieving your predicted grades and backed up by medical, school or university records where applicable. Do not leave the academic sections blank – this causes us to assume that you are hiding poor grades.
2 - Give evidence that you are developing the skills to be a successful lawyer
No one expects you to be the finished article, but you need to show that you understand what skills a lawyer needs and are taking steps to further improve yours. There are two main areas on the application form where you can demonstrate this:
Work experience section
Here you can input details of the legal and non-legal work experience you have undertaken in a standard format which is similar to what you will see on many law firm application forms.
We appreciate that it can be difficult to get that first bit of legal work experience, but we are interested in hearing about any type of work experience, legal or non-legal, be it a formal vacation scheme or working on a supermarket checkout. With regards to legal work experience, it’s not just formal vacation schemes that count. If you have spent a day work-shadowing a solicitor or been to a firm’s open day, then mention this on the application form.
Make sure to include any non-legal work experience you have (either paid or unpaid) as this can demonstrate a great range of skills, for example, how you interact with colleagues or customers in a formal environment, how you respond to different situations and how you organise your time. This is key – with any type of work experience, make sure that you are telling us not only what tasks you undertook but also, and more importantly, what skills you gained from this experience.
Skills you possess question
The second place on the LawCareersNetLIVE application form to reveal your skills is in response to: “Please tell us why you believe you possess the skills and attributes to become a successful commercial lawyer.” This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are dedicated to a career in commercial law and that you have the skills that it takes to be successful. For example, we want to see that you have strong communication skills – this shows us that you will have the confidence to network and build up contacts at the event.
Another skill we expect to see is commercial awareness, so demonstrate to us that you are interested in the business world. This suggests that you will ask thought-provoking questions during both the firm-led workshops and the panel discussions at the event. Other skills we would like to see evidence of include teamwork, leadership, drive, enthusiasm, motivation, resilience, accuracy, attention to detail, negotiation, client care, initiative, dedication and interpersonal skills. I could go on! These are the same skills that a law firm is looking for in a trainee solicitor. Make sure to refer to your own experience and interests to back up your claims about each skill.
3 - Understand and fully respond to the long answer questions
The long-answer questions are the point at which many applicants fall down. The main thing to remember is that you need to give yourself enough time to fully prepare your responses to all of the questions. You should:
- take time to fully consider what is being asked;
- plan your response to each question before you start writing the answers;
- decide which of your examples go in which answer;
- back up all claims with evidence;
- try not to repeat yourself;
- prove that you have fully researched the event/firm you are applying to;
- demonstrate why you would make a great lawyer; and
- give authentic, personal responses.
Finally, a note on word count – this is an indicator of how much we expect you to write in your answer. If you are not close to the word limit, you are unlikely to have answered the question properly.
4 - Demonstrate that you understand the legal profession and the event (or law firm) you are applying to
Throughout the application form you need to show that you understand the legal profession and what the work of a lawyer involves, and what being a delegate at the event will entail. This is the same on a training contract application form where you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the firm to prove that you are the right fit.
On the LawCareersNetLIVE application form we look in particular at your response to: “Why do you want to attend the LawCareersNetLIVE conference and meet our law firm sponsors?”. We pay a lot of attention to a candidate’s reason for attending the event in the same way that a law firm would consider your reasons for wanting to work at that particular firm. We want to be sure that candidates attending one of our events understand what the purpose of the event is, what they can gain from meeting the sponsor firms and, in turn, what they can offer to those firms. However, we appreciate that not all of you will have firmly decided that a career at a top law firm is right for you; if this is the case, say so.
The conference will allow you to discover how our sponsor law firms operate, what you can expect from working there and how these firms differ from each other and from other firms. We do not expect you to know all of this at the outset (this is the one point where our recruitment process differs from a firm's. The firm WILL expect you to demonstrate that you understand how it functions, the work it undertakes, how it differs to other firms and so on).
A word of warning: we do not expect to see the LawCareersNetLIVE website regurgitated in response to this question – the same way that a firm does not want their graduate recruitment brochure quoted back at them.
Your response to “What one question would you ask a panel of law firm partners in order to gain insight into the legal profession?” also gives you the opportunity to showcase your understanding of the profession and current hot topics.
5 - Avoid basic mistakes
This should go without saying but time and time again we see applicants making basic mistakes. You should approach your LawCareersNetLIVE application form as you would a training contract application form. That means taking your time over it and giving it the same care and attention. So:
- double check spelling and grammar;
- spell the event name correctly – or in the case of a training contract application, the firm’s name;
- write fully formed sentences in correct English – no random capitalisation and no text speak;
- answer every question – and answer the question being asked;
- keep to the word limit;
- check and recheck (and ask someone else to check) the application before submitting; and
- submit before the deadline.
Remember that this is all good practice for vacation scheme and training contract applications and following these tips should help you to make a perfect application.
Make an application to LawCareersNetLIVE
If you believe that you can take this advice on board and make a top-class application, as well as be an engaged and proactive delegate, we would love to have you at one of the conferences.
The deadline for applications is 26 October 2018, but we will be offering places on a rolling basis from late September. You will be advised by email if you have been accepted for a place at the event, at which point you will be asked to select workshops and pay the delegate fee of £29. Please note that you can only apply for one of the conference locations, London or Manchester, so please choose the event location that suits you best.
Here are the key details about each event:
Number of delegates
For further information see the LawCareers.NetLIVE website.