Next steps after unsuccessful training contract applications

Dear Oracle

I've just started my Legal Practice Course (LPC). This summer I applied to 20 firms for training contracts and had three interviews, but didn't score - what do I do now?

The Oracle replies

Don't be disheartened. The legal job market is more competitive at the moment than it has ever been before and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective trainees in the same position.

First, let's check that you're being as strategic as you need to be. Twenty applications is quite a lot - are you sure you spent enough time thoroughly researching and tailoring each one? As a general rule, the candidates who apply to only a handful of firms tend to be those who meet with success. In terms of your interviews, have you thought carefully about your technique? Did you ask for feedback afterwards? If not, you should definitely ask for it now as recruiters are the best people to help you improve. For more help on nailing applications and interviews, check out these features: "CityLawLIVE's application master class" and "No sweat: interviews made easy".

Now is the best time to refocus - and perhaps redouble - your efforts. It's the season for law fairs and firm presentations, and the application systems for work placement schemes are open. Visit the LCN Diary for listings of the major fairs and presentations. Make sure you're going to a few law fairs and talking to real lawyers, especially those at the firms you're applying to. Try to get an understanding of exactly what recruiters are looking for. The new edition of The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook will soon be available at your course provider's careers service, so be sure to pick up a copy.

Don't be afraid to reapply to the firms that rejected you. Candidates often wonder whether that's good practice but hear this: not only is it recommended, many firms in fact welcome reapplications. It shows commitment, perseverance and, hopefully, improvement; ideally you'll have supplemented your CV with more experience and credentials by the time you reapply.

We have to reemphasise that a scattered approach is usually met with little success. It is so important to conduct thorough research and make sure your applications are tailored to each firm specifically. In addition to firm research, you may find it useful do a bit of self-reflection. Did 20 different firms all honestly make for a good fit with your personality and specific ambitions? When applying to firms, be sure to know your CV and what you want. After understanding what you have to offer and what you yourself want from your working environment and career, you should then be able to identify firms which have these key criteria in common with you.

Finally, ask firms for feedback on any unsuccessful applications. Not all will oblige, but graduate recruitment teams are often more than willing to provide you with a full breakdown of your performance, which will no doubt be useful if you do choose to reapply to the same firm the following year.

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