We sat down with Hashim, Marija and Naoise, three of our wonderful Bookings Team, to talk through their hints and tips for the application process! All three have secured training contracts and have been through the process from start to finish with many failed attempts between them. Here is what they’ve learnt and want to pass on to you.
First thing first, how do you pick the right firm?
HS: Figure out exactly what type of working culture and areas of law you like. This is almost impossible to do without having a variety of work/ volunteer experience, so try to get as much work experience, shadowing and volunteering roles under your belt.
MN: Research: rather than just reading the law firm’s website, try and use alternative resources to find about life at that particular firm. Some good resources are Roll on Friday, Legal Cheek and Chambers Student (True Picture).
Research can only go so far and you need to get a feel for the firm in person. Make the most of all the opportunities to meet different kinds of firms (open days, events hosted at firms (Legal Cheek often hold events or panel sessions at law firms), vacation schemes). Most importantly, remember that finding the right fit goes both ways – the firm should be a good fit for you too!
NT: Aim to get experience across a wide variety of law firms in order to work out what type of firm suits you best. Knowing whether you prefer large, mid-sized or small firms really helps to narrow down your list of applications. Working for a company such as F-LEX is ideal for this.
How can you make your application form stand out?
HS: Be very concise, don’t write like you are writing an essay, write like a lawyer. Lay out your answers in a logical structured way. Read the question carefully to understand what it’s asking. Research the firm thoroughly and include examples of cases and deals they have worked on.
MN: It’s not always about what you have done but how you talk about it. Make sure with all your legal and non-legal experiences you really bring out what skills you have developed and how you can apply this to being a successful lawyer at that particular firm.
Try and find particular aspects of that law firm that match your interests/experience and make those links! For example, if a law firm has a big Tech department and you’ve headed a Blockchain society at your university, tell them about this! If the firm is big on CSR and you’ve been actively involved in pro-bono projects and volunteering, highlight this!
NT: Go beyond the firm’s website for information! Follow the firm’s social media pages and set Google alerts to keep up to date with any recent news. Attend an open day at the firm if possible. Having first-hand experience will allow you to give a more genuine reason for wanting to work there. If you find yourself placed in a firm that you want to apply to, make the most of it. Where possible, attend internal talks, speak to current trainees and take the opportunity to find out as much information as possible. This will help to set your application apart from the majority.
You’ve shone on your application form and in some cases you’re through to one of the most unnatural and uncomfortable experiences you are likely to go through, the video interview, how should you prepare?
HS: Have a list of trigger words/bullet points for general questions that are asked at interviews. Video interviews are awkward for everyone, but just don’t freak out, if you don’t know the answer to something, don’t make it up. You will get better with each video interview you do.
MN: Prepare but don’t overprepare! You will be able to plan for some questions (why law, why the firm, why do you think you’ll make a good lawyer) but don’t try and learn your answers off by heart as you’ll need to be looking at the camera and keep within the time limit. If a question takes you off-guard don’t panic!
My other advice would be to make sure you record with a plain background and to make sure you are in an environment with no distractions – somewhere with a strong wifi connection and no chance of friends or family (or pets!) walking in during the interview!
NT: Always look down the camera rather than watching yourself on the screen. Record sample answers on your laptop beforehand to familiarise yourself with the process. Although it may seem obvious, make sure you have a strong WiFi connection, a quiet room with as few visible distractions as possible and that you are dressed appropriately!
You’ve done it, you’re through to the main event, the interview. But how do you nail that interview?
HS: Be prepared, know your application and CV inside out. Have examples of every soft skill/competency question that could be asked of you. Be yourself, inauthenticity is easy to spot. Be confident and organised, if you don’t know the answer to a question, take your time and give the most logical answer you can. Sometimes its best to say “I’m not sure, but I can definitely find out.”
MN: Let your personality come through! Firms are interviewing hundreds of people and as much as the interview will focus on your CV and your motivations for law and why that firm, they will want to see if you are a good fit for the firm – are you someone they would like to work with.
Research! This isn’t about reeling off facts and figures from the firm’s website but show that you’ve really thought about the firm, its values and the work it does and why you think it’s the firm for you. Pick a few things that make that firm stand out for you and weave them into your answers or save them for asking questions at the end of the interview.
NT: Practice answering predictable questions (e.g.‘tell me about yourself’); familiarising yourself with what you are going to say will get you off to a good start and hopefully eliminate initial nerves. However, be yourself and try not to sound like you’re reading from a mental script. Research recent deals and cases the firm has worked on, form an opinion on them and be able to explain why you found them interesting. Most importantly, just be prepared. Competency questions are usually a given, so know your CV, skills and competencies inside out. Finally, be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in the firm and show you have really thought about why you want to work there.