The September Prep List
As September nears many of you will be gearing up for the next “Big Push” (The first of many cliches). You all know what I am talking about of course, applications. It’s a time that strikes dread into the hearts of even the hardiest of souls. For some, you may have learnt lessons from the last round of applications, for others this is a new experience. In this article I am going to give you my two pence on what you can be doing in this period to best prepare for what is about to come.
Let’s get one thing straight - vac scheme and training contract applications are bloody difficult. Compared to a lot of other industries and jobs that your friends will be applying for, they are long-winded, tedious and difficult. There is no set formula and it seems a bit of a lottery. However, there are several things that you can be doing now that will help you for when those application floodgates open. After two years of applications (and at last some success) here are my tips for what you can be doing now in this period to nail those applications.
This is the big one.
Use this time to research which firms you want to apply to and why. With these applications its a fine line between quantity and quality. Whilst getting as many out as you can, you also need to ensure that they are showing you off at your best.
By using some of the tips below you can then make sure that your applications are tailored and succinct.
When it comes to researching firms, they don’t want you to repeat verbatim what you have read in The Lawyer, Legal Cheek or on their website. If they ask you a commercial awareness question, they want you to focus on the impact that your chosen issue/story has on their firm and clients.
Try to think outside the box. If part of the reason you are attracted to the firm is because of the opportunities to work abroad, then tell them why one office/jurisdiction in particular interests you.
The more research you do now in this period, the easier life will be later.
Identify who and when
Law firms aren’t shy about advertising when their applications open and close. Use this time to identify which firms you are interested in, when their applications open and the deadline. There are a number of sites that you can use to help you with, such as All About Law, LawCareersNet and Legal Cheek.
But this doesn’t just relate to application deadlines. You can also use this time to identify open days for the next year. Open Days are a great opportunity to get an in-depth look at firms that interest you. You are also provided with an unprecedented level of insight into the workings of the firm that could help your applications stand out.
The same goes to career events. Universities love to through careers events and they provide another excellent opportunity for you. But rather than just wandering around aimlessly and talking to the odd people here, you need to make sure you look at the event attendee list (this will be clearly publicised) and identify which firms you are interested in. Make a beeline for these firms and make sure you have some questions prepared. A good tip is to always make a note of who you have talked to, their name and position, which you will then be able to use in your application.
Make a calendar
Making your own calendar of key dates is a great way of making sure you are on top of your applications and events. It will help to keep you focused. But be realistic. Don’t set yourself a timetable that you can’t keep to or try to attempt too much. It will put you in a mood and can lead to you losing focus.
Start preparing application answers
Some things are certain in life, others not so. One thing that is certain, is that every application will ask you for some variation of a list of your awards, positions of responsibility, proudest achievement etc.
Use this time to think hard about this type of question and start drafting responses that are 150, 200 and 250 words long. Not only will it help you save time when it comes to the application forms but using this period to work on standard questions like this will enable you to give a polished answer.
Looking back at my first applications makes me cringe. They were appalling. Reviewing previous applications means that you can identify parts that you liked and those that you didn’t (warning another cliche coming), never forget “learn from your mistakes”. Looking back at my first applications I couldn’t believe how incredibly cricket centric they were. Cricket has always been a big part of my life and has taken me abroad, led to positions of leadership and given me a wealth of stories. However, I have also done so much more than bloody cricket but that didn’t come across.
Taking the time to sit down and really think about your experiences and activities/teams you have been involved in will help you to appear as a well-rounded interesting individual. It will also give you a wealth of experiences that you can use in your application forms and hopefully, interviews.