Making your trainee solicitor application stand out

There’s only one of you in the world, so when you're applying for a job don't be afraid to be yourself

What makes you you?

Society can make us feel like we have to conform, fit into a box, behave in a stiff, very corporate way. But if we do this then we’re ultimately kidding ourselves and doing the opposite of embracing diversity.

Make yourself a prime candidate

When applying for a job (particularly a competitive training contract with a law firm) you are likely to be up against serious competition. Recruitment teams will have huge volumes of applications to wade through so make sure yours gets noticed.

There are certain things you can do to ensure you stand out for the right reasons. Follow these steps to put yourself in the best position possible to secure a training contract.

1. Get experience

The biggest step you can take has to be gaining practical experience. This includes practicing advocacy and being able to demonstrate client interaction experience. Note that this doesn’t necessarily need to be in a legal environment. One of our best Solicitors worked in a recruitment agency, managing client relationships, before joining Co-op.

Any work experience you can get to help demonstrate your confidence, commercial awareness, influencing skills and ability to build strong relationships will be brilliant.

2. Get out and do

Anything that demonstrates proactivity is also going to help you stand out, so if your base line is your study, what can set you apart? Are you attending mock debates, quizzes, or other activities alongside your studies? If you are, shout about these!

Have you held positions of responsibility at school, university or in clubs or societies? Have you done any volunteering or fundraising for charity? Many recruiters will be looking for these key skills. Show them that you have an unswerving appetite to achieve and be successful.

3. Meet people

Are you maximising your networking and business development opportunities? Get out and meet people, gain exposure to senior lawyers in local firms and broaden your network.

Ensure the relationships you build are authentic ones. Offer to help out for free and ask experienced lawyers to tell you about cases and scenarios they have come across. This will give you a fresh insight into the world of law, away from the confines of the lecture theatre.

4. Put yourself in the right shoes

Many firms offer a vacation scheme or insight day, so make sure you take advantage of these. If you’ve tried to secure a place but can’t then don’t despair! What about working at the Coroner’s office, a Magistrate’s Court or the legal department of a charity? Do some pro bono work. Being proactive here will really help.

5. Know who you’re speaking to

It may go without saying, but don’t try and wing your interview after a heavy night out! Taking the time to really research the company you have applied for will give you greater confidence on the day.

Don’t just look on the company website. Go over and above - look up local press articles, review “the Lawyer”, speak to your network and find out if any of your connections know someone who works there. Employees can tell you more about a company than anyone else.

Who are the key people at the firm? Find out what they specialise in and read publications they’ve written.

Be in a position to tell your interviewer why their firm stands out from the rest and why you want to complete your training contract with them. Know who your interviewer is (if possible), look for their LinkedIn profile page to learn what their role is and aspire to inspire them.

6. Know what you want to say

Practice answering interview questions. Get someone you trust to ask you some sample questions and think carefully about how to answer them. Are you clear on the competencies they are looking for? Can you articulate answers that prove you have what it takes?

Why do you want to be a Solicitor? Make sure you have a robust, interesting answer for this. Have a story to tell explaining what’s led you to this point.

Your interviewers will want to see evidence of commercial awareness. It’s important that you go beyond the obvious. In recent interviews lots of candidates were talking to us about Brexit. Sure this is really topical and all over the news each night, but there’s so much more relevant and pertinent stuff going on in the legal industry right now. We would love to hear this mentioned in an interview.

7. Take a deep breath

Knowing what to expect on the assessment day is important and will help you to relax. Arrive early, take a deep breath before you walk in and then believe in yourself. Remember that your application has already got through the competitive screening stage.

It will be a pressurised day and you’ll really want the job so nerves can get the better of you. But if you’ve prepared thoroughly, you listen carefully to what’s being asked and you are confident, you’ll stand the best chance you can.

And if it doesn’t work out? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Treat the interview as a valuable learning experience - bounce back, reflect on where you may have gone wrong, ask for feedback and then take it on board for next time.