Top tips to land that training contract

Kickstarting your legal career is an undoubtedly exciting time: having poured time and effort into your undergraduate degree, you’re ready to put your skills to practice and get your first taste of life in the legal industry.

Of course, it takes more than desire to land that illustrious training contract. With competition fiercer than ever, securing a trainee position at a firm of choice is becoming increasingly challenging for the budding law student. From the thousands of applicants, only a lucky few will be selected for the next stage and fewer still will be in the running for the role.

If you are to make it into this bracket, there are a few tips worth taking on board:

1.   Know your ‘why’

Recruiting teams in prestigious law firms aren’t interested in half-hearted applications from students who cannot pinpoint their reason for joining the profession. Before you even approach the process, take some time to craft a compelling answer to this question: it will be the driving force to your application. Remember to keep your focus on the organisation: what has inspired you to apply for this position in particular? Why do you want to start your legal career with this firm? The more compelling your reason, the higher your chance of a successful application.

2.   Showcase your commercial awareness

In a recent a study of 19 global firms by King’s College London, ‘commercial awareness’ was listed as one of the top three attributes that legal sector employers sought from future lawyers. Regardless of the size of your target firm or the practice areas they specialise in, you can guarantee that they are seeking a student who has an understanding of the market and how it is affected by real-world events. If you are to gain the competitive edge, you must be able to demonstrate your grasp of the bigger picture and your practical ability to work in a commercial environment.

3.   Promote your transferrable skills

Candidates seeking a training contract are often too quick to label their non-legal experience as irrelevant, choosing instead to focus solely on their vocational career. In fact, most recruiters in this sector will favour candidates who have shown commitment to balancing study with professional responsibilities.  While you may not be able to list of your achievements in the legal sector, never underestimate the power of transferrable skills. The ability to communicate effectively, meet deadlines and manage workload are essential for any successful legal professional, so drawing attention to examples from your work history is key to being considered for a training contract.

4.   Meet the firm

Careers fairs and open days offer students the opportunity to build their legal network and get ahead of the competition by connecting with their target firm face-to-face. Taking advantage of these events will further demonstrate your commitment in taking that extra step above the online application in achieving your goals. Ultimately, law firms run these events when they are actively searching for new talent: make a good impression and the trust you build could land you that dream training contract. Don’t forget to follow up after an event and get in touch with the recruiter to reignite the conversation and ensure you’re front of mind when decisions are made.