If you fail to plan then you plan to fail! – DMH Stallard event at The City Law School – Sandra Prevalus, GELLB1

I am sure that many of you are very familiar with this proverb. This quote essentially highlights the Legal Application and Interview seminar hosted by DMH Stallard on February 4th 2010.

While the representative from DMH Stallard highlighted their unique aspects as a City firm, the representee did provide some universal tips for current law students considering applying to their Law firm as well as others. It is a fact that most of us will have to embark on the stressful and highly competitive arena of obtaining the coveted training contract, which almost makes WWE wrestling look like a walk in the park.

…So where do you start?

Firstly, it’s all in preparation!

You must ask yourself a series of very important and intrusive questions such as,

What do I want from a training contract?
What are my personal goals?
Where do I want to live?
What hours do I want to work and etc…

These questions should help you in determining, to some degree of specificity, what to look for in a training contract.

Secondly, what makes the firm that you are applying to unique?

Some students when applying for training contracts send mass emails to law firms without first doing research as to what makes any of them unique. Employers can tell the difference! So, don’t think that you can outsmart them by simply changing the name of the firm in your application.

The DMH Stallard representative highlighted some aspects that made it unique from a trainee perspective. Some aspects were the quality of work. Since DMH Stallard is not as big as some other firms trainees will have the opportunity to have some very pratical legal experience, besides making the boss’s coffee most of the time! Another unique quality of DMH is its open culture atmosphere. You need to be mindful of these aspects when applying to thier firm to make sure that you will be a match for that environment.

Thirdly, where to find information on law firms?

There are endless amounts of sources that one can use to find information about a firm. Some suggestions are:

Law firm website
Chambers Guide
Law careers.net
Legal 500
More…..

Recommendation is to look at least 6 different sources for up to date information on the firm that you are applying to.

So now you’ve done all the preliminary preparation and you’re ready to finally complete your application. However, before you put pen to paper make sure to find out how the firm accepts applications. Is it paper based, online, is a covering letter required, etc. These are important questions to find answers to BEFORE you complete the application form.

Some hints and tips for your CV…

– Make sure to use bullet points when listing what you have accomplished under headings such as Work History, Education etc. Writing in paragraphs tend to convolute the page thereby making it harder for the Human Resources manager to read your CV. Bullet points are much easier to follow.
– Keep two pages maximum. Any more is unneccessary.
– Do not lie!!! If you choose to include a hobbies and interest section, do not make things up to look good on your CV. Futhermore, don’t include things that are simply not hobbies at all such as playing with children!

When completing your application, pay attention to detail. Make sure it is free from spelling error and DO NOT cut and paste an answer from another application, the Human Resources specialists will notice. Most importantly answer the question asked. For example if you are asked why do you want to be a solicitor, do not include cliche phrases such as “it has always been my dream” or “it is my destiny”. By the time you are applying for your training contract, you need to have a more focused idea of why you are choosing to be a solicitor or barrister.

So, you’ve done all of the preparation, and you have applied to the various firms for a training contract. And CONGRATULATIONS, you have been asked to attend an Interview and Assessment Day. Firstly, Reply. Ironically, there are many people that forget this simple but important step. Next, do more research. It may have been a couple of months since your initial research of the firm and your invitation for an interview. Thirdly, remind yourself once again why you want to work there and what makes this firm unique above the rest. Lastly and most importantly, on the day of make sure you know where the place is located before hand. Many people simply forget this important aspect of the interview process.

During your assessment Day expect to encounter most of the following:

– Written exercise
– In tray exercise
– Short Interview
– Persuasion skills exercise
– Numerical Reasonings( Lawyers do require basic numerical competency to run their “business”)
– Presentation and Panel Interview(actual law knowlege in this part is very little. Instead they are looking to find out if you can actually do the job. They are looking for such things as common sense, communication skills, resiliency, attention to detail, sense of humour etc)

Most firms usually have two assessments if you are successful during the first one and are invited back for a second assessment. Continue to prepare, do not take it for granted that since you were successful during the first round you will naturally sail through the second one. If after the second assessment you are successful, Congratulations, you have finally secured a training contract!

General tips:

Be prepared!!!!

Understand the Legal Market!

Reading the Financial Times or a reputable business magazine can be to your advantage.
Law firms are also businesses as well, so understanding the general aspect of how a law firm works can be very beneficial.

When all is said and done remember to have fun, enjoy this experience, and most importantly if you are not successful in the first rounds, learn from your mistakes! Do not be discouraged, because the competition is very fierce, but through perseverance, if you were able to make it successfully through law school, you’ll make it through finding a training contract!

And remember if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

If you would like more information about DMH Stallard and their specific requirements, be sure to check out their website.

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