The secret to making a strong training contract application

Author Christianah Babjide

Author Christianah Babajide

Christianah Babajide is in her first year of the LLB at City and holds the position of Secretary of the City University Law Society. Christianah also writes for LawCommonRoom, the blog she started with fellow LLB1 student Radha Baan. In this piece she reports back on a City University Law Society event where students heard from an expert on how to secure a Training Contract…

Advice from an expert on how to get a Training Contract…

Jessica Booker has previously worked as a Graduate specialist at the following magic circle firms; Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters. Jess worked as a Trainee Recruitment Manager at Freshfields for over three years and worked at A & O for more than a year. After gaining nearly 10 years of experience with top law firms, professional services and an FMCG company, Jess decided to set up her own consultancy business in April 2014. It is called ‘Star Potential’.

Jess delivered a presentation at City University London where she provided unique insight on ‘How to Make a Strong Training Contract Application’. The event was organised by City’s Law Society – the biggest student led society on campus. Jess kindly offered her services to Zain Ismail (Third year law student and President of the Law Society). Zain says he “would highly recommend you get in touch with Jess to benefit from the services Star Potential provides.” You can get in touch with Jess via  LinkedIn or her email.

Here’s what Jess had to share in the event at City:

The 4 Successful Factors in a Training Contract:

  1. Motivation
  2. Work experience
  3. Extra-curricular
  4. Skill set

Motivation:

Where most graduate specialists place academics as the key to obtaining a TC, Jess declared motivation as the most important asset to have. However, this is something many applicants lack. They fail to show the graduate team they will be happy carrying out this job everyday. Jess emphasised the importance of showing motivation in your application form. Consider the question, “If you were offered multiple training contracts from other firms- why would you choose us?” It is important to show commitment and passion in the job.

Work Experience:

Gaining legal work experience showcases your time management skills and efficiency, amongst other things. Everything is relevant when it comes to experience; consider Vacation schemes, Open days, Workshops and Volunteering. For volunteering, ensure you specify the hours you did in total.

Non legal work experience is also key. This ranges from office jobs, holiday work, part-time jobs. Part time work shows you can have a healthy work/life balance, which is a transferable skill to have.

Extracurricular:

Law firms are very interested in what you do outside of your studies: these experiences can show that you can have a good work/life balance and it reveal a little of your personality. Whilst it is important to state the leadership role that you upheld, the most important points to emphasise are the lessons that you learnt from the role, what impact it has had on your character, and how these experiences can be adopted into future roles.

Research:

It is your job as an applicant to do some research and find out what sets a firm apart from their competitors. Research is a vital element to gaining a TC because it allows you to tailor your CV and application specifically to that firm. Law firms need to know that you will commit to them in the long term and that they are your first priority.

You must demonstrate why the firm should invest their resources into nurturing you into a valuable addition to the firm, and how you can benefit them in the near future.

Attention to detail:

Lische Graduate specialists have meticulous attention to detail. Therefore, writing an application form that is well-structured and well-written is required.

You must read over your application many times, have legal professionals look over it and dedicate a similar amount of time preparing your CV.

Spell the firm’s name properly and do not try to shorten it to keep your word count. Try to eliminate as many grammatical and spelling errors as you can.

Skill Set:

Jess uses the ‘I.N.S.P.E.C.T.O.R’ checklist to evaluate the skills Graduate Specialists are looking for in TC applications.

Inconsistency:
It is important to keep the font size and the name of the firm consistent throughout your writing. If you have said ‘Baker & McKenzie’ do not suddenly change it to ‘B&M’ half way through. Make sure you don’t find yourself slipping into past and present tense. There are American and British English spelling differences. Make sure you are conscious where you put your s’ and ‘z’. For example; realise and realize are different spellings of the same word, where the former one should be used in Britain and the latter in America.
Name-dropping:
Rather than name-dropping and putting a Partner or Associate’s name in bold, mention a unique thing you managed to take away from their shared experience. Law firms would rather read about what you learnt from your conversation with a member of their staff. Simple name-dropping is not enough to make a strong TC application; you need to show how your interaction with a legal professional in the firm has caused you to become more passionate about working for that particular firm.
Sloppy:
Ensure you pay attention to the little things. Write your address correctly in the right format, for example ensure your postcode is capitalised. Use a font that can be read easily. Recruiters usually spend 10-15 minutes on reading an application form. Therefore, using clear fonts, concise language and a coherent structure will give a good impression to the recruiters.
Plagiarism:
Do not copy other people’s applications and use their words. Also, don’t copy buzz words from the firm’s brochure – it doesn’t make your application stand out nor does it showcase originality.
Explaining:
Include the duties and roles that you played in a job or organisation, and emphasise when you were given extra responsibility or awarded for your efforts. This will demonstrate how your individual role contributed to the success of the team.
Convoluted:
Don’t think that writing in a simple way will undermine your message – graduate specialists will look for an application which gets to the point. Avoid waffling about irrelevant detail, and try to use short and concise sentences that can still convey your message with persuasion.
Thesaurus:
Sometimes, using simple vocabulary is best. This makes sentences easy to understand, and can avoid unnecessary confusion about what you are trying to convey. Using complex words badly hinders your sentences from flowing, but if used well they can make you stand out.
Over-exaggerate:
Be modest. When an applicant exaggerates in their application, whether in terms of vocabulary or the extent of your passion, it may not come across as genuine. Whilst it is good to impress the recruiter, they are well-experienced to identify when a sentence has been overly polished.

Finally…

Real you:
Be yourself! If you do not reveal who you really are, this leads to disappointment on both sides. Presenting yourself naturally will allow you to be more confident and at ease.

Good luck with your future applications!

*Many thanks to Jessica Booker for allowing us to publish this article!

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