Ask any aspiring lawyer "what's the most stressful time of year for you?" and the answer will most probably be training contract application season. Whether it’s the application itself, psychometric test or prepping for assessment centres the whole process can be pretty overwhelming.
Well, fear not, because we have put together some top tips we have picked up from our time as trainees and our own application experiences to help keep stress at bay and make the whole process seem a lot less daunting.
1. News Alerts
We hear how important commercial awareness is all the time but what does it actually mean? Well, in a nut shell, it means being aware of what is going on in the world and how the legal sector might be affected by the global climate. One of the easiest ways to improve commercial awareness is signing up to news alerts on apps or email, and selecting areas of law that interest you. Each day, over breakfast or on the commute, you can receive bite size news alerts that are tailored to the areas you are interested in. Pop your legal hat on and think about an area of law the news might affect and you’ve increased your commercial awareness - it’s as simple as that.
Many training contract interviews, whether face to face or on video, will ask candidates to give an example of time where you’ve acted in a certain way. Although experiences in the work place are valuable answers, it is always helpful to have a few examples up your sleeve of things outside a professional environment to show different sides of your personality. Think what you do or have done outside of the classroom and workplace, in particular focusing on the transferable skills that you may have developed in the process. The key ones to look out for are attention to detail, organisation and clear communication. Also, think about any hobbies you have or sports you play, and most importantly, if you don’t, get involved in something new! Not only is it useful for training contract applications, but it is great for relieving stress and having a positive mind set.
One of the most important things about training contract applications is what you can bring to a firm. Think about your USP, and what you think your greatest asset is as a person. Don’t know what yours is? Those who interact with you on a daily basis such as friends, family and colleagues can offer some of the best ideas here and often provide answers and qualities you might never have considered. This can aid in providing confidence on assessment days and give comfort in being yourself.
4. Thinking outside the box
Being knowledgeable about the key legal principles you’ve learnt at law school is great, but it doesn’t always guarantee success. A key part of being a trainee is that golden phrase of being able to think outside the box. If, like me, you are prone to thinking inside the box, reading about the law and legal principles outside of core educational texts such as John Rawls and Plato can shine a light on more abstract ways of thinking. This can be helpful not only in assessment days, but also in practice, and a useful skill to learn early on.
Interviews are a fundamental part of training contract applications but have you ever wondered what the interviewer sees? One of the best forms of preparation whether it be a face to face interview or a video interview, is recording yourself answering practice questions or talking about yourself. This will help you pick up on bad habits you might not realise you have, such as fidgeting, moving around on your chair, or looking around the room. Engagement is key and identifying and combatting these bad habits will help achieve this.
An obvious tip, but one which can reflect badly if done wrong is research the firm you are applying to. Firms want you to contribute to and be a part of their success so it is important to research how they are successful and why they stand out. It is probably not the best idea to talk about your interest and passion for an area of law the firm doesn’t have a department in, so make sure your application is tailored to the firm based on the research you have done, and not a carbon copy of all your applications.
Good luck with the upcoming application round!