The first step in my career was making the decision to become a Solicitor. In 2017 Law Society published statistics showing that 26,655 UK students applied to study law at undergraduate level in England and Wales, out of those 26,655 only 18,850 were accepted on to courses. Law remains one of the most oversubscribed and competitive practice areas. Whilst the statistics do not make for pleasant and reassuring reading it is not all doom and gloom. I have compiled a list of my top tips for securing that long awaited training contract.
Foot in the Door
A really good way for training contract applicants to make their application stand out is to gain experience, whilst I was at university I tried to ensure I undertook at least one legal work experience placement each summer. In the summer of my LPC year I secured a month long internship with Else and at the end of the month, I was offered a six month contract as a Paralegal within the Debt Recovery Department.
One of the reasons why Else is such a great firm to train with is because they recognise the importance of giving people a chance and are passionate about training. My first “Else Placement” exposed me to the realities of working full time within the legal profession and the experience I gained allowed me to secure other roles that I would not have got without the experience Else provided me. I worked closely with some excellent solicitors and I got to know the firm really well.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Even if a firm’s website does not actively advertise that they offer work experience then give them a ring and have a chat. Alternatively send them your CV with a well written cover letter asking whether they are able to offer you any experience. Even if they may not be able to offer experience at that time they are at least now aware of your existence and may consider you for future opportunities.
Another tip is to send your cover letter and CV by post instead of just attaching it to a generic email, most firms will appreciate the extra effort and it also sets your application apart from others as it is a little different.
In the Workplace
Whilst on placement don’t turn your nose up at any tasks you may be offered no matter how undesirable they may be or how big your ego is. Everyone has to start somewhere and most of the time you will end up learning something! Try to be as helpful and polite as possible, even if the firm is not able to offer you a job or further experience by leaving on a positive note they may be able to offer you something in the future. A lot of solicitors know and talk to solicitors at other firms and you want to be thought of in a positive way, no firm will want to hire a trainee with a reputation for being moody and unhelpful. I was fortunate enough to be offered a training contract with Else, a firm I had already worked for previously. If I had left Else the first time with a negative relationship with the firm then I would not have been offered the opportunity to interview for my training contract and would not be qualifying!
Get varied experience
Get experience at a variety of firms to find out what you like. Prior to securing my training contract at Else I worked for a much larger global law firm and undertook work experience in house.
Exposing myself to different law firms allowed me the opportunity to scope out what kind of firm I wanted to end up training with. Predominantly one of the main reasons I was drawn to Else was because they were a smaller firm with a “big firm” mentality and a wide variety of clients. Therefore I knew that if I trained with them I would have more client contact hours and the opportunity to actively develop my skills by working on cases first hand.
When I speak to my friends within the industry who are training at other firms I know I made the right choice for me. At the end of the day you are with the firm you train with for a minimum of two years so it is important to make sure that they are the right fit for you! I highly recommend doing your homework and putting a lot of thought into what firm you want to train with.
It is a marathon not a sprint
It is very easy to pressurise yourself and impose self-inflicted deadlines such as “if I don’t get a training contract by …….. then I will have failed” inevitably the deadline will come and go and if you have not got a training contract you will be left feeling like a failure for no other reason other than your own self-imposed hubris.
The road to qualification seldom flows smoothly for many trainees and there will be bumps in the road along the way. It is your resilience and ability to pick yourself up after a setback that will set you apart from other candidates and eventually lead you to success. Take each rejection as an opportunity to self-reflect and reevaluate what it is that you are trying to achieve and try not to get disheartened if things don’t go to “plan”. Always ask for feedback.
Don’t give up and be persistent, resilience is a skill that will eventually make you a better solicitor in the long run.