Top Tips for Training Contract Applications and Interviews

When thinking about what to write for my first trainee blog post, I reflected on my journey to this point and thought that I would share some knowledge that I gained through the application and interview processes when applying for training contracts. I have narrowed this knowledge down to provide my six top tips.

1. Know what you want in a firm

This begins before you even apply. It is easy as an applicant for training contracts in such a highly competitive field, to apply for anything and everything. You can become desperate for that much desired training contract. However, it is important to know what it is that you want. Applying to a firm that does not offer the areas that you are interested in, or that has different values than those which you support or are passionate about, will never be the firm for you and you will be wasting both your time and theirs. A lack of interest and understanding may be passable with research at the application stage, but will be blatantly obvious if you were to be invited for an interview.

While a training contract is a necessary step to qualification, it is also your opportunity to learn and ultimately should be somewhere that suits you, in order to gain the most out of the experience.

2. Make yourself stand out

Firms like to see personality and individuality. They want to see evidence that you are a well-rounded person, so don’t just write/talk about your legal experience. Mention any volunteering that you may have undertaken, any sports that you like to play or what you like to do in your spare time.

Remember, being a lawyer is not just about knowing the law, but your ability to communicate with your clients. These skills are often gained outside of your legal experience.

3. Preparation is key

This point seems obvious but it cannot be stressed enough. I think this preparation can be broken down into three broad areas:

Know the firm you are applying for:

Explore their website, read their blogs and read about any recent interesting matters they may have worked on. This demonstrates your interest in working for THEM, not just any firm. It also gives you the opportunity to explain why you would be well suited to that particular firm.

Know what is happening with the law:

Familiarise yourself with updates in legislation or any key changes in legal practice.

For example, divorce law is in the spotlight currently following Owens v Owens, and we are bound to see some key changes in this area. Being able to demonstrate this knowledge shows that you have an obvious interest in current matters affecting the law.

Know yourself:

You are bound to get the questions that are always asked: What are your most positive traits? Why do you want to be a lawyer? Or questions of a very similar nature.

It is important to think about these before, so that you are not caught out on the simple questions.

Do not be afraid to take some notes in with you, just with some short bullet points to jog your memory. However, remember the importance of eye contact and engaging with your interviewers, having too much written down on paper may make the interview seem scripted and distract from your ability to communicate effectively.

4. Dress appropriately

Again this seems straight forward, but first impressions are important. Dress smartly and professionally. Show your interviewers that you understand the environment in which you will be working and the importance of displaying a professional service from the start.

5. Smile

Don’t forget to smile! You are entering a profession in which people are paying for your services, and some clients can be nervous to meet you. Having a warm, approachable and friendly attitude is really important to make your clients feel valued but also feel at ease. Your interviewers will want to see this too

6. Just go for it!

It is easy, especially as an inexperienced interviewee, to let nerves get the better of you. Try to look at any interview as an experience that you will learn from, but ultimately appreciate that this is your opportunity to show your interviewers just how great you are. So many others would love to just be offered an interview, so seize the moment and just go for it!

If you are reading this post and are struggling (or even despairing!) with the rigorous process of trying to obtain a training contract – I have been there! Keep going and keep working hard, because if you want it enough, you will get there.

Details about applying for work experience and training contracts at Woodfines can be found here.