I’ve blogged before about how to write good applications, but there’s always room for more advice and a different take. I know that as you march determinedly towards the end of the examination period some of you will be planning to sit down to write applications. (Take a break first!) I asked Antonia George a trainee at Vinson & Elkins for her top tips. Here’s Antonia:
“If you want to land your dream job you have to come across well in a written application, and address the key things that law firms are looking for. I thought I would look back on the process and give you my top tips.
Navigating training contract applications and choosing the law firm that’s right for you is a daunting task for anyone. Even though there is a vast amount of information out there, it can be very difficult to narrow down what firms are actually looking for. Of course, each firm will differ in the details, but here are some key points to consider in any application.
This is the first chance a firm has to assess your writing skills so make sure it’s the content that they’re impressed with, and not the improper English, poor grammar or typos that they’re distracted by. Attention to detail is vital so check, and double-check, your application.
Research, research, research
This is arguably the most important element of the application process. It is impossible to demonstrate your interest for a firm without a thorough understanding of its practice areas, key sectors it is involved in, offices, culture, and training programme. Also, the application process works both ways! As well as demonstrating what an excellent candidate you are, confirm to yourself that this is a firm that would suit you.”
On this topic have a look at the blog post which current student Dammy Sokale wrote for The Lawyer2B (you’ll need to sign in to read it but it’s free). There’s some more great advice there.
Listen to this video too, it’s 2015 graduate Jake Schogger talking about how to get your applications right. Watch out too for more videos on how to carry out research, coming very soon on the YouTube channel.
And back to Antonia…
What makes me a desirable candidate?
“Beyond demonstrating a genuine interest in the firm and its work, employers are trying to discern from your application whether you have skills required of a good trainee (and how to demonstrate this appears to be a common concern among applicants). Conveniently, every hobby, interest, and role you’ve held over the past few years can usually be broken down into the key skills that law firms are looking for.
For example, coaching a rugby team = Communication skills! Leadership skills! Team building!
Going on a Euro-rail trip over summer with friends = Organisation! Interest in travel! Managing expectations!
Applying for training contracts means you have to understand how to market your achievements in the most positive light. Anything and everything can be used to make your application shine.
Don’t play it down!
Law firms want to hear about all of your accomplishments and down-playing these would only be doing you, and the law firms, a great disservice. Brush away fears of sounding big-headed – this is the time to be clear about your achievements and show what an excellent trainee you’d make!
Make it stand out
The recruitment team will have sifted through hundreds, maybe thousands of applications, so try to make your application stand out above the rest. How you make your application memorable is up to you.
Antonia started her training contract at Vinson & Elkins in 2016 and has just finished her first seat with the Complex Commercial Litigation department, and moved to the Energy, Transactions & Projects department in Tokyo.