This week 63 Law firms attended Warwick’s Law Careers Fair. I took advantage of the quiet time before 850 students arrived, to ask law firms for their top applications tips. Thanks to all those who contributed. Here are the seven top tips I picked up.
1. Allow plenty of time
- It can take a very long time to complete a good quality application, so it’s better to do a smaller number really well than more of poorer quality. As you practice, you will become better at completing them, so expect some rejections as you hone your skills. The field is so competitive that some rejections will be inevitable. The quality of your application form might well have been of a high enough standard for another, less competitive sector
2. It’s a game- but it’s a serious game
- Knowing the conventions of completing an application for a law firm is (like any application) a bit of a game. Once you know how the game is played you will get better at it. Undertake research so you know what the specific differences are that attract you to a particular firm- even if these are marginal when compared to similar, competitor firms, they will appreciate the lengths you have gone to, to find this out
- Take the process as seriously as completing an academic piece of work- give it your best attention and research, research, research
- Check the application process for each firm- they will vary. Stick to the word limit. Some applications won’t let you exceed the word count; others may state the limit but not do this- so do check you haven’t inadvertently exceeded it. If you have up to 500 words don’t only use 200
- Know the firm you are applying to inside out, their ethos, their strategy and where they are going. Read the news- keep up to date on current affairs and how these might impact on the sector/firm you are applying to. Have opinions
- Mirror some of the language firms use in their literature/online in your application responses
3. Make it personal
- What areas of Law do you want to specialise in and why? Tailor each and every one of your applications. Don’t fall into the trap of cutting and pasting from one application to another- firms will be able to tell, so it’s not worth the risk. It’s easy to accidentally make errors such as leaving in the name of a competitor
- Personalise your application so your personality comes through. If someone who knows you read through your application would they be able to tell it was you?
- You will not be drawn to some firms- focus on applying for only those you are genuinely interested in rather than feeling you ‘should’ apply. You will be more comfortable and more enthusiastic in your applications and at interview if you select firms you’d genuinely want to work for
4. All experience counts
- Both legal and non-legal work experience count so do include both in your applications. Don’t assume that there isn’t very real value in ‘just’ retail where you may be responsible for handling cash, dealing with challenging customers or perhaps persuading and influencing. Ditto volunteering
5. Pay attention to detail
- This point was made by almost everyone I spoke to. Those shortlisting have to be ruthless to get to a manageable shortlist- so any errors, however small, risk your application hitting the shredder
- Make sure you spell and express the name of the firm correctly. E.g. is it Smith and Smith or Smith & Smith?
- Check your document; ask someone else- perhaps someone who has nothing to do with Law- to check your application
- Print off a hard copy to check for errors- they are easier to spot on paper
- Once you’ve done it- take a break and come back to it fresh to re-read it
- Answer the question- sometimes applicants ramble but don’t nail what is being asked
6. Spell your achievements out
- In order to stand out your application must be able to showcase your skills and experiences effectively. It is OK to use some adjectives and adverbs to ensure you stand out
- Firms will want someone they can place in front of clients so consider how you will provide evidence that you will have the confidence to be that person. Consider the extra-curricular experiences you have that will support this- captain of sports teams, positions of responsibility, debating society, course rep roles etc.
- Consider what you are proud of and why- one firm asks this on their application
7. Be honest about mitigating circumstances.
- If there are genuine reasons why you didn’t do as well in a module/exam as you should have done, do include these.
Head of Careers