How I got a training contract at a top medical negligence law firm

Ahead of Fletchers’ TC application deadline on Friday, trainee solicitor Sam Wignall recalls how he secured a coveted place with the firm on his second attempt

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When Liverpool University law graduate Sam Wignall was unsuccessful in his application for a training contract at Fletchers, where he was working as a paralegal, he took the feedback on board, knuckled down and six months later reached his goal. Legal Cheek Careers caught up with Wignall — who’s now four months into his TC — to hear about his journey to date and how he is getting on as a trainee solicitor at one of the country’s largest medical negligence firms..

What made you want to apply for a training contract at Fletchers?

Since joining Fletchers in August 2014, I have felt at home and really enjoy the environment and challenges I face every day, and feel that I have developed massively both personally and professionally. With the future plans for further progression and growth of the company, it was an easy decision to want to be part of something so exciting.

I had been working at the firm for just under 18 months when I applied to do the period of recognised training (PORT) — or training contract — for the first time, and just under two years when I applied a second time and was successful.

How did it feel when you were unsuccessful in your first application?

I was understandably disappointed, but I quickly got on with things and looked at ways I could improve myself.

One of the pieces of feedback I received was that my personality did not come out enough in the final interview. This is something that is really important at Fletchers as the firm wants people who share their values and aspirations. Following this feedback, I received a lot of support from the firm. I was enrolled on its ‘Spotlight Programme’ and underwent emotional intelligence coaching with Marketa, Fletchers’ learning and development specialist. This support really helped develop my confidence and personal brand.

How did you find the application process?

The application process at Fletchers is designed to be inherently challenging to ensure that only the most suitable and capable candidates succeed, and I was really proud when I found out I was successful. The tasks and interviews are not there to trip you up but to gain an understanding of what you are about as an individual and to try and get a glimpse of the potential you have. If you prepare diligently there is nothing to be concerned about.

For the case studies task, you must carefully consider the reading list that is provided in the lead up to the day. You need to make sure you read the questions carefully and understand what is being asked of you.

The next stage is the panel interview, conducted by a number of heads of department at Fletchers. They are all extremely passionate and knowledgeable about their teams and the questions try to unlock your legal, analytic and problem-solving skills. The panel are relaxed and try to put you at ease during the interview but it is important to be thoughtful about your answers.

As for the afternoon of the assessment day, this involves a group exercise and unprepared presentation (known as the ‘envelope task’). During these parts of the assessment, I would strongly advise any candidate to just try to be themselves. Fletchers wants people that embody the values which are the core of the company (trust, development, performance and innovation) and this part of the assessment process is an opportunity to show your personality. These tasks also test your problem-solving and presentation skills and the main thing to remember is to be confident and get involved.

If you’re successful during the assessment centre, you’ll progress to a final interview with CEO Ed Fletcher and his team. This part of the process is important as you have to impress the panel with your presentation ideas and also leave them with the impression that you have the potential to become both a brilliant solicitor and somebody they can trust and rely upon. I really enjoyed this part of the process because the panel engage with your ideas as well as challenging you.

Do you think there is anything firms could do to improve their TC application process?

One problem is a lack of feedback. At the initial stages of applications, candidates often complete generic form filling exercises and if you are unsuccessful you’ll just receive an email telling you so. It would be beneficial for the applicant to receive guidance from the firm in respect of why they have been unsuccessful or why they are not currently the right fit. Understandably, providing feedback to everyone would be difficult if there are a lot of applicants, but I believe that a greater level of transparency as to what firms are looking for would assist applicants.

How have the first few months of your training contract been?

I am thoroughly enjoying the start of my training contract. I am currently working in the litigation team within the medical negligence department, which means I am lucky enough to work with some of the most experienced solicitors at Fletchers. I feel as though I am developing every day and learning the important skills it takes to become a solicitor.

Every day presents a different challenge and really tests the skills I have learnt so far. I am really looking forward to the next 15 months and qualifying as a solicitor in 2018 at one of the leading medical negligence and serious injury firms in the country.

Fletchers’ training contract application deadline closes on Friday 2 December. Apply here.

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