Open thread: How do I get a training contract?

Trainee solicitors advise

lead1

Uncertain that you are approaching training contract applications in the right way, or maybe just lacking inspiration to come up with something that will help you stand out from the crowd?

RPC trainee solicitors Charlotte Thompson and Joe Byrne (pictured above) are on hand to answer your questions in the comments section below from 1-2pm today — in our lunchtime open thread careers discussion.

The duo will also be taking questions from anyone confident about training contract applications but less relaxed about interviews, while they’ll also be happy to explain a bit about their career journeys to date.

Join them below the line from 1pm.

This thread is now closed. Thanks for participating. You can read the questions and responses below.

73 Comments

Anonymous

I didn’t do so well in my first year and am worried I’ll be called up on it. How concerned should I be and what can I do to overcome this?

(16)(10)
Charlotte Thompson

Hello! If you are pleased with your second and third year results, then this could outweigh any dips during first year. If not, if possible, you could make use of the mitigating circumstances box, which appears on most application forms.

(6)(2)
Anonymous

Hello, I am about to graduate with a first class LLB Law degree, but I have less than average A-Levels – BCCC. I have loads of extra curricular activities (such as president of the law society) and work experience. How much will this affect my applications for a TC and what should I do about it? thanks!

(4)(0)
Joe Byrne

Yes we do look for strong academics but it is not all about that. The graduate recruitment team will look at all aspects of your application. It is a good idea to use the mitigating circumstances part of the application form to explain any dips.

(1)(8)
Anonymous

You say “we do look for strong academics…” Are trainees involved in recruitment at RPC?

(2)(7)
Anonymous

Trainee solicitor at city firm here. When there are open days Graduate recruitment always send us a follow up email asking who made a good impression on the day. This probably has less than 1% impact on their decision to recruit someone but they nonetheless ask for our opinion on some candidates.

(5)(2)
Anonymous

But the trainee’s answer mentioned what “we” look for. Unless he is asking for CVs with a break down of marks at the open days (which he didn’t say he attends), I’m wondering how involved trainees are in recruitment – do they get to review applications, and therefore look at academic results?

(0)(5)
Anonymous

I am pretty sure when they say “we”, they mean the firm. It is highly unlikely any firm will have their trainees involved in the decision making process on application forms/interviews.

(6)(3)
Joe Byrne

Sorry, by ‘we’ I meant RPC and not Trainees. Graduate Recruitment are the ones who make the decisions.

(3)(6)
Zoey

Did you apply for TCs during the course of your studies? If so, how did you cope with the pressure and how did you handle time management?

(1)(0)
Charlotte Thompson

I did apply for training contracts during my studies, and it was at times quite hard to fit everything in. I tended to set aside one afternoon, or one day, to work on them. It is important to prioritise which firms you want to apply to most, in order to spend enough time on each application. Of course, time management is also a good skill to develop before joining the law!

(0)(0)
Zoey

Thanks Charlotte. I’m currently working in a City Firm and doing the LPC masters so time management isn’t such an issue but throw in the TC process and it gets difficult.

(0)(4)
Anonymous

Hello, i just finished fours years of law and french, and just missed out on a 2.1. What are the chances of me getting a TC? slim to none ill presume

(5)(5)
Anonymous

None at a city firm unless you have genuine mitigating circumstances.

(2)(0)
Anna

Hello!

I have 2:2 in both first and second year, but got a high 2:1 with firsts in some modules in third year and now am on track for a 2:1 overall ( my course is four years). Do
You think this will automatically stop me getting a TC?

(6)(0)
Anonymous

Hi there, I am a non-law student at Oxbridge. My grades are good but I have no legal work experience or much experience in law at all. Would you recommend getting as much work experience as I possibly can? I have just finished my second of four years here, and I know that in my upcoming third year that is when I should start applying for vac schemes? Thanks for your advice!

(2)(2)
Anonymous

What is the best way to do so? I am finding it very difficult to gain work experience so far. Thanks!

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Write to your local firms – write to everyone you know and ask who knows a lawyer etc. Think outside the box.

(2)(0)
Joe Byrne

It is always good to do legal work experience but it is by no means essential. All work experience is relevant to your application form and I would recommend including all of it. An easier way to get legal work experience is to apply for open days at city firms. This will count as legal work experience for the purposes of your application form and help you demonstrate an interest in the area. It will also help you to decide whether law is the right career for you.

(3)(2)
Anonymous

Whilst undertaking your training contract, have you come across a lot of people who have failed to meet the grade requirements – but who have still secured training contracts? Either by gaining 2:2’s or even lower A-Levels than the firm asks for?

(5)(0)
Anonymous

How is paralegal experience gained outside of London compared with experience inside the City – in the view of securing a TC with a City firm?

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Good afternoon.

I’ve been working for the same firm for two years as a paralegal, and have loads of previous paralegal experience, including corporate. But my LLB was a 2:2. Do I have any hope?

(1)(3)
Anonymous

Not in city firms unless you have genuine mitigating circumstances.

(3)(0)
Laura

How did you prepare for the interviews? Are there any societies or extracurriculars you recommend? In terms of the applications, in the “any additional details” box in applications, should we always be filling those in?

(0)(1)
Joe Byrne

I prepared for interviews in a number of stages. I would firstly review my application form and ensure I was up to speed with everything that I had mentioned in my answers. Following that, I would research the firm to make sure I really understood what it was about. Beyond that, I would look at wider business news. In terms of extra-curricular activities, I was always involved in a broad range of things such as volunteering; law society etc and I think the majority of extra-curricular activities are worthwhile. Finally, if you are asked to complete a box I always would.

(2)(1)
Patrick

When applying for a TC, it is crucial to understand the firm’s culture. Yet, non-Russell Group Unis are usually not visited by commercial law firms and are often refused an invitation to firms’ events. What is the best way to get to know the firm’s vibe if one hasn’t had an opportunity to meet its representatives?

(5)(3)
Anonymous

Hi Patrick,
I also do not go to a Russell Group uni, but I a member of Aspiring Solicitors and they run open days and events with firms for people who don’t have the ‘traditional’ background that most solicitors do (ie if you go to a non-Russell group uni, state school educated, first generation in family to attend uni, BME, LGBT+ etc). I would seriously recommend having a look at their website!

(14)(1)
Galiya

Hello! From your experience in what way is RPC similar to a “typical City law firm” but at the same time completely different from one?

(2)(2)
Charlotte Thompson

RPC is similar to a typical City law firm in the sense that it provides legal services. However, the firm is different from the norm in other respects. It is forward thinking, for example, in its establishment of RPC Consulting and introduction of meritocratic salaries for NQs.

From my perspective as a trainee, it is relatively free from hierarchy – the open plan environment means that you are happy approaching lawyers of all levels. It is also incredibly social – I’ve been on a ski trip, taken part in choir concerts and have set up a badminton club.

(2)(6)
Anonymous

Did you ever consider an application to Clifford Chance, or did the pool cleaning duties put you off?

(17)(2)
Anonymous

What was the most stressful part of your application journey?

(0)(3)
Joe Byrne

The most stressful part of my application journey was waiting to hear back from firms that I had applied to. Firms can often take a long time to get back whether the response is positive or negative .The waiting was slightly less stressful than my colleague who got stuck in his chair on his assessment day!

(2)(2)
Anonymous

When applying for mitigating circumstances, what would you recommend if you have experienced mitigating circumstances without Evidence?

(2)(0)
Zoey

What has your work been like at RPC? Do you get involved with the cases or is it very much admin heavy?

(0)(0)
Charlotte Thompson

My work at RPC has been very varied and in terms of how much admin I do, it probably depends according to seat. In an insurance seat, trainees can run their own smaller claims. In a bigger team, we are more likely to be involved with bundling or other admin. Having said that, I have never felt entirely overwhelmed by admin, and there has always been a mix of drafting, research, admin and issues based work, as well as plenty of client exposure.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

What do you do if you don’t know the answer to something in an interview?

(0)(0)
Charlotte Thompson

Take a drink of water to give yourself more time, perhaps ask for clarification, and then think around the question.

(3)(1)
Anna

What information should we research for and how detailed should it be? Should we be aware of details of financial review of the firm or rather focus on investigating its recent deals?

(1)(1)
Joe Byrne

There are a lot of different avenues for research. I would say for RPC it would be a good idea to look at the website, @lifeinalawfirm twitter feed and the legal press. I would focus on finding out information on the firm’s practice areas, culture, clients, awards and locations. I would also think about how these aspects of the firm link to your own interests. Research should be always aimed at answering questions in an application or an interview and that should be the level of detail you aim for.

(1)(1)
Anonymous

How different is it for non EU international students to obtain training contracts? Do you have such colleagues and how differently did they say they were treated, or are they all treated equally?

(6)(0)
Leszek

Have you done a VS at RPC before applying for a TC?

How did you get to know the firm’s vibe before applying?

What did the assessment and interview process involve and what was the hardest or most unusual part of it?

(1)(1)
Charlotte Thompson

I did not do a vacation scheme at RPC before applying – currently the firm recruits 50% of trainees from the vacation scheme, and 50% from training contract applications.

In terms of getting to know the firm’s vibe, I used the RPC grad recruitment website and the legal press. Our trainee twitter feed, @lifeinalawfirm, also provides a no holds barred insight into trainee life, which is a useful resource.

The assessment day was also a very good opportunity to get to know the firm and some of the individuals at it, and affirmed my reasons for applying.

The assessment day involves an interview, and written and presentation exercise. In terms of the hardest part, the exercise was quite challenging.

(3)(0)
Leszek

Thank you. Any mock exercises or questions that you could recommend for preparation?

(0)(0)
Charlotte Thompson

You can use your careers service which may provide mock interviews and assessment centres. There are also lots of resources online, which will be helpful.

You could think about the different types of questions that could be asked, whether they be competency questions, firm focussed, or those about the legal sector. Of course, always be prepared to talk about why you want to join each firm.

(1)(1)
Anonymous

Hi – as law students we apply for a TC in our penultimate year i.e. in the second year of our studies. I am a 1st year student – so does that mean if i apply next year for a TC that I will obtain a TC for the year 2018 or 2019? Since most firms recruit 2 years before.

(1)(1)
Joe Byrne

The offer will be for September 2019 and you will need to be ready to start your training contract then (completed your law degree and the LPC).

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Thanks for your answer. However, as I will graduate in 2018, is it normal to wait a year after you graduate to begin your TC? Would it be better if I applied now in my 1st year?

(0)(5)
Anonymous

Hi. I’m Irish have a first class honours from an Irish university, loads of extra curricular experience from the student law soc to the football team, have worked in retail to support my studies and just finished an internship in the Supreme Court. I’m about to begin a masters in international and European business law too. Do you think I have a chance to get into one of the big English firms?

(3)(7)
Anonymous

Can you please provide more detail on your reasons for this?

(0)(9)
Joe Byrne

From what you have written it looks like you have all the right experience.

(9)(6)
Anonymous

Why are values so important to law firms?
What are your tips for training contract interviews?

(2)(0)
Anon

I’m on track to receive a 2.1 overall in my LLB but my first year grades were abysmal (just scraping a 2:2 by the skin of my teeth) mostly due to the difficult transition between being at 6th form and moving away from home. Is there anyway that this will hinder my application in your opinion? What can I do to alleviate this hurdle?

(1)(1)
Katie

Thank you for taking time to answer questions. How bad do mitigating circumstances have to be?

(0)(1)
Anonymous

Hi! I obtained a high 2:2 on my LLB but a 2:2 regardless. Since then I have worked hard to improve my CV: LPC (predicted Distinction); work experiences; extra-curricular activities; various other achievements. I have already applied twice to the RPC vac scheme and was twice unsuccessful. I suspect that the quality of my written applications could have been better. Is it worth applying for a third time this fall or is it likely that the firm will not be convinced?

(7)(3)
Just the one Q

Hi

In your opinion what makes a firm a ‘top’ firm and how might one go about ‘bagging’ that TC making the step up from ‘wannabee’ lawyer to a trainee?

Thanks

(27)(0)
Anonymous

Love it. LC is just asking for it with their open comments section.

(7)(1)
Anonymous

I think this is the first genuine question on this thread.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

Hi I’m a first year student wondering when I’m
meant to apply for TC’s. I’m the first in my family to go to uni and I’m so clueless.

(0)(5)
Joe Byrne

For law students, you can apply in the penultimate year of your law degree. For non-law students, you can apply in the final year of your degree.

(0)(0)
Emily

Do you think that it’s still worth making applications this close to the deadline date? I’ve heard in the past that vacancies have been filled months before the closing date, but am not sure how true this is across firms generally.

(0)(0)
Joe Byrne

Yes, at RPC it is definitely worth still applying on the deadline date.

(0)(6)
Anonymous

Hi,

A common question in interviews is “what does it mean to be commercially aware and how are you commercially aware?”

I’m unsure how best to answer that question.

Thanks for all your help so far!

(2)(0)
Charlotte Thompson

No worries!

Commercial awareness can mean knowing how a business works, and being up to date with the financial and legal news. However, you can draw on any wider experience that you may have. Have you ever made something more efficient or taken the initiative in improving a project you are working on?

(3)(0)
Mohammed Nakhuda

I graduated from the University Of Hertfordshire with a 2:1. I have 7months of experience in Immigration law however it is not what I want to do. I have more hands on experience than most of my peers.

I have two questions

1) I did not do so well in college and employers are now using my poor college grades as an excuse to reject my training contract application or even my job applications. Is my dream of becoming a lawyer via the training contract route in a central london commercial law firm too far fetched?

2) Is it worth me doing the LPC before I obtain a training contract?

Thank you so much for your time.

(13)(8)

Comments are closed.