Financial Conduct Authority trainee flogs top City law firm training contract application answers

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By Thomas Connelly on

Exclusive: Graduate offers students an “unfair advantage” in return for cash

FCA: the lobby of the Financial Conduct Authority's offices at Canary Wharf, London

It has never been more difficult to secure a training contract at a top City firm. With an abundance of well qualified, eager applicants leaving university and fighting over fewer positions, it can be a gruelling process for any aspiring solicitor.

So a website claiming it can provide candidates with a “unfair advantage” in the application process for just £20 seems too good to be true.

However, that’s exactly what website ToughLoveGrad is offering — or was offering until it was pulled overnight (it remains in the Google Cache).

Hidden among careers advice and various blogs, the site, for just £20-a-go, was claiming to provide City TC applicants with model answers for firms including Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, CMS Cameron McKenna, Bond Dickinson, Burges Salmon, Covington & Burling and Charles Russell.


The website — which has been paying for advertising slots on Facebook to target aspiring lawyers — claims to be run by Asare Nicholls, who maintains in his bio to be on a graduate scheme at the Financial Conduct Authority, one of two City regulators that took over from the Financial Services Authority.


Nicholls (pictured below in a shot taken from sympathises on his site with those chasing training contracts. He explains that he too has been “in the trenches”, but stresses to students that they must be willing to sacrifice “money, time and recreational activities”.


However, Nicholls plays certain cards close to his chest. For example, he does not disclose which university he attended or degree he obtained. But he does reveal to potential buyers that:

I’m just a normal guy, I didn’t go to a red brick university and I didn’t have sky-high UCAS points but I still made it and so can you.

His inspirational sales patter continues as he tells readers that he applied for several graduate schemes over a 16 month period and began to see familiar patterns in his applications where he was invited to interview. He boldly claims:

This site will not be politically correct, it will tell the truth and get you where you want to be.

This is Nicholls’ pitch in full:


The FCA — which may have other things on its mind right now following the shock exit of its boss Martin Wheatley on Friday — told Legal Cheek:

While we will not comment on any individual, we are looking into the issue.

Nicholls did not respond to Legal Cheek‘s attempts to contact him.


The Freshfields trainee selling insider training contract interview tips for £150 a pop [Legal Cheek]