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Last-minute training contract applications are a waste of time

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Thinking of burning the midnight oil to make a bid for City glory? Don’t, advise top law firm specialists

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Students aiming to bid for highly prized City law firm training contracts who have not applied before tomorrow’s deadline might as well go down the pub instead of firing off last-minute applications.

That is the unofficial message from several senior graduate recruitment executives at leading Square Mile practices.

The harsh verdict came a day after a voluntary code of practice for the recruitment process dropped the 31 July training contract application deadline. In future law firms are advised to set whatever closing date they see fit.

However, Legal Cheek has spoken to a clutch of top law firm recruitment bosses, and the consensus view is that an 11th-hour rush to apply is a waste of time for students.

While City law firms are reluctant to acknowledge that view openly, it is widely accepted that by tomorrow most — if not all — training places starting in 2017 will have already been allocated.

Indeed, senior recruitment executives have laid out for Legal Cheek a process that is far longer, detailed and almost of Big Brother proportions than most law students will be aware.

Firms start clocking individual students as earlier as recruitment fairs, where notes are taken on those attending a stand and showing intelligent interest. The next step is law firm open days, where again recruitment teams will log those attending and make notes next to their names.

By the time applications for vac scheme places roll around, the firms have a good idea of those students that are keen on the practice. They award points to those that rocked up to the firm’s recruitment fair stand and then turned up at an open day.

Students that manage to clamber over the vac scheme hurdle are then much better placed in the race for a training contract offer.

Ultimately, the message is this: if the first time a law firm hears from a student is at five minutes to midnight on 31 July, the recruitment exec’s finger is almost certainly headed towards the delete button.

The number of training contracts up for grabs in the City and across the rest of England and Wales for the 2014-15 round is still unknown. Last year, the Law Society reported that 5,001 contracts were registered.

That figure was more than 1,000 down on the pre-global financial crisis high in 2007-08, and 6% down on the previous 12 months. The vast majority of places — more than 93% — were registered with private practice law firms.