Why does the ‘Do you know anyone at the firm’ question appear on application forms?

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By Thomas Connelly on

Law student tweets frustration after being asked for “personal contacts”


Is it what you know, or who you know?

One law student has taken his concern about this question to Twitter, to ask why they were asked if they had a personal contact at the corporate law firm they were applying to.

Posting a screenshot (pictured below) of an online application to the London office of the top US outfit late last month, the anonymous 22 year-old took the opportunity to question the firm’s motives for wanting to know if they knew anyone within the organisation.


The aspiring lawyer — making clear that they didn’t know anyone — took the opportunity to have a pop at the firm in the details box that followed, writing:

They say it’s not about what you know but who you know. I hope that is not the case.

While it’s not clear whether the student ended up submitting the application as it appears above, the tweet does raise an interesting question. Should law firms be asking aspiring lawyers if they know anyone at the firm?

Legal Cheek has chosen not name the firm the student was applying to. As those of you chasing a career as a lawyer will undoubtedly be aware, most of the top City firms ask the ‘Do you know anyone at the firm’ question.

In the era of ‘CV Blind’, is this question really necessary? Or does it hark back to bygone era?

For example, can a law firm’s recruitment department say with confidence that two applications will be treated equally if one law student is given the opportunity to include information regarding his godfather being senior partner?

Most firms will undoubtedly thunder a “Yes!” in response. But you can understand why those looking in from the outside without any connections could feel hard done by.

A spokesperson for the firm in question, keen to reassure students who are considering applying, told Legal Cheek:

We attract applicants for its training contracts, vacation schemes and open days from a variety of backgrounds and in common with many other organisations we find it useful to monitor the sources of our applications. Successful candidates are selected on merit, following a robust review process.