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Future trainee shuns law’s Hunger Games vibe with helpful blog on how to get a training contract

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Even includes an application cliché bingo

A Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) student who secured a training contract at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) following a winter vac scheme at the firm has shared her advice on the application process in an uplifting, and very useful, blog.

An olive branch in an atmosphere characterised by fierce job competition, Apply.Shine.Win is run by Rosie Watterson and features practical advice on how to get a training contract. It is read by those “who have absolutely no idea where to start at all, or who have been rejected and aren’t sure how to improve”, she tells us, and gets about 160 viewers a day.

Watterson, who started the blog in November 2017, continues:

“I’m a history graduate, and we’re encouraged to share our ideas with one another. I got a ton of support during my training contract hunt, from mentors who invested hours of their time helping me. I can say thank you as many times as I want and buy them endless coffees, but ultimately I think it’s better to pay their generosity forward.”

Watterson’s blog covers topics ranging from how competitive the solicitor application process actually is to how to do well in group exercises and how to handle rejection. One of Legal Cheek‘s favourites is a post that begins: “As Shrek said, I am like an onion. I have many different layers.”

Layers of motivation to practice law, that is. Queens University Belfast graduate Watterson goes on to explain that thinking about each layer of her chosen career path — a career in law, a career as a solicitor, a career as a commercial solicitor, a career as a solicitor at HSF — has helped her to answer standard application form questions like “why law?” and “why this firm?”

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The most recent post, LET’S PLAY: Application Cliché Bingo!, also tickles our fancy.

Watterson, who completed a vacation scheme at Baker McKenzie, lists 12 trite topics that she thinks crop up again and again in law applications. They are:

1. Brexit
2. ‘Excited/love’
3. Firm awards
4. ‘Friendly atmosphere’
5. ‘I would relish the opportunity’
6. ‘Intrigued’
7. ‘My international background has given me a global outlook’
8. ‘Open door policy’
9. Re-stating the question in your answer
10. Something negative about the firm
11. ‘This demonstrates my ability to…’
12. ‘This is just like being a solicitor because…’.

“If you get all twelve, email me,” Mandarin-speaker Watterson tells her readers, “you should get an award or something.”

Watterson is not the first to channel her passion for blogging into training contract advice. Coleen Mensa, a De Montfort University graduate, shared her journey to a training contract offer on a popular YouTube account. Or training contract offers, rather: Mensa reached aspiring solicitor glory when she was given offers from a magic circle firm, a US firm and a Big Four accountancy firm.

But Watterson’s altruism extends beyond the confines of the internet. She is also giving away free application strategy workbooks which are based on “a monster of an Excel document” she made during the TC hunt, which she hopes will make readers “feel generally calmer about the whole process”. “Sharing is caring,” she thinks.

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30 Comments

Scep Tick

“Daddy is a senior partner here” tends to go down well.

(27)(9)

Anonymous

wishing everyone a lovely day

(8)(5)

Anonymous

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(12)(6)

Anonymous

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(57)(13)

A&O buddy

It is different though. Not in a good way. Firms tend to think that they are asking ‘clever’ or ‘confusing’ questions on those forms, but in reality, those questions show how un-original and cliché the recruitment process into law is. Were it up to me, I would scrap it all together and just leave PS + CV model.

(16)(6)

Anonymous

Firm applications require a specific mindset to get through the sift. This is a mindset most people need to learn, as it requires a fairly boring, systemic style of writing. Rosie’s blog is an excellent mentor.

If you, somehow, were born with it – commiserations.

(14)(13)

Anonymous

Rosie, your blog is not a “mentor” – it is self-indulgent tripe.

Firms don’t actually want formulaic, coached responses – they want some pseudo-interesting intelligent responses and good academics / extra-curriculars. That is almost all there is to it.

(47)(15)

Anonymous

She has the guts to put herself out there, having shown the ability to secure a training contract at HSF. She’s doing this for free, without seeking any financial gain. What is it with this country that we have to bring people down all the time? In the US this girl would simply be applauded. Well done Rosie, you’re doing great and you will go far!

(22)(8)

Anonymous

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(6)(1)

Anonymous

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(0)(1)

Anonymous

There was also that Reed Smith superstar trainee with all these letters behind his name. I am his massive fan of his and his LinkedIn posts. The guy will get MBE one day for sure!

(5)(3)

Anonymous

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(0)(0)

Anonymous

If you voted for Corbyn or Brexit to cause disruption and make a protest, don’t talk about it.

And keep voting for the most disruptive option.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

That says much more about you and your WhatsApp group than it does this individual. Guess you have to all make yourself feel better somehow.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

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(17)(2)

Anonymous

Hopefully she can bring a greater level of maturity and sense to the firm then. The need to mock others to inflate their own ego screams insecurity.

(8)(10)

Anonymous

Hi Rosie!

(10)(0)

MC Trainee

Rosie, I don’t think you’re going to “bring” anything particularly valuable to HSF – you’ll be a replaceable drone for at least the first 5 years of your career – everyone is.

(10)(6)

Anonymous

This article should be all about me.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

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(2)(2)

Anonymous

You sound bitter.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I saw this from her constant LinkedIn posts, which are invariably liked by colleagues and therefore end up on my feed. I expected the site to be a painful read from a naive teenager who thinks they know it all because they got a TC.

But to be honest I think most of the advice in the site is excellent. Speaking to kids at recruitment events I am always annoyed by how many of them come and try to show off to me (I have no say in the process – I’m there for their information) by telling me about their grades, their lawyer parents, their (they think) incredible commercial awareness rather than just asking sensible questions and having a normal conversation.

The advice in that website has just the right touch of cynicism to it. She is trying to get people to tone themselves down (no, you don’t ‘love’ capital markets, no one does) and approach it sensibly. It’s a job after all. A good job, but just a job.

(32)(8)

Anonymous

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(17)(3)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

How incredibly ‘cringe’.

Getting a TC is like getting any other graduate job. It isn’t the ‘Hunger Games’, and it isn’t particularly difficult when compared to some industries. Get good grades, speak eloquently, be interesting and you’re good to go. Some interviews will go well, some won’t. But, if you’re a good enough candidate generally you’ll find something.

If you really need to be coached to land the job I question how good at it you’ll actually be, because evidently you can’t just be yourself. If you’re ever at BPP in London, you’ll notice a few types of people. The first type are overly keen, stressed and constantly discussing what firm they’re going to/applying for. Then, you have the second type. Chilled out, chatty, working hard but not banging on about it. Guess which type of person has a TC lined up at a ‘top’ firm? (I know, I know…) It’s never the first type of person, because if you’re naturally bright enough and have reasonable social skills you don’t have to stress out.

If you can’t write a good application or have a conversation with a couple of senior people at an interview you’re fucked even if you get the TC.

(28)(3)

Anonymous

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(21)(2)

Anonymous

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(14)(2)

Anonymous

There are plenty of others doing this.

I don’t see it being any different to those who set up Aspiring Solicitors, The Student Lawyer, Apportinity, the trainee that wrote the City Careers Series, or the current US firm trainee giving out advice newsletters on TSR. The difference is that all of those people are doing it with the aim of making money out of it under a guise of helping others.

(4)(4)

Anon

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(4)(1)

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