What I wish I knew before applying for training contracts

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By Sophia Hesling on


Warwick Uni law grad and future trainee Sophia Hesling offers her top tips to application success

Initially, when embarking on my law degree, I will admit that I found myself on the less prepared side. Indeed, I believed that simply finishing a law degree was enough to become a lawyer. I was wrong.

I quickly realised how important training contracts and vacation schemes were to an aspiring lawyer and after two application cycles I was able to gather the necessary knowledge and skills to receive three training contract offers.

So, whether you find yourself on the less, or more, prepared side of things I hope that these tips can give the edge during the application process.

First-year opportunities

For those of you about to start your first year studying law at university, it is crucial to know the early opportunities available to you that will help you stand out. Many top City firms run schemes — both virtually and in-person — specifically geared towards first year students, while most unis will have their own law societies (many of which have close links with law firms). Some firms also look to recruit ambassadors to represent the firm on campus, which is another great way to form a connection with a firm early on.

Most firms also run open days throughout the year. Although technically not specifically for first year students, these tend to be day-long events and are a great way to learn more about firms and the legal industry more generally. Additionally, some firms offer support programmes for first year students interested in a career as a solicitor. These programme can include financial assistance, mentoring and even work experience at the firm itself. You can make you never miss an opportunity with Legal Cheek‘s Key Deadlines Calendar.

Do your research

It is easy when first applying to law firms, especially if you feel overwhelmed, to simply apply to the same ones as your friends. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, remember that you and your friends will likely enjoy different areas of the law as well as being interested in different firm cultures. It is therefore important to understand that there are hundreds of law firms to apply to, each with different USP’s and specialising in different parts of the law. The key, in my view, is do you your research early. And this means going beyond the firm’s graduate recruitment website. The Legal Cheek Firms Most List is a great place to start, with our Views offering unfiltered insights into life at the firms.

Applications are open for the Legal Cheek September UK Virtual Law Fair 2022

Attend events

The two types of events that helped me thoroughly throughout the application process were The Legal Cheek Virtual Law Fairs and firm specific events. Both helped increase my awareness of the different types of firms out there as well as some of the specific practice areas I may find myself one day qualifying into. You can find a list of Legal Cheek’s upcoming Fairs and events here.

Unique experience

It is sometimes easy to forget that everyone has had their own, unique life experiences. When applying to law firms it is crucial to stand out and the easiest way to do that is to draw upon your own selling points. For example, I found experiences such as retaking my A-levels and part-time work helped me develop key skills such as resilience and time management.

Equally, if you are struggling to come up with experiences then use the opportunities available to you to get some, either by working part-time or joining a society at uni or volunteering for a charity. Not only is it often a fun experience, but the skills you gain along the way will help you during your application process and ultimately stand out from the crowd.

Less is more

It is often easy to forget how difficult it can be to juggle applications with university or part-time work. Personally, I found that I could not do more than five applications per cycle without compromising their quality. Remember that the application you submit has your name attached to it, and therefore you want to make sure it is of the highest standard possible to ensure not only that you are successful, but also that you are able to give the best first impression possible to the firms you are applying too.

Sophia Hesling is an events coordinator at Legal Cheek. She studied law at Warwick University, before joining Legal Cheek in July 2022 and is a future trainee at Eversheds Sutherland.

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