Advice

What I wish I knew before applying for training contracts

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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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16 Comments

ITK

Kirkland and Latham at 182k NQ
MoFo the new leader in the UK at 185k

(13)(3)

Anon

Since when? LW NQ is 164

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Fact: neither Latham not K&E pay that amount. LC uses lazy reporting and just uses the live exchange rate when both forms use either live or averaged exchange rates which are capped and collared.

Given how much the £ has sunk against the dollar, US associates are doing very well, but disingenuous to claim that K&E/LW NQs are paid remotely close to 182k.

(5)(1)

Kirkland Associate

At current exchange rates, Kirkland NQs are on 172k.

(5)(0)

Disillusioned associate

The best tip is not to apply for training contracts. Find something more stimulating to do with your life than being a human postbox, negotiating non-points in documents no-one reads and measuring time in billable hour chunks.

(66)(2)

Tired Solicitor

What I wish I’d known:

Law isn’t a glamorous or fun profession. The only “difference” you can make is to the bottom line of some faceless corporate. You’ll be treated as an asset to sweat by your firm and even senior partners who can’t justify their presence will be gone before they know it. Expect to earn well and get perks but also acknowledge the price: your life. You will never be able to guarantee any plans from Monday to Friday, even hospital appointments. Social plans? Tentative is your go to. You will feel tired and world weary beyond your years.

But on the bright side your family will be proud of you, and delight in asking you all manner of legal questions even on areas you know nothing about.

(76)(1)

Welp

This might be the nail in the coffin that dissuades me from qualifying…

(16)(1)

Slightly more well-rested solicitor

It’s worth noting that not all practice areas are as bad for work life balance – I work outside of London in an advisory practice area which I find genuinely interesting and I finish at about 6pm most days. I still have to work late sometimes, but I don’t feel like it’s cost me my life. You can be a solicitor and not be miserable, but you’ve got to pick your firm and area to qualify into carefully – you won’t be able to work in corporate at a MC/US firm earning huge sums of money without giving up your free time.

(16)(1)

welp

This is what I keep telling myself…I don’t have huge corporate ambitions and would be happy practicing probate in a high street firm – I love law, but have just been warned off consistently. I could NEVA be a corporate girlie

(6)(0)

Big Law Boi

140k NQ post tax is so good though! 80k left, 30k on rent bills student loan and 50k to enjoy at 25!

(1)(2)

welp

Sorry I am just not a Big Law Girl

(8)(1)

Realistic 25k law grad

I’m sorry, but did you go into the profession expecting to “make a difference”? In commercial law? I, for one, am not looking not expecting to make a difference in my job. Let’s be completely real here, virtually all of us would do different things in our life if we won the lottery tomorrow – lawyers, bankers, accountants, advisors, not to mention blue-collar workers and low-paid office workers. The only people I can see sticking with their jobs if they won a billion GBP tomorrow would be, I don’t know, artists and (maybe) a few altruistically-minded medical professionals.

So cut the crap, we know we’re all doing our jobs purely for the money. And you know what? Being a City lawyer is a great value proposition for that. Yes, you work long hours Monday – Friday, and yes, in-demand areas like corporate and finance and PE are worse than others. If you’re pursuing partnership at a US/MC/SC firm, it eats into weekends and holidays. So just don’t do that, screw partnership – stay at your firm for a few years and then switch over to a cushy in-house role. That way you’ll still have a 1% pay package, you’ll still have progression opportunities within the business or outside of it, and you’ll have a good work-life balance on top (especially if you bag a mostly-WFH role). Enjoy adding that second sunroom extension to your detached Surrey house in your free time.

Trust me, I used to work at a low-paid (25k) office job and it isn’t worth it. Hell, even double that wouldn’t be worth it. You’re always making ends meet, never able to save up, don’t even think about nice holidays, planning for a family, buying a new car / PC / whatever toy you prefer. It’s demeaning, you feel zero motivation to work or to progress as even managers 2-3 steps above you are likely on $hit pay, the company doesn’t value you any more than a law firm does but you also have very few opportunities to exit if you don’t like it, unlike in a City firm. And the payoff? You get to finish work at 5:30pm every day. Big whoop. I’d much rather finish at 7:30pm and actually have something to do with the rest of my life than live in the dregs of society in a small rented apartment until I retire and then rely on benefits to supplement my meagre pension. So get real, for some of us a City job is a godsend opportunity for upward mobility.

(24)(8)

Anonymous

Before I became a solicitor I was fairly content with life despite having significantly less money. Since I’ve qualified I have developed a drinking problem and I am taking anxiety medication (I shouldn’t be drinking). My social life has gone to sh*t and I feel like a neglectful parent. No matter how much I try and justify it and say that I do this job for my family, I know that we would all be better off if I did something else.

It’s also easy to say to somebody in my position that they should just “do something else and stop moaning” but when you are 5 PQE in a niche area of law in a “top” law firm it is very difficult to find the time change careers, and to convince yourself that you have the skill set for another profession.

If I could rewind time, I would probably still study law but I certainly would not enter the legal profession. There are times when I have had to drink in the morning just to calm my nerves. Weak? Lacking in resilience? Maybe. I don’t care what you call it. The fact of the matter is, I am miserable, overworked, tired, frustrated, anxious (the anxiety is the worst part), unsupported, and worst of all, I am not present.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a solicitor that is happy – only those that pretend to be, or who, like me, are so drained and tired of trying to appear in control that they are honest about how miserable they are.

I know I need to leave the profession, and soon, before it sends me to an early grave.

(50)(2)

Someone.

I am so sorry for what your a passing through. Take care and hopefully you leave the profession soon. I am glad some of you tell the truth about being a solicitor as many (for reasons I am unaware of) want to show that everything is shiny. Thank you ❤️

(14)(0)

Honor

Address your drinking problem and you may see everything else differently.

(3)(8)

Real

There are many that think they have what it takes who find out the don’t.

(0)(5)

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