‘How long should I spend on a training contract application?’

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I’ve heard 12 hours

In this latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one aspiring solicitor is unsure how much time they should devote to each training contract application.

“I’m looking to apply for law firm training contracts soon but unsure how much time to devote to each application. I’m talking about the written stage, prior to any psychometric tests etc., which varies from firm to firm but can be so long! I’ve heard that each application should be a 12-hour investment, which isn’t so long in the grand scheme of things, but I just wondered from those who’ve secured contracts how long they spent on each application? Some firms use the same application sites which makes inputting the info less of a chore, but they often ask quite a few questions. I don’t want to devote too much time (I’m studying and working part-time) to one if they won’t even review it if after submitting I fail the Watson Glaser (why do they do it in this order?!) so would be good to know what your readers think.”

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12 hours is pretty excessive considering you’re essentially (for most firms) just uploading a CV and answering maybe three 500 word questions at this stage (although the research you do for those questions is very important and should be thought through).

Most people I know at uni who secured elite US/MC training contracts (including myself) often did their applications late into the evenings after finishing uni work (let’s say you finish that at 5/6pm – move straight onto this and you could get one sent off by 10pm easily).

Hope this helps.

Nabaa Nimer

I’ve dedicated 2 hours, 5 days a week for 2 weeks – that’s 20 hours for 7 applications (10 hours a week for 3.5 applications). So about 3 hours per application which is decent considering I’ve progressed in 2!


I spent maybe 3 hours including online research and writing up my answer(s) – got offers from K&E, A&O and BCLP.

Most important thing to get past application stage is straight A*s and good 2.1 module grades.


Is this really true for those who don’t have any A* (think A,B’s and C’s)but a high 2.1/1st from a RG uni, especially for the likes of Kirkland, Weil and Latham .

Go for it

No this is not true: I got a A*,A, C and 1st from an RG uni (think worse than Bristol & Nottingham) and got a VS offer from Weil and VS offer from White & Case.

I was however an exception, especially for Weil, I remember that of the people on the scheme I was the only one not at oxbridge, UCL, LSE or Bristol.

Also 12 hours is too much, aim for 2 max 3. You are only writing usually up to 500 words of new text dedicated to each firm.


I think a law degree should be like the nurses qualification, they have a placement straight away, which is good. Whilst you are studying, you are also putting in practice what you are learning.

What is the point of studying a 3 years degree, after you don’t have a job? To make this worse, you have the student loan on your neck that you have to pay. There is no support on the LLB course degree, which is a shame because of so much commitment and effort that all the students put in.

After all the study, you still have to complete unlimited hours of training contract or vacation scheme, if you lucky on their lottery and they pick you then you are safe if not get ready to work somewhere else and forget the illusion of becoming a lawyer.

Everyone gets a prize

Still A*’s are pretty much given out like confetti these days, not only in the “everyone gets what they want” covid years. Surely a B should be fatal, as it is probably barely a C in old money.


I had ABC at A-level and a high 2:1 from non RG and got an offer from an MC firm and a SC firm. If there is a shortfall in one area, the key is to make up for it elsewhere and you will be fine.


12 hours is too much. Certain Grad Rec teams will act like you need to spend 746392 hours drafting the perfect application and they put out endless advice on this but ultimately unfortunately on the day it sometimes comes down to the random whims of whoever spent a minute skim-reading your application


Shearman, in particular, is bad for this rhetoric. The amount of times I’ve heard grad rec saying they’d bin you for a single SPAG error is hilarious (and almost certainly untrue).


If you submit applications with spelling or grammar mistakes, you should expect to be rejected. It shows that you haven’t adequately proofread your application.

Pointing that out is designed to help you.


Yeh but they have spag mistakes on their own grad rec website lol

coffee coffee coffee

The grad rec team aren’t applying to be Solicitors though.


Sure, but I made a SPAG mistake on my application and still received a vac scheme offer from them. They need to stop acting like it’s the end of the world publicly when they clearly don’t mean it.


Between researching the firm and writing out the application, I’d say 12 hours on average is probably about right. That being said, they can definitely take a lot less (or a lot more) time depending on exactly what / how many questions the firm is asking.

The first couple usually take a little longer while you’re still getting into the swing of things and you’re writing everything from scratch. Once you’ve done a few, you’ll have template answers you can tailor to each application – firms all tend to ask a variation on the same thing, so there are definitely economies of scale!

I also think going into it with an “I don’t want to invest loads of time in this in case I fail the Watson Glaser” attitude is a little reductive! Best to just put the work in – or someone else will.

Good luck!


With a stupid question like this no time is enough and I’d suggest you spend your time doing more productive things like looking into other careers.

Douchebag police

You must be fun at parties…


Only write a TC application if: (a) you care enough about the firm to spend 6-10 hours on your written application; or (b) it is an easy application to write. Don’t waste time on firms you think are worth applying to. Rather, you should already know enough about them to make that decision and say “yes” to submitting an application. I spent weeks writing just one application, but that landed me my TC because I knew that when I sent it off it was the best I could have written. The TC app should be proofread on 5 separate occasions before sent off too.


Grad Rec Manager at a city firm here – our process is competitive with about 100 applications against every training contract available. We read all application forms before deciding which of them will progress to psychometric testing, and they are an important part of the application. It’s your opportunity to tell us 1) why you’ll be a good solicitor and 2) why our firm is the right place for you to train. We want to see that your decision to apply is a considered one and that you’ve done plenty of research. We also expect to see a high level of commercial awareness and have a specific question designed to help us determine this.

Notwithstanding that the application form is important, spending 12 hours on each one sounds excessive and unrealistic, and we wouldn’t expect candidates to have done that. The three questions we ask that require extra thought have word limits of 500 each – would it really take 4 hours to write 500 words? The other sections are common to all forms (personal details, work experience, academics) and shouldn’t take very long to complete at all.

The more time-consuming part of writing your application is probably conducting research into the firm so that your application form can be highly tailored – not the actual completing of the form, which should really be the work of a few hours including time to proofread it.

Don't sweat the dull stuff

Outsource the first drafts of the lot and also outsource the proof reading. Life is too short.


Get one of your parents’ PA’s to do them.

Future Trainee

I would recommend you start applications to firms you are not particularly interested in because writing applications is very much a skill I found develops with experience. Do good firm research and try to weave core practice areas and flagship (BUT RECENT) deals into your responses.

Throughout the application cycle, you will naturally get better and more concise with your answers. I would say at the start this should be between 5-6 hours per firm and then, once you get good, it will be around 4 hours per firm. Allocate a few days per week to do this, or maybe 2 hours a day (returning to incomplete applications).

Spend more time on firms you are interested in. You will learn what you want from a firm as you learn about cultures, WLB, perks, practice areas, etc.

Best of luck and remember to get a TC you need to submit high-quality applications AND get lucky – keep up the effort and incorporate any feedback you get going forward.


You should spend long enough on your application to be 100% certain that there are 0 grammatical or spelling errors.

I’ve seen applications tossed in the bin because they misspelt the name of the firm. Grad rec hates that. It’s an easy fix if you spend a bit more time proofing.

Harry Style Guide

And don’t use numerals for numbers under 10. For example it should be “You should spend long enough on your application to be 100% certain that there are zero grammatical or spelling errors.”


Also remove unnecessary words. For example – removal of “it should be” above.

I'm with Harry

“It should be” performs the function of expressing the point that the phrasing in the post above was incorrect. It adds clarity.

I’m with Janice

Removing ‘it should be’ compounds to the irony of the comment. It’s already clear that the intent is to be a [redacted so mod doesn’t censor my comment].

Douchebag police

What a distressing website this is

functional brain

It’s really hard to give a precise ‘time’ – you’ll naturally get better at writing applications as you do more of them. So while I may have started out spending 10 hours on an applicaiton, by my last application (Milbank) I spent an hour doing research, an hour writing and was invited to the AC.

Have some key answers ready, like ‘Why commercial law?’ that are not specific to that firm. Another good one is to have the summary of a commercial story summarised, but make sure you leave words to explain specifically why it is relevant to that firm (although, there’s a lot of overlap if all the firms you’re applying to are say PE machines).


Stupid question. How long is a piece of string?

The length of time it will take will depend on various factors, including:

– Your familiarity with the firm (i.e. how much additional research or digging do you need to do in order to ensure the application is properly targeted and doesn’t come across as generic)
– The specific questions you must answer (do you already have answers to similar questions from past applications? do you have a good answer full-stop or do you need to give it further thought?)
– How good you are (i.e. are you a quick thinker and good at writing/articulating your thoughts, or are you just generally a bit dim/slow, are you prone to procrastination or losing track of your thoughts)

You ultimately need to take as long as you need to put together a decent set of answers that in the round make a compelling application that’ll get you past a gate keeper. That could be 2 hours. It could be 12+ hours.


I spent two months on an application for a top 10. Got the TC.

Corporate drone (formerly happy)

As long as it takes for the application to be “perfect” in your eyes. No point sending out a mediocre application because you feel you’ve “spent too long” on it.

I would always recommend focusing on only a handful of firms / applications and getting those absolutely right, rather than a shotgun approach – you’ll just get rejections otherwise. Remind yourself that your application must somehow stand out from the hundreds of applications a firms receives.

Good luck

So basically

Applications aren’t measured on time, they’re measured on quality. Revise your writing. Send it when the points you make are specific, concise, compelling, and free from error. Try to differentiate yourself. Grad Rec won’t care how much time you spent on the application form and neither will you once you hear back. Always get someone else to look at it for you.

Media Lawyer

Zero hours.

Skip the applications, skip the rejections, skip the training contract!

Put that time into researching a practise area you find interesting and applying for some in-house work experience in that area (preferably a couple of placements). Then get it signed off as qualifying work experience and sit SQE instead. If you approach it with the right attitude, I guarantee you’ll qualify faster, enjoy it more and learn more.

Across a number of placements, I worked in several legal teams and received 1:1 coaching from some of the best lawyers in my industry, some of them top former city lawyers, some of them not. All of them had a wealth of different industry-specific experiences and something valuable they could teach me. I was presenting to the board, advising senior management, free drafting the biggest contracts and winning negotiations against lawyers with many more years of experience, all before I was even qualified.

Best of luck to you!

English Rose

My lawyer children both spent about 2-4 hours a day on applications and it definitely helped them develop their research skills, as they both have training contracts at my firm!

Eck Zacht

The correct answer is 129 minutes.

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