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Five things we wish we’d known when we were applying for training contracts

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By Charlotte Thompson and Joe Byrne on

As numerous firms’ deadlines for applications loom, two RPC trainees give the inside scoop on securing a TC


1. Pick and choose

We have found that a scattergun approach is not wise, and it is best to be discerning in your choice of firm. Try to think what type of firm you are interested in, considering size, speciality, culture or location. Look to any previous work experience, and think about what you have enjoyed most.

If a firm is not right for you, it is likely that their recruiters will see that at application or interview stage. And ultimately, you are applying to spend two years or more at a firm — you don’t want it to be a bad fit for your personality and interests. Remember, you are making a choice about which firm you join, at the same time as firms are making a choice about you.

2. It’s all academic at this stage?

During Thursday’s open thread, we were asked numerous questions relating to how good applicants’ results have to be, and whether a dip in grades would be frowned upon.

RPC, like other firms, looks for strong academics, but also looks at all aspects of your application. Extra-curricular activities, work experience and motivation are also very important. Our firm recommends that if you are dissatisfied with a particular result and have a good explanation, make use of the mitigating circumstances box on your application.

3. Think about what firm you are applying to

Try to link each answer in your application, or indeed at interview stage, back to the firm. For example, when answering a “why are you interested in pursuing a legal career” question, try to link your answer subtly to the firm in question.

It goes without saying, it is best not to wax lyrical about legal interests that are irrelevant to the firm in question — it would not be wise to discuss at length your interest in human rights law, when applying for a corporate City firm.

4. Commercial awareness — what it is and how to get it

During the thread, as at the numerous law fairs that we have attended this year, “commercial awareness” came up. Of course, the term can refer to understanding of the legal and business issues of the day, as well as how a business works. Think about how current affairs impact the particular firm you are applying for. Look at a firm’s website to see if it has published any blogs or news items on recent developments.

You can also draw on where you have been “commercially aware” in day to day life. This may be where you have made a system more efficient at work or university, or where you have taken the initiative to make something more profitable.

5. Keep calm and carry on

Next to no one is successful on their first attempt at securing that elusive TC. Don’t let one, or even ten, rejections get you down. We know it is easier said than done, but try to put the same amount of effort into each application.

If you are not successful at application or interview stage, try to consider why this was, or ask for feedback. Now it’s over to you. Best of luck with your applications.

Charlotte Thompson and Joe Byrne are trainee solicitors at RPC, where the TC application deadline is this Sunday. Last week they took part in a Legal Cheek open thread about getting a training contract. Follow them and their fellow RPC trainees on Twitter.

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