Online application form: how to be successful

Gaining a training contract is competitive, and most often an online application is the first hurdle. Any given application form can take hours to complete, so it is important to get it right and avoid silly mistakes.

Online applications can be overwhelming at first, and then after the first few can appear to be ‘’all the same’’. It is important to remember that they’re not and that you should dedicate enough time to each individual application. “Individual” is the key term here, as each firm that you apply to will be unique and looking for different things, no matter how similar their practice areas, locations etc may seem at first glance.

Most applications will ask for your academic background and your past work experience, and it is important to be honest here. BLM never rules an application out based purely on academics, but some firms do so it is essential that you check before you start to complete an application – you don’t want to waste your time! It is also important to remember that although legal work experience is great to have, you don’t need to panic if this isn’t something you have managed to complete or secure yet. Due to the changing nature of a career in law transferrable skills, especially customer service and interaction are of significant importance, so any role that can demonstrate this is great too!

Arguably, the most important part of the application form is the open-ended essay style questions, which is where you can really demonstrate your motivations and interest in the firm. The majority of applicants will have a similar academic and working background, so it is essential to get this section right in order to stand out. These questions will normally have a word limit (ours is 500 words), these are given for a reason and indicate how much detail a firm expects you to give. You don’t have to worry about writing exactly 500 words, but bear in mind that 100 words is probably not enough detail. Below are a couple more things to consider in this section of the application form…

Really think about what the questions are asking and do your research accordingly! Look at each question individually and break down what you think it is asking for (it can be useful to bullet point this and then run it past a friend or family member to see if they interpret it in the same way). It is key to tailor each application and don’t just copy and paste your answers –it is obvious when you haven’t really thought about your application.

You need to really think about WHY you want to work for a firm, what practice groups do you find interesting and why, are there any recent cases or awards that have caught your attention? These can all demonstrate that you have a genuine interest.

It is also important to show that you can think commercially and that you understand the environment and the market that both the firm and its customers operate in – this will take time and research but will be well worth it when you are flying through to the next recruitment stage!


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Written by Keely Nelson, Emerging talent specialist

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