Three things I wish I’d known when applying for training contracts

I am eight months into my training contact and have found myself already looking back and wondering where the last eight months have gone.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at BLM and learnt a lot about myself and the law. However, I nearly did not make it this far. There were times when I felt that maybe a legal career was not what I was destined for and that maybe I was wasting my time submitting application after application. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that my approach to the application process, whilst not entirely useless, was flawed in many aspects. It is with said hindsight that I can now see the error of my ways and list the three things I wish I’d known when I started applying for training contracts.

  1. The person is as important as the paper

My university grades were good but not great. When I used to receive rejections from training contract applications (which was plenty of times!), I would always put it down to my grades. I did not fully consider that it might be what I put down on my application or the way I came across at interview. The applicant’s efforts in researching the firm they are applying to, if they tailor their application so that it is specific to the firm and preparation for interview says a lot about that person. I soon learnt that firms want to know about the person they will be working with. Grades are important, yes, but personality makes individuals stand out.

  1. The importance of asking questions

We have all been at the end of an interview when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. I was aware of the importance of having a few questions prepared to avoid asking nothing which I was told, was the worst thing to do. However, being able to ask appropriate questions is a highly underrated skill. Throughout my training contract I have been in situations where the only way to elicit more information or gain further knowledge is by asking questions, and, more importantly, the right questions.

Asking intelligent, well thought-out questions demonstrates numerous things about you: an ability to digest information and comprehend the most important parts; an interest in a topic; or simply being able to admit that you do not understand something and want to learn more. Don’t be shy to ask questions, it says more about you than you think!

  1. All firms are very different, find the one that suits you most

The competitive nature of the legal market can lead people to apply for almost any firm without thinking it through. If you want a good work/life balance why are you applying for magic circle firms? If you want to work in banking law why are you applying for firms that do little/no banking law? It may sound obvious but many people, myself included, apply to firms that they are not suited to. Prestige, salary and location can all be drivers for applying to a firm but ultimately these have little bearing on the enjoyment of your training contract. You are at the stage of your career where building knowledge is, in my opinion, the most valuable thing. Do that well and the rewards will come later.

Written by Daniel Vincent, trainee solicitor at BLM.

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