CityLawLIVE 2012 – The Big Discussion


How to be successful in the applicaton process – set of techniques, good practices, etc that if you follow you have a good chance of being successful.

  • John Stephend, Ashurst trainee
  • Gemma Baker (Kaplan Law School – previously grad recrutier at top firms)
  • Justine Thompson (grad recruiter Baker & McKenzie)
  • Amy Elderfield (Apply4Law)

Q’s answered:

How many applications should you make?

John – 3 days per application

Quality over quantity


First principle is researching the firm (I like mention of principles or pillars of very successul applicant)

Will I fit in there?

Meet the firms at law fairs and other events. Gives you a completely different perspective – would you buy a house or get a girlfriend or BF just from their own marketing mateirals. Hard to get to know firms just from reading. Its the people who often differentiate a firm.

Firms Application Forms

Q’s on forms can tell you what sort of firm they are

Firms want people who are prepared to work hard and who have the drive to research the firm thoroughly – you show them this by the time you spend researching them and completing their application

Why this firm? John

Got work expereince to start to inform research and decisions.

Liked how they portrayed themselves in their marketing literature.

CV & Covering Letter

Esaier for candidates but not firms. Or the perception is because can send same CV. But you must tailor it.

Application forms are easier to compare same type of info from everyone – level playing field, more fairly

CL – why you want to be a lawyer, why you want to work for them and what is interesting about you.

Application Form

Look at all questions on form first

Include school from 15 – have an extended CV with everyhing on.

Sell yourself as a brand, as a product – you have to boast and brag even though its not very British.

Highlihgt your achievements. Forms are designed to allow you to do this.

Competency q’s, eg team – every student dreads these. Firms use them on appn forms and at interviews because vast research in recruitment circles shows that past behaviour is best indicator of future behaviour. Knowing why the firm is asking them can make answering them easier.

Assess which achievement/example is most relevant and most recent – sometimes most relevant isn’t most recent – but need a mix of things both recent and slighlty older.

Am i demonstrating the key skills with my achievements – people overlook some golden nuggets on their CV’s sometimes – use MySelf to work out wheher you have all the compostie parts of the ideal candidate you are trying to create that i need – if not then will have identified what experience you need to go and get. You need to do self-analysis to analyse what your strenghts and weaknesses are – which key competencies do you not currently have much evidence of – once idetified these can do something about it. Eg go and do a big team working activity.

Things EC’s – music, sport, drama, pro bono, voluntary work, community work, part-time work (good coz this will affect ability to do other EC’s) – put part-tiem work in section that askss for interests and activities section of the form – or it might be overlooked – you are taking on responsibiltiy, showing team work and leadershop, drive and motivation, etc – all qualites firms are looking for.

Work experience section – often the weakest areas and missed opportunity – people just put it as a list, where they worked, and then basic tasks that don’t tell the recruiter anything – why are you interesting as a result of you doing this – selll it to the person reading it. If worked for a firm, give the context – what type of firm, size, work, who with, what you gained from it, what did you learn:

– client care

– Negotaition

– How to anayse

– How to summarise

– How to write a report

– What was imp here

Dont just write i did some filing, researcjh, went to court – boroing – you need to show you learnet something

Firms are looking for an upward slope of learning – show them this

If you read your application back would you be happy to speak it as a conversation – if not then it won’t come across on the applciation

Work expereince – have a diary of you work experience to complete at the time so you don’t forget and you can recrod specific thigns you coudl use in yoru applications

Big window for applications – find out if firms recruit on a rolling basis

Bakers – recruit around and post deadline therefore no advantage of applying 6 months in advance. Deadline date – for VS over a third applied on 30 or 31 Jan – hwoever most firms read applications from start to finish – if near deadline then turnaround time on your applicaiton may be longer. For own sanity don’t leave it until actual deadline date.

Gemma – July deadlne – 600-700 applcatons in last week – 90% of these are riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes therefore hardly worth it.

Checklist for an appn – plan when you will start and finish it – first sleep on it and you will find mistakes – then give it to someone else to see what they don’t understand – any piece of work needs to be considered and left and reconsidered to be best quality.

Tired recruiters close to deadline date.

Easy to get firm name wrong – 40% of applicatins get Mayer Brown wrong. Slaughter & May  – not and – if do latter they reject the applicaiton as you are getting the name of the firm wrong.

19 dfiferetn ways the applciatnat have spelt the firm out of 900 applicatons. You will skip words you think you know when proofreading.

Making the application form needs to be perefect in the same way a contract or claim would be when a lawyer – you are therefore demonstraing these skills by doing so – are worse still you are showing that you don’t have them if you don’t work hard at completing a perfect application

How to stand out on paper?

Academic record on its own is not enough nowadays.

How well written and how passionate an application is makes people stand out. (grad recrutier at BM)

Every part of your form should be well written – these stand out.

It shousl be strucutred – have a start, middle and an ened.

CL and the why that firm q – should be really genuine – not just regurgiating from website. You must explain what you want from your career and how the firm can fufil you career aspirations.

Too many people tell firms what tehy think they want to hear. Don’t do this – do as above instead.

Word count – if 250 words for “why that firm” – you need to be able to do this.

At interview – you need to be able to talk about why you want to join that firm for a good 5 minutes -and this will be a q you will be asked at interview.

Firms do ask Apply4law to see how many words candidates have written so its imp to use them up.

How to choose between candidates?

With academics you either meet the firms reqts or dont – they will still read rest of appn if not just in case extenuating circumstances.

No part of a form thats weighted more than another. They look for strenght in all areas:

– well motvated

– Taoilored appn to firm

– Good team and leadership skills

– should have work experience


Turn up on time

Come prepared for a hard day and a bit of a grilling

Understand the firm:

– its position in the market

– What its good at

– Who are its competitiors

Understand what a solcitor does, what do they do for the firm, they make profti for the firm by providing an exmplarely cleint servce within a legal framework.

Why law – i want to work somewhere that has great career structtire, is cleint orientatedd and is based around teamwrok – thats Gemma’s job though – you must answer why law?

Make it speccifc – uyou are woring in a commercial environemnt helping clients achieve their goals.

First impression is so imp. Dpon’t look frightened and seem nerbvous – will make it hard to build a rapport iwth your interviewers – smile, firm handshake, try to enjoy the process.

Don’t be rude to the receptionist and person who takes you to the interview room. And the people you deal with when arranging the interview date etc. Try to impress trainees if you spend time wtjh them too.