The Importance of Research in Making Successful Training Contract & Vacation Scheme Applications

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The Importance of (Doing Enough) Research

One of the things that candidates for training contracts and vacation schemes are most commonly advised to do is to research the firms they are applying to.

However, one of the most common things that lets candidates down with their applications is a lack of research. This does not mean candidates are ignoring the advice they are given, just that they are not doing enough research or using a wide enough range of research resources. Many candidates will research the basic information about firms in large directories such as Legal 500 or on large web directories such as LawCareers.Net. However, this is rarely enough.

What is the firm looking for in its candidates?

When you are completing application forms or putting together CV and covering letter appliations you should ensure you do some thorough research into the firm before you begin the form. This way you will get a very real sense of what the firm is looking for in its applicants and you can use this information to tailor your application accordingly.  The main thing a law firm will want to see is that you understand what that firm does and what sort of place it is to work at. You must then articulate your genuine reasons for wanting to work there and for wanting to become a City lawyer/commercial lawyer, high street lawyer, etc.

There are numerous resources available to you when conducting this research – you can find the best ones set out here:

Why do you want a career in law? Why do you want to work for this firm?

These are common questions asked of candidates by law firms.

Good, effective research involves research into the firms’ legal practices as well as understanding what a training contract and a career in law will be like at different firms. This is time consuming but without doing it and coming up with your genuine reasons for wanting a career in law and why you want to apply to certain firms over others then your chances of success will be diminished. It is obvious when people are applying having not done this research and having not thought through their reasoning.

You need to give your genuine answers and reasons for wanting to work for a firm based on your thorough research. There is no easy way of short cutting this (such as getting others to help you) as you will need this to convince the firm when you see them in person at interview.

Careers advisers and those connected with the legal profession can help guide you on what to include in your applications but they can’t give you your reasons for wanting a career as a solicitor or why you want to work for the firm you are applying to. They can give you pointers on how to do your research and where to do it but there is still a lot of work for you to do if you want to beat the competition into getting a training contract.

It is also vitally important that you do this research for yourself as this is a very important stage of your legal career and your decisions now will have a long term effect on your future.

What type of law do you want to work with? What type of firm do you want to work for?

As a student or recent graduate, I appreciate that it can be very difficult to know what law you want to practice and which firms you want to work for – however, you need to work on trying to find out. The good news is that you don’t need to know for certain and law firms will be fine with this. However, you do need to narrow things down to certain types of practice area and certain types of firms that you feel will suit you and your ambitions best. The way to do this is firstly through extensive research using the various resources available (see above) and then by meeting firms at interview and getting a sense as to which one you would most like to train with.

The research you need to do should be done in stages as part of the application process.

Firstly, you should understand what types of practice areas there are and get a sense as to which ones appeal most to you and why. Then you should do a preliminary review of the firms who offer training across those practice areas and draw up a shortlist of firms to do your preliminary research on. Then use one of the larger directories (eg Legal 500 or to look at the firm overviews and their key characteristics and use this to reduce the shortlist to a manageable number to research further.

Then you should do thorough research on each firm using all the resources available. This should be done in a systematic way and time should be set aside to do this – it shouldn’t be rushed or glossed over. If during this research you find things out about the firm that you don’t like then you can take them off your applications list. Once you have completed this thorough research of the firm you are then ready to start making applications. Do not do so before you have completed all of the research and decided that you still want to apply to that firm.

Most candidates could do with a bit more time on this part of the research. Most recruiters can pick up on this fairly easily so it pays to do the thorough research. Given that the applications are so time consuming and you are likely to be having to fit them in around other commitments you should make sure you are submitting your best effort in each case. You do not want to spend all this time putting an application together but fall short because you didn’t conduct the same amount of research as other applicants.

Research Pays Off

There are also other reasons for conducting thorough research into firms and their graduate recruitmemt process. A recent example of this was a candidate I was working with on his application to Nabarro’s.

I sensed he hadn’t done enough research into the firm and so I did some of my own research. When I did my own research into Nabarro’s recruitment process I found that they recruit 90% of their trainees from their summer schemes. Did he know this before he decided to apply? No. Had he done a summer scheme with them? No. Would he have decided to take all the time and effort to apply to this firm if he knew he was competing with many other applicants for approximately 3 training contracts? No.

The example above therefore highlights the importance of doing your research as this particular candidate may have chosen to have put the time taken for the Nabarro’s application in to another firm’s application where there were more training contracts up for grabs at that time.