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 and interviews 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, researching all the necessary areas 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 completed your application to the firm you are due to be interviewed by you should have completed thorough research into that firm and saved your research notes somewhere such as the MyFirms section of MyLCN.
This way you will have been able to get a very real sense of what the firm is looking for in its applicants and you could have used this information to tailor your application accordingly.
When it comes to interview with the firm then you will be able to review your application and your research into the firm as the starting point for your targeted preparation for the upcoming interview.
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 be able to 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: http://goo.gl/DI78e
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 work for certain firms over others then your chances of success will be diminished. It is obvious when people have not done this research and have not fully 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 sorts of things you might want to consider 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 getting some clarity on these things. 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 law fairs, law firm presentations and interviews and getting a sense as to which one you would most like to train with.
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.
Take a look at the MyLibrary Reading List for some further reading about the research you need to be doing.