UK: Traineeships: A Bite-Sized Blog On Bucking The Trend

Last Updated: 17 September 2018
Article by Lorna Hewitt

There are a myriad of blogs out there on how to ace legal traineeship application forms and on how to perform well at assessment centres. These are valuable resources, and the more you read the more you'll see a common theme emerge: recruiters are looking for candidates who stand out from the crowd.

This, I'll admit, was something I didn't give a lot of thought to when applying for traineeships. I have since come to realise that its importance cannot be overstated.

These days it is common for candidates' CVs to tick all of the right boxes in terms of grades, legal work experience and committee positions. Whilst these are commendable, it's always a good idea to have a few additional tricks up your sleeve, and to remember that there are so many other skills and attributes that you could be promoting.

There are an infinite amount of things you, as a prospective trainee, can do to buck the trend, and make yourself stand out. Remember that recruiters are not just looking for a competent worker, but also someone they can get along with and who gets along with others. Here I set out a few examples on how to really sell your skills and on how to grab any opportunities that may arise to help you develop them.

Trend 1: Focusing solely on university work and missing out on other valuable opportunities

At university, it can be easy to focus solely on academics. However, an understanding of the law is only a small part of being a trainee solicitor. Networking is an example of a skill that is little considered at university, but its importance to your future career is significant.

You're never too young to start connecting with professionals. It can be daunting, but remember that being comfortable speaking about yourself and asking questions in pressurised situations is great practice for interviews.

Buck 1:

  • Joining the W.S Society as a student member is a great way to meet fellow students, as well as heavyweights in the legal profession. Events hosted by the Society include balls, wine tasting and 'speed networking'.
  • Look out for Law Society and SYLA events online. They run socials, debates and seminars on areas of interest. During these, capitalise on your opportunities – grab any business cards offered to you and connect with the people you've met via LinkedIn.

Trend 2: Believing that law firms only want evidence of your legal experience

As touched upon above, it's a common misconception that law firms are only interested in hearing about the legal side of things in your application form and in interviews.

Buck 2:

My key piece of advice is this: do not underplay jobs or work experience in other sectors. Customer service skills and commercial awareness that you gained as bar supervisor, in retail, or in any other job, are just as relevant to a career in law as any legal work experience you may have. Draw on core transferrable skills and show what you have learned from challenging situations. An ability to work as part of a team, an understanding of how a business operates and an ability to deal with customers/clients are all key aspects of your previous or current employment that recruiters will value.

Showing that you managed to hold down a student job at the same time as studying and obtaining your degree also speaks volumes for your ability to organise your time and manage multiple commitments at once.

Trend 3: Relying purely on academics

Solely relying on university projects and achievements to beef up applications is deceptively easy to do. Though important, they are also bound to feature heavily on the CVs of other applicants.

Buck 3:

Get involved with things that throw you out your comfort zone and set you apart from other applicants, such as:

  • Initiatives like Street Law and volunteering as a judge in a schools mooting competition.
  • Legal Hackers run an introduction to basic programming – you will learn about things such as Blockchain which will allow you to sell more extensive tech-related skills, knowledge and understanding
  • Enter student competitions (e.g. the International Negotiation Competition or the Brown Mosten International Client Consultation Competition).
  • Get in touch with the Law Society if you have a blog idea that you'd like to share. Past university essays are a good starting point if you are struggling for ideas.

Trend 4: Believing that rejections equal failure

When it comes to applying for traineeships, it's inevitable that some firms will reject you. The key thing to remember that that this is not personal, and there is definitely something to be said for experiencing rejection as a learning process.

Buck 4:

As Churchill said: "failure is not fatal". If you have experienced rejection, ask for feedback where possible and learn from it, but do not take it as a sign that you should give up. Before joining Brodies, rejections led to me bucking the trend and working in-house for a year whilst completing a fully-funded LLM. Everyone takes a different path and often the less conventional yours is, the better.

The closing date for traineeship applications is 30 September 2018. For more information and to apply for a traineeship, please visit the Traineeship section of our website. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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