There are numerous hurdles to overcome before you qualify and it can be a confusing process.
A colleague and I have delivered several talks at the law schools across London in the last month, in the midst of the training contract application season and the vacation scheme milk-round.
In the audience was a mixture of aspiring lawyers looking for training contracts, future vacation schemers and those who had recently secured training contracts. What follows is a list of the questions were were asked most frequently.
How much of the knowledge gained on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) will I use as a trainee solicitor?
“This largely depends on the seats you do during your training contract,” says Aditi Misra, an ex-city lawyer and careers consultant at the University of Law. “In a corporate seat, your LPC knowledge of, say, the Companies Act may be very useful. Alternatively, a seat in the securitisation or derivatives products departments may find you dealing with brand new areas you haven’t studied. The LPC will certainly help you develop key skills, such as research, drafting, analysis and team working but also the ability to pick up new areas of law.”
Is there anything I can do to prepare me for the start of a training contract?
Misra says: “If you know your first seat is in an area you have studied during your LPC then it’s worth reminding yourself of the key legislation and case law. It can also be helpful to remind yourself of how to draft effectively and how to use legal research databases.
“I’d also recommend having a bit of a break if you can, as transitioning into a demanding full-time job can be quite challenging for a lot of students. Being a good trainee is a lot about your attitude. Always being enthusiastic and willing to lend a helping hand can go a long way in creating a good impression.”
Can I submit an application again if it’s rejected? If so, how will it be compared to the first attempt?
Michael Daniel, graduate recruitment advisor at DLA Piper, says: “You can submit a new application if you’ve been rejected in the past and it will be considered on its own merits. However, try to think about why your previous application may have been rejected in the first place.
“Do you have the minimum required grades? Did you do detailed research on the firm? And did you manage to show your commercial awareness and commitment to wanting a career in law? Take time to re-write your whole application if necessary to give yourself the best possible chance of progressing.”
Is it advisable to connect with graduate recruitment on social media?
Daniel says yes: “The graduate recruitment team is happy to answer any queries from students about the recruitment process or the firm in general. It’s also worth connecting or following firms’ social media pages as it’s often the best way to keep up-to-date with upcoming events at the firm and to be notified about upcoming application deadlines.”
What are the hours really like?
It’s a mixed bag”, says Joseph Smith, an associate at the London office of US firm Vedder Price. “It’s fair to say that as a junior, you’re most susceptible to inconsistent and demanding hours – especially if you’re working in ‘transactional’ practice areas, such as corporate or banking. At times this can be challenging – all-nighters do occasionally happen!
“That said, having worked for both an international and a US law firm, it’s very much the expectation that you leave on time during the inevitable quiet periods throughout the year.”
How did you choose your training contract seats? Is there a best order?
“I knew from the outset that my interests lay in ‘transactional’ law rather than on the ‘contentious’ side. With this is mind, I selected seats that suited this interest,” says Smith.
“There’s often a lot of talk among trainees that you should aim to do your ‘preferred’ qualification seat in your third seat – just before the application process begins – but I don’t know if this rings true for everyone, and this was certainly not the case at my training firm. Try as hard as you can in each of your training seats, because if you impress in a number of departments, this helps to build your internal profile and set you up for the position you want on qualification,” Smith adds.
How do lawyers stay commercially aware?
How you remain commercially aware as a lawyer is very different to how you do as a student. As a lawyer, you’re interacting with clients, business people, colleagues and other lawyers on a daily basis as well as having the opportunity to attend a whole host of internal and external training sessions and seminars.
Speaking with colleagues about the type of transactions they’re working on, having regular team meetings and being aware of common themes or trends on deals you’re involved with means you inevitably develop your commercial awareness every day.