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Do your homework and ignore the competition – top tips for success on the legal career ladder

04th September 2017

The start of the summer marks the time of year when current law students embark on this year’s application race for the perfect training contract – that essential first job on their ladder to professional qualification. It is a competitive, time-consuming, and often disheartening process, with an average of at least three law students chasing each available training seat.

After two years with George Ide, our trainee solicitor Leanne McGauley reflects on her experiences to offer this season’s training contract hopefuls her top tips for success. Above all, she says, do not let the competition deter you…

Work experience counts

Showing you have undertaken relevant work experience proves you are committed to working in the law. Potential employers like to know their trainees are motivated to go after what they want, and the experience of working in a professional legal environment will help prepare you. Ideally, apply for work experience with a firm that may offer you a training contract.

Make connections

Get known! Your training contract application will stand out from the crowd if you are already on your target firm’s radar, so sign up for university networking events and connect on social media.

Stand out from the crowd

Law firms look for interesting and dynamic individuals who are adaptable and can get on with people from a variety of different backgrounds. So if you have trekked to Machu Picchu or scuba-dived on the Great Barrier Reef, mention your adventures in your CV. Not only will your experiences prove a great interview icebreaker, they will also illustrate your personality and show you have skills and interests outside your legal studies.

Be persuasive

The covering letter that accompanies your application represents an opportunity for you to make an impact, so make the most of it. Firms offering training contracts are likely to receive hundreds of applications, so try to capture their interest in your first few lines. Dive straight in and let them know why you want their training contract: demonstrate your effective networking, accurate research, and commercial awareness by giving examples, write as fluently and as interestingly as possible, and be sure to check your spelling and grammar.

Choose the right firm

It really is worth doing your research. Be as thorough as you can when you are considering which firms to target and take into account their core values, corporate social responsibility commitments, and the scope of their training offer, as well as geographical location, practice area and lifestyle.

Keep working

If you have got this far in your studies as an aspiring lawyer, you already know that training to be a solicitor is a long, difficult slog. It takes commitment, dedication, sacrifice, and plain hard work.

So try not to be disheartened if your first applications are unsuccessful: carry on studying, and do not give up – it will be worth it in the end.

Good luck!


Leanne McGauley is a trainee solicitor of two years’ standing with George Ide LLP

General, George Ide, News
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