Training Contract Applications
Whether you’re applying for a training contracts or law apprenticeships, your apprenticeship or training contract applications will need to be well-written and professional. This page will guide you through all aspects of training contract applications and law apprenticeship applications. Given the distinct similarities between the two application processes, they are dealt with simultaneously on this page.Training Contract Deadlines
Training contract applications / law apprenticeship applications are a reflection of you, your professionalism and your commitment to law. Unless you have completed work experience,attended an open day or taken part in a vacation schemeat your preferred law firm, your training contract application /law apprenticeship application is likely to be your first exposure to individual firms.
Subsequently, it is vital to complete applications to the best of your ability. Your application creates that all-important first impression – a crucial stage of the apprenticeship / training contract application process. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your written communication skills and showcase your ability to articulate yourself in a clear, concise and engaging manner.
Depending on the law firm you are applying to, your training contract application / law apprenticeship application will involve either:
- Completing an online application form; and / or
- Submitting a CV and cover letter.
Training Contract Applications: Case Study
Visit our Case Study: Training Contract Application Timeline page for more detail on training contract applications at Baker & McKenzie, a top London law firm.
Top Tips for Completing Law Apprenticeship / Training Contract Application Forms
You will usually be required to submit law apprenticeship / training contract application forms online. Occasionally, you may be required to complete applications by hand.
To maximise your chances of success during the law apprenticeship / training contract application process, take note of the following top tips:
- No typos or grammatical errors! When the competition is so stiff, applications may be rejected solely on the basis of basic, avoidable mistakes.
- Ask a trusted person to proofread your application for errors/sense/interest once it is complete.
- Ensure your application makes for interesting and engaging reading. If you are bored by the contents of your form, the chances are the relevant graduate recruitment team will be too! The aim is to stand out from the crowd, not blend in.
- Ensure your application is bespoke to your target law firm/organisation by weaving in any firm/organisation specific detail where appropriate. Avoid copying and pasting in another firm’s name at all costs – to do so will almost certainly lead to rejection!
- Make sure you answer every element of each question. If you’re asked ‘why, what, how,’ ensure you address each of these components. This is the level of detail expected.
- With skills-based questions, make sure you back up any statements with relevant and interesting examples, e.g. ‘I like to be organised and lead from the front. For example, I run an annual charity cake sale which involves liaising with the charity, organising the venue, marketing the event and coordinating a team of voluntary people to bake and sell cakes on the day. Last year we raised over £1,000.’
- Draw on any non-legal or legal work experience where appropriate. It will assist you in providing real life examples of experiences you have had and any transferable skills you have subsequently acquired.
- Compile a timeline of preferred law firm application deadlines and work backwards.
- Take your time! Application forms cannot be rushed, so make a start on them early and do not wait until the day before the deadline to submit your forms. Organisation is key.
- Be sure to take a copy of your completed application form for reference – it will be useful if you are invited for interview.
More Top Application Tips From Top Law Firms
We caught up with the graduate recruitment teams at Freshfields, Taylor Vinters and and Herbert Smith Freehills and future trainee and trainees at Freshfields and Simmons & Simmons, who shared their top tips for securing a training contract. Note that these tips can also be employed if you are applying for law apprenticeships. Click on the links to find out more!
Freshfields Graduate Recruitment – Top Tips
Eloise Rennie (Freshfields Trainee) – Top Application Tips and More!
Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contract Advice
Simmons & Simmons – Top Tips
Taylor Vinters: Top Training Contract TipsWhat type of firm should you apply to? Take the quiz!
How to Draft a CV for a Training Contract /Law Apprenticeship
Some law firms prefer to receive training contract applications / applications for apprenticeships in law by way of a CV and covering letter.
As part of a law firm’s law apprenticeship / training contract applications guidance, it may specifically state how you should format your CV and the information you should include. If, however, there is no such guidance, we would suggest using one of the more traditional CV formats, for example:
Include your name, correspondence address, email address and telephone number.
This should be roughly a paragraph long and written in the third person. It is essentially your opportunity to sell yourself and positively articulate (based on your skill set, work and non-work experiences and personal qualities) why you are the best candidate for the job.
Education and associated grades
List your most recent academic grades first (along with details of the relevant academic institutions) and work backwards.
Again, start with your most recent work experience and work backwards. For each placement, ensure you include the following detail:
- Employer’s name/address
- Placement dates
- Skills acquired and how these translate to a career in law
Include, as a minimum, detail of any IT skills and foreign languages spoken.
Include details of relevant prizes, awards, scholarships and any other notable achievements, whether they be academic, sporting or otherwise.
You may wish to include detail of any hobbies and interests that you have.
Include details of two referees. Health warning – ensure you have consent from your referees before you add them to your CV! It is a good idea, if possible, to provide one academic and one non-academic reference.
Top Tips for Completing CVs for Training Contracts / Law Apprenticeships
- Ensure you use a clear and simple format which is easy to follow.
- Restrict your CV to two pages of A4.
- Avoid sending out blanket, generic, standard form CVs. Instead take the time to customise your CV for each application. This will immediately make your CV stand out from the crowd, giving you that all-important edge.
- Be truthful and ensure that any statements you make are accurate. Inconsistencies may be picked up during the candidate screening process and at your interview, which may jeopardise your chances of success, so don’t risk it!
- If your preferred law firm specifically states how they want you to format your CV, make sure you follow that particular format.
- Where appropriate, use subheadings and bullet points.
- Ensure your CV is free from typos and grammatical errors.
- Don’t waffle! Keep your CV focused and to the point.
- Use a standard font, for example Arial 11.
- Ask a trusted person to proofread your CV for errors/sense/interest once it is complete.
- Be sure to take a copy of your completed CV for reference – it will be useful if you are invited for interview.
How to Draft a Covering Letter for a Training Contract / Law Apprenticeship
In addition to completing:
- A CV; and/or
- Application form
A law firm may require you to attach or enclose a covering letter to supplement and reinforce your law apprenticeship / training contract application. Initial impact is key with this letter as it will almost certainly be the first part of your application that any graduate recruitment team will turn to.
Covering letters can take many forms, but we would suggest using one of the more traditional formats when targeting law firms, including:
- Your motivation to practice law
- What attracted you to your chosen law firm
- How your skill set fits with the firm
Top Tips for Completing Covering Letters for Law
- Try to establish a contact name so that you can personalise your letter.
- Tailor each letter to the job and individual law firm in question.
- Use a standard font, for example Arial 11.
- Ask a trusted person to proofread your covering letter for errors/sense/interest once it is complete.
- Ensure your covering letter is free from typos and grammatical errors.
Training Contract and Vacation Scheme Conference
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A cover letter adds flesh to the CV skeleton. It emphasises key characteristics and qualities that your CV does not explicitly provide for. A CV should always be accompanied by a legal cover letter unless otherwise stated.
The cover letter should be persuasive and energetic. You want the recruiter/reader to feel that you are passionate about the firm and your application. They want to be wowed with your knowledge of the firm and equally impressed with your personality and skills. They are likely to think that if you can wow them in a one page cover letter, how compelling you will be writing an email to a client/at a networking event?
Also, remember that if your application is a cover letter and CV only, the cover letter is the only opportunity you have to inform the recruiter/reader why you want to secure a position with the firm. A further justification for you to make it powerful, persuasive and compelling.
A cover letter should be punchy throughout. Draw a comparison between a great cover letter and winning a boxing match. The key is to keep punching with your skills/attributes throughout the cover letter. To assist you to write a punchy/energetic cover letter, restrict the length of the cover letter to a page of A4 (or five/six paragraphs) unless the application requires a particular word limit (in this instance, ensure you utilise the words in the word limit). Use a familiar font (Times New Roman or Arial) and ensure it is easy to read e.g. utilise clear formatting.
As with most documents there is a standard structure to a cover letter. Quite simply this is an effective opening, a middle and a powerful closing. Although this appears obvious, many students often do not include an effective opening paragraph or an appropriate closing paragraph.
If possible/where known, you should address the cover letter to the known recipient. This is not always possible but with a little bit of digging/an email to the graduate recruitment team, it can be possible to determine. If the recipient is not known, the appropriate salutation is either “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.
The subject matter of the letter should be stated with “Application for [work experience]/[a training contract] at [the firm name]” in bold.
This is one of the most important parts of the covering letter. It must engage the reader and make an impact at the same time. Remember, it is likely that the reader has reviewed hundreds of cover letters that day/week therefore one of your objectives is to make yours stand out. Whatever you do, don’t start off saying “I am writing this cover letter because I want to secure a training contract/vacation placement with [the firm].” The recruiter/reader already knows this, hence your cover letter. By writing this you may have just lost the ability to capture the recruiters’/readers’ attention. Please don’t make this mistake. If you are told to include the position you are applying for in the cover letter you can reference this in a more compelling manner than the example provided above.
The body of the cover letter should convey at least three or four key messages e.g. the key reasons why you are applying to the firm, what your key qualities are and how these qualities can benefit the firm. Again, try to ensure these statements are supported by evidence and are expressed using captivating language. Stating “I am applying to [firm] because I am a team player, have good communication skills and work well under pressure” is nowhere near as powerful/captivating if you were to link the same characteristics to the firms’ trainee requirements on their website/as expressed by a trainee at a law fair which is evidenced throughout a specific role you have held during work experience. Providing this type of response doesn’t just tell the recruiter/reader why you are applying, it tells them (a) why you are applying (b) you have done your homework on the firm following a review of their website/speaking to a trainee at a law fair and (c) provides evidence to support this statement.
So you have captured the attention of the recruiter/reader with a powerful and energetic opening paragraph. You have also highlighted some of your key attributes/identified how this fits with what the firm is looking for and you have described why you want to secure a position with the firm with appropriate justification. Now, for the grand finale. Don’t let the rest of your cover letter down with a poor ending. You need to make one last push to convince the recruiter that they should meet you for an interview. Therefore, carefully consider how you do this. Again, persuasive language is key.
Yours sincerely or yours faithfully?
You should use ‘Yours faithfully’ where you have not addressed the recipient by name in the letter (e.g. Dear Sir/Madam), and you should use ‘Yours sincerely’ where you have addressed the recipient by name (e.g. Dear Mr/Mrs Smith).
A common question asked by students is whether they should send their CV or cover letter via email (soft copy) or in the post (hard copy)? This depends on a number of factors (i) the preference stated on the firm’s website (ii) whether it is part of an online application (iii) whether it is a speculative application or not (iv) the type of firm or (v) whether you have a contact at the firm.
Obviously, if the website requests a CV/cover letter to be sent via email, do so. If it is part of an online application don’t duplicate it by sending it in hard copy. However, if it is a speculative application (where no vacancy/placement is advertised) we would suggest sending it via soft copy and hard copy. We would also suggest writing the cover letter by hand on plain A4 instead of printing it on a computer. The impact of a handwritten cover letter is greater than the same cover letter printed on a computer. If you follow my advice, it is also worth investing in some quality paper (nothing too expensive but better than the standard wafer thin plain paper used for printing). We would also recommend using a fountain pen or ball point pen rather than a biro if possible. Remember, you are trying to make the best impression possible so why not make an effort with the appearance of your cover letter?