Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Help finding a Training Contract or Work Experience

28/04/08 Strategy for finding a training contract or legal work experience.

We have found often in the years that we have been advising law students and graduates on searching for training contracts or work experience placements that people go about it in a very slapdash and haphazard way. Most people prepare standard questions, standard covering letter and a standard CV and look in the training contract handbook and online at places like and send out as many applications as they can without actually thinking through what it is they’re looking for and what they personally can offer the particular firm. The same people may have gone about preparing for their A levels in quite the opposite way many years before. They may have spent six months revising, covering every point, researching every issue and then revising every matter that needed to be dealt with in their exams.

However, because careers advice at universities and institutions can be so poor (or there can be next to none of it, relating specifically to the legal profession), law students and graduates simply do not know how to go about looking for their first legal job.

Strategy you must have should be linked to your choice of the strand of the legal profession you wish to go into. For example, if you would like to be a barrister, the first thing to do is to make sure that it is actually something that you want to do, and that you understand what the work is a barrister does. Finding a mini-pupelage is often a very easy exercise, and a lot of chambers are very happy to take you so you can follow barristers about and see what they.

It is slightly harder in the legal profession to get commercial work experience to see what a commercial lawyer does as opposed to a high street lawyer. There are plenty of opportunities to go and get work experience with a high street lawyer, but most of the commercial firms have structured work placements and vacation schemes that you have to apply and succeed to get on to.

Whichever field of law you are thinking of going in to, it is also important to be realistic about your chances. If you have very low A level grades for example, there is absolutely no point on the whole in filling out the 30 page forms online or in hard copy for the large London City firms, as the vast majority will benchmark you on it and you’ll simply be rejected at the first hurdle.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this and I would not [inaudible 3:24] anybody without seeing a CV whether or not it was worth the reply.

The same applies for pretty much all the legal profession. If you have a third class degree and are doing the legal practice course and have no work experience yet, if you do not pull your finger out within the next few months, it is unlikely that you will succeed in the legal profession in the longer term, unless you have good family links or are extremely lucky.

The competition out there is immense and there are a lot of people on the look out for training contracts and work experience. If you do not make any effort yourself, it is unlikely that you would actually manage to break into the legal profession and take your career forward in this direction.

Your strategy must be worked out according to your aims in the short, medium and long term. You must identify firms you wish to apply to and come up with tailored CVs and covering letters for each of the firms. Mainly to make sure that each of your applications is relevant to that specific form or results in wasted in time, money and efforts, and missed opportunities. Failure to appreciate the limitations for expansions of your career and ability will result in you missing out on other opportunities as you waste time either making applications for inappropriate posts or failing to apply where you ought to be applying.

There is an old adage in the legal recruitment market that once you have qualified as a solicitor you can simply walk into another job at a later stage.

This is a myth on the whole. We have a lot of lawyers registered with us who seek to escape one area of law and move into another, spend many years trying to, regardless of their level of experience.

Bear this in mind when looking about for work, and make sure that the work you are aiming to do is what you would like to be doing in the longer term. The only way to know this is to go and experience it yourself first hand, and without that experience, you’ll simply be wasting your time and that of the firm who eventually train you.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment ( He regularly writes and commentates on the state of the legal profession and the legal recruitment job market. If you would like to get free careers advice or require media comment, please email him at Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment sell guides online for writing Legal CVs and also for getting through Legal job interviews. Visit the website for further information.

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