99 applications. 99 handwritten applications. And not made up just to fit a Jay-Z lyric. That’s how many it took before I got a training contract.
That period of time was very disheartening and also, at the time, hugely embarrassing to me. I look back and realise it was the same for many. But it didn’t feel like it. I was the only one in my class at law school with no training contract and the sickening worry of how you were going to pay the fees with no job at the end of it.
I remember one application asked what my parents’ profession was (this was part of the main application – before the days of EDI monitoring). I am ashamed to say that I didn’t apply. I thought it was clear that my father being a postman and my mother a teacher was not what they were looking for.
The closest I got to knowing anyone in the law, let alone other professionals, was watching Kavanagh QC (age hint). Can you believe that was a question.
If you see that on any application now - don’t apply!
It was my parents that kept encouraging me after every knock-back. My father even came with me to London for one interview so we could go for lunch together afterwards (secretly I think he just wanted to go to the Fullers pub in the Strand!).
In that sense I was very, very lucky. My parents were there, willing me on at every turn.
I have noticed that many people, particularly applicants and trainees, do not want to talk about how many rejections they have had. I would say don’t be embarrassed. It shows determination and that probably you just haven’t found the right firm for you. Yet. If I reflect on where I went wrong, it was saying what I thought wanted people to hear. I lacked confidence that working in a clothes shop or not having any legal work experience would count against me. At Russell-Cooke we value both those things and much more.
I have been at Russell- Cooke nearly 10 years (that is a newbie in RC terms!).
I still pinch myself that not only am I a partner in a wonderful firm, but I get to head up graduate recruitment. I never underestimate how hard the journey is for those embarking on a career in law.
I would encourage you to apply to Russell-Cooke. Our broad practice areas reflect our broad range of people. We are not one size fits all.
My top tips if you are applying
- be yourself in your application - don’t be someone you think we want you to be. You will be far more able to speak confidently about yourself and your experiences.
- don’t worry if you do not have legal work experience. We hugely value those that have worked through school, college or Uni. Invariably, those experiences teach you far more and prepare you for working life rather than reading some files over the course of a week.
- are we the right firm for you? Do your research. I know that sounds obvious but when an application says “I have applied to Russell-Cooke because you are national and international firm undertaking human rights work” you know it’s a cut and paste job!
- if you don’t know what area of law you want to go into - don’t worry, say so! Why should you know - you have never undertaken a training contract.
Last, and most importantly, don’t give up.