First-seat trainee Hebe Robinson shares her insider tips for mastering applications and securing a training contract.
When I sat down to write my first training contract application five years ago, I had no clue where to start. It took a few application cycles before I reached an interview stage, let alone received a training contract offer. Hopefully, I can save you some sleepless nights by sharing three tips I wish I’d known before I started the application process.
1. Read your application forwards, backwards and in Comic Sans
It can be difficult to spot small errors in your application after a single read-through, particularly when you are juggling the application process with university work, a job or other commitments.
You can’t always trust automatic spellcheck, or a friend recruited to proofread your application. Make sure you check, check and check again.
The best method for me was to read each word of my application backwards. I’ve also heard that an unusual font can help you to spot errors you hadn’t noticed before. Find the method that works for you, and use it.
2. Keep an open mind about work experience
Think about previous experiences you have had, which may or may not be law-related. You may have volunteering experience or time spent doing a hobby. For each experience, make a list of the transferable skills which you have learned and how they would help you as a trainee solicitor.
If you are looking to gain more experience to support your application, vacation schemes can be helpful to demonstrate your interest in the legal profession. However, they’re not the only option. Maybe think about volunteering with a charity that provides legal advice, getting articles published on legal blogs online or becoming involved in local politics. Proving that you have the ability to communicate, good time management and excellent organisational skills will always stand you in good stead. Unusual and interesting experiences will also set you apart from other applicants.
Plus, reading the news and thinking critically about the impact of the law on current affairs is a good habit to get into, and only takes a few minutes each day.
3. Quality over quantity
We’ve all heard this one before. It’s best to invest your time and effort in high quality applications, rather than rushing through as many as you can.
Before you start your applications, make a checklist of the things you care about in a workplace. You may prioritise legal specialisms, office locations, work-life balance or the size of the firm. Use your checklist to narrow down your favourite firms. For example, I decided to apply to Russell-Cooke due to its prioritisation of hands-on experience for trainees and varied practice areas.
When you start writing an application, make sure to take a deep dive into each firm you apply to. This can include reading recent articles produced by the firm, looking at its social media pages and reading annual reports.
Imagine explaining your choice of firm to a family member or friend. Your application needs to be specific not only to a law firm and its website (which plenty of applicants will have learned by heart), but also to you.
I hope these tips help you with your training contract applications, and I wish you the best of luck!
Applications for the 2026 Russell-Cooke graduate training programme are open from 16 November 2023 until 16 February 2024.