While it may be a good start, it is not enough to simply research a firm using their website. Kathryn describes alternative ways to ensure you select the right firm for you.
Deciding which law firms to apply to for a training contract can be a daunting task for a prospective trainee solicitor. It’s common knowledge amongst applicants that application forms and interviews require candidates to justify why exactly they want to work at the firm they are applying to in a way which stands out from other applications.
On my first round of applications I, like many others, took the approach of applying to as many firms as I could without any real knowledge of what it was like to work at them. Over time, I came to realise that it really is about quality over quantity. The key to applications is to pick a handful of firms that you really want to work at and understand exactly why that is because you have done your research well.
The most important thing to remember when conducting research, and throughout the application process in general, is that securing a training contract is not just about the law firm choosing you. Most importantly, you need to pick a firm that you really want to work for and feel like you will fit in at, which is why it is vital to spend time figuring out which firm this may be.
While it may be a good start, the information given on a firm’s website is not enough to allow you to make an informed decision. There are many firms that are of a similar size, do similar types of work and claim to have a similar culture and values. The only way to really understand what a firm is all about is to engage with the people who work there to find out what the experience and work is like on a day to day basis.
Careers fairs are a great way to meet lots of firms at once. This can help you decide what size and type of firm you want to work for, such as high street, national or city, as you are able to talk to a variety of people in a short space of time and directly compare the different firms. There are also useful posts online on websites such as LawCareers.Net explaining the difference between different types of firms and listing which firms fit into certain categories.
Shoosmiths post regular Facebook Live videos and updates on Instagram and Twitter, which are good ways to engage with us if you are not able to meet us at a careers fair. These give potential applicants the chance to hear some of our employees speak about what it’s like to work at Shoosmiths, keep up to date with any firm news and ask questions. Trainees also regularly write blog posts about their experience to date which provide another good insight to working at Shoosmiths.
It helps to think of a list of factors that are important to you when deciding to apply for a particular firm. I wanted to train somewhere which was a full-service firm with supportive and non-hierarchal culture, which is why I chose to apply to Shoosmiths. You will then be able to formulate questions to ask the firms when you engage with them to find out whether they fit your criteria. This will allow you to narrow down your list and think of further factors which are important to you, or information you want to find out to help in your applications.
After identifying your criteria and conducting initial research to begin to narrow down your list, the best way to truly be able to understand a firm and its clients is to spend some time there. I spent my placement year at University working at Shoosmiths’ Lakes office in Northampton which allowed me to really understand the firm’s values and clients and helped me decide that it was the right firm for me.
Insight Evenings give the chance to spend time at a firm’s offices and meet the employees. These are a great alternative to work experience as they allow prospective applicants to spend time networking with partners, solicitors and trainees and to make an impression ahead of submitting an application. They are also a great way to sustain a relationship with the firm after initial contact at a careers fair or on social media. Attendees at a Shoosmiths insight evening will hear from staff regarding their own journeys to becoming a solicitor, and will learn more about Shoosmiths’ values, divisions and clients.
My final piece of advice is to continue your research. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you know enough about a firm from the research you have done during the application process. Be sure to keep up to date with any new clients the firm has, any business news in relation to these clients which may impact the firm and any changes within the firm itself. This will stand you in good stead for making a good impression at assessment centre, and for when you start the job if you secure a training contract.
For additional advice about how to start researching a firm, take a look at Amy’s blog.
Applications for a summer placement 2020 and training contract 2022 are now open on our website.
If you have any questions you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.