Tips for Securing a Training Contract at a Top Law Firm

My last six years have been a voyage of law career discovery, and it would have been so much simpler if someone had just told me what to do , what the risks were, and what the timescales were. As a good person, now being on the other side of that learning curve, I’m going to fulfil my moral duty and share the love.

Here’s what I wish someone told me:

First Year

So you’ve had your freshers’ year, snogged a few frogs, and are cruising through Contract Law 1, but haven’t had a chance to figure out what you want to do with your life. Now, at this point, you’re probably doing a law degree because you think it will lead to you becoming a lawyer. WELL, WRONG.


Getting a training contract is now one of the hardest things in the world, next to getting a man to text you back within 45 minutes. You need to prep, prep, prep. Fortunately, you need look no further than this incendiary cheat sheet…

You’d better have your CV ready, girl. Like Tinder, it’s a numbers game. For perspective, before securing a training contract at a city law firm, I sent out my CV to every single firm in the city, and only had one response. Now, you shouldn’t take it personally, ever: it’s just like any other form of rejection. You gotta finesse that CV as if your boyfriend just left you, and you’re changing your Facebook picture. This is a game, and you’ve got to play it well.

In your first year, nobody is expecting you to have any experience. What they want is perseverance: you have to pester anyone and everyone until they let you sit in their office for a week, making tea and photocopying shizz. You might think this isn’t worthwhile, but any trainee solicitor will tell you that it’s not about what you’re doing, but that you have something on that CV when it comes to TC application day. Another thing you should definitely be doing is volunteering for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Graduate recruitment loves that shit. You get to show your “good human” and it’s one step closer to securing that job. Any legal-looking thing you can do in your first year is a bonus – miss classes if you must. After all, your first year doesn’t count towards your degree, so you go girl.

Second Year

Now you’ve been a good girl and followed my advice, and you’re well on track to securing a vacation scheme.

If you find yourself in second year and you’ve got nothing on your CV, you’re pretty much screwed. But fear not. It’s not the end of the world, you’ve just got to be smarter. Second year is that vacation scheme year. If you don’t secure that vac scheme place, you reduce your chance of getting a TC by 80%. Firms love people they’ve already vetted, and in some cases, the process for the vacation scheme is tougher than for the actual TC.

Research, research, research. Know the firm. Know their worth. Know your worth. I can’t stress this enough. You can’t stroll in to a national firm and say you want to do international cross-border work. And you can’t stroll up to a magic circle firm and say you want to do family law. Have an agenda, and follow it through. No one likes a confused girl, so why would you think it would work in the real world. You need to have the focus of a one-legged man in an ass-kickin contest.

A few tips include:

  1. Do not look at their graduate recruitment website for answers. You need to look at the client section: how they market themselves, is what they want to hear back.
  2. You need to find out if that particular firm is involved in any way with your current university, and if so, play on how much you appreciate the sponsorship.
  3. You need to know which city you want to be in. We all know that one person who wants to train in Leeds and then fuck off to London. You can’t be doing that – they see right through you.
  4. You need to have work experience. You’re never going to convince anyone in that interview room that you want to be a lawyer, if the last job you had was a barista in the hipster part of your city.
  5. You need to know why you want to be a lawyer. And saying that you liked Ally McBeal is not a valid answer 😛
  6. You need to explain why you’re doing a law degree, and if you’re one of those converts, you need to state your reasons for the conversion.
  7. You need to not appear to be a dick. Most lawyers are nice, and nothing like you see on TV, so don’t come in thinking that a show of aggression will endear you.

If you follow my advice, and secure yourself a TC, enjoy a life of a fully paid LPC and a maintenance grant (holiday money). Happy lawyering!

Third Year

So, if you’re reading this and you’re in third year, you have truly missed the boat. And… may be fucked beyond repair. I can’t really advise you much, because most firms recruit two years in advance, so you’re going to either have a year of “travelling”/”finding yourself”, or be a low-paid paralegal for some national firm/paralegal factory.

If you have no experience in your third year, you should probably reconsider your options. Whilst firms do like a mature candidate, if you have no valid reason for spending three years without having any kind of experience on your CV, you’re going to look incompetent.

You can still follow the advice above, but by the time you qualify, it might be a case of…


Fourth Year