What are the Top 10 Criteria Law Firms Look For When Selecting Candidates For Training Contracts?

We’re often asked about the best way for a law student/recent graduate to get a job. When researching for this article, we came across an important piece from Cambridge University which provided us with great insights as to what law firms today are really looking for from candidates applying for training contracts.

We all know about the competitive landscape of legal recruitment, where aspiring lawyers are constantly seeking ways to stand out and secure coveted training contracts at the beginning of their career. Understanding what law firms truly seek in candidates is elusive. Below is a roadmap for aspiring lawyers seeking to navigate the recruitment process and enhance their skills and experience with confidence.

Here’s what they’re looking for:

  • Strong academic performance: Aim for a 2:1 grade, explain deviations in application, provide evidence of ability such as legal-essay awards and moot competitions.
  • Student societies: Join societies offering vocational content, networking, and career workshops, including college-specific law societies where you will meet and interact with future colleagues.
  • Online presence: Use LinkedIn to showcase interests and abilities; be mindful of potential negative content.
  • Extracurricular activities: Demonstrate advocacy skills through society involvement, volunteering, or pro-bono activities.
  • Relevant experience: Gain insight through holiday schemes, work experience, or virtual internships.
  • Volunteering: Demonstrate your civic duty and participation in community activities including charity involvement;
  • Responsibility: Highlight any leadership role demonstrating your initiative, responsibility, and adherence to organisational processes. A can-do attitude is highly sought after.
  • Legal activities: Participate in skills workshops with law firms or elsewhere, and list any exposure to interactions with firms in your CV.
  • Transferable skills: Develop skills such as teamwork, organisation, and analytical thinking in your activities. The increasing importance of soft skills in legal organisations means these are sought after today.
  • Commercial awareness: Stay updated on factors impacting the legal profession and potential clients by staying on top of what’s going on in the world around you, including press, industry briefings, firm blogs and, of course, Platforum9.

Conclusion

If the above seems like mission impossible, please take heart as none of the partners interviewing you would likely get a job today given these onerous requirements. These insights from Cambridge University (A most esteemed learning institution and perhaps with an unattainable standard) underscore the importance of a holistic approach, emphasising not only academic excellence but also practical experience, extracurricular activity, and demonstrated commercial awareness.

But most of all, be yourself, and find out early if this is the right firm and culture for YOU. You’ll be spending a significant portion of your life learning the practical application of law, so as important as it is for the law firm to find the right trainee lawyer, it’s equally important for you to find the right fit.

Source: University of Cambridge, https://www.careers.cam.ac.uk/files/successful_law_applications.pdf

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