It's finally traineeship application season - everyone's favourite time of the year! You've found out some top-tips for your application - and even what to expect when you begin the traineeship - but how do you actually find out more about the firms you're applying for?
Why research is important
The urge to embrace the quantity over quality approach for traineeship applications is understandable. Finding that elusive training contract can feel like swimming through a sea of forms at the best of times. The legal jobs market is also infamously competitive, so it makes sense to churn out as many applications as possible…right?
Sadly, it's not that simple. For one thing, generic applications are easy to spot. A catch-all sentence about how you want to work for Firm X because "they are full of hard working people and could help you become the best solicitor you can be" might be tempting to write. After all, it shows you value hard work…and it can be used on any application form you write! Sadly it will also be recognised instantly by the people reading your form. Firms will be able to get a good grasp of the care you put into your application. You owe it to yourself to take your time and increase your chances by finding a way to stand out.
Researching firms can also end up saving you time! It's important to check if a firm suits your interests before downloading their form. Blazing through hundreds of applications can feel productive- but there's no sense in applying for a role you don't really want. Wasting valuable time and energy on applications to firms you wouldn’t like to work benefits neither you nor those firms.
Will you be training in a practice area you would enjoy? Is the firm located somewhere you want to work? Can you really see yourself enjoying the work culture? These may be very basic questions, but that doesn't make them any less important. Remember- you're trying to decide if a firm is right for you as well. Make a list of firms you would like to work for, and take your time on those applications. You'll thank yourself later.
How to research a firm
As with any company, a website is often the best place to start. So by finding this article, you've already made the first step! Firm websites will help you quickly understand the basics- where a firm is located, what areas they specialise in and what their company ethos is. Check out their latest ad campaign to see how they present themselves to the world, look at their social responsibility projects and charity work- or even some articles written by their solicitors. You'll get a good idea of the firm culture, and you could find some handy talking points to help your application stand out. Don't forget to check out any social media profiles a firm might have while you're at it.
An online search can also tell you a lot about a firm. Sites such as Legal 500 can tell you a lot about a firm's strengths, and can help you decide which firms best suit your interests. Resources like Scottish Legal News or Legal Matters Scotland are also great free resources which offer a great understanding of the current legal market, and often have features about firms in Scotland. Try and get yourself up to speed with current developments in your chosen firm's areas of expertise. You aren't expected to be an expert before starting your traineeship, but showing you're interested and keen to learn can only ever count in your favour.
If you know people who work at a firm you're interested in, then a friendly chat about their work is never a bad idea. There's nobody better placed to tell you about a law firm than the people who make it tick. The Scottish legal community is very tight-knit, and people are usually more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Networking is an essential skill for modern lawyers- and it comes in handy sooner than you might think!
Try and prepare your application with what you've learned about the firm in mind, and have a few talking points about the firm's key areas of practice up your sleeve for interview. Remember, though- firms aren't looking for someone who can just parrot a few articles and their "About Us" section back at them. Show that you've understood and really thought about what you found in your research!
Remember that research is about more than the application itself!
As I've already mentioned, you should always genuinely want to work at any firm you apply for. That won't just help you make the most of your traineeship- it'll also help you find it, as your enthusiasm will show on your application.
Try and think about what you would like from your training contract. For example, I wanted as broad an experience as possible. This meant that a full-service firm with secondment opportunities like Morton Fraser was an ideal choice for me. I also knew I would have to wait a year between finishing the Diploma and starting my traineeship, so I was glad that Morton Fraser makes a point of investing in their trainees as much as they can. Because of this I was able to spend that year working with the firm, which gave me invaluable experience before starting my traineeship.
Whatever your ideal traineeship looks like, make sure you lay the groundwork for it with some thought about what you want from the process, as well as where to find it. Your applications will thank you for it!
The content of this webpage is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Morton Fraser LLP accepts no responsibility for the content of any third party website to which this webpage refers. Morton Fraser LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.