How To Research & Create Your Shortlist of Firms To Apply To

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One of the key things that contributes to a candidate’s success in the training contract process is the research they undertake.

Another is the decisions made by that candidate about which firms to apply to.

The Importance Of Research

You will hear many times over that you must conduct thorough research before you make your training contract applications.

However, I still see a lack of research as one of the main reasons why candidates are unsuccessful.

So, lets consider how you might go about conducting the necessary research and creating your shortlist of firms to apply to.

Advice From The Recruiters

And what better way to do so than getting some advice from those people who will be reviewing your applications.

I caught up with some law firm graduate recruiters recently and asked them the following question:

“How would you advise a candidate to tackle the difficult task of researching and choosing their short list of firms to apply to?”

Their responses below make for interesting reading.

What’s Important To You?

It is clear that the firms don’t just want to know a list of things about them that you are interested in. Instead they want to know why those things are important to you – what are your genuine reasons for wanting to work at a firm based on your understanding of the firm.

Here’s what Sam Lee, Recruitment Manager at Bond Dickinson, had to say:

“You need to start by thinking about what’s important to you, what are your values and what have you enjoyed about your legal studies so far. Answering these questions is likely to narrow down the field to a type of practice, i.e. regional/national, US/City or smaller private client practices. Once you’ve done that, do a quick reality check. Do you meet the minimum requirements for that firm? If not, think seriously about whether you want to put the effort into something that might not be realistic. That said ambition never hurts!”

Research In The Real World

It is also important to take the opportunities that exist to do your research in person throughout the year and not just at application time.

Here’s what Samantha Hope, Graduate Recruitment Manager at Shoosmiths, had to say:

“Make the most of your time by attending careers fairs, employer presentations and open evenings; you will immediately know whether that firm is a good fit for you.

Be sure to prepare a list of questions and things you’d like to know about the day to day work, which can’t be found on the website and ask the most appropriate person; graduate recruitment, a legal advisor and a trainee will be able to help you in different ways. Follow up your meeting with a tweet or email.

Create a notebook or folder to compile all your research, it can be overwhelming, so treating the research as a module on your course will help you stay organised and on top of deadlines.

Finally, be able to justify why you want to work in a particular department, location and firm. What will that firm offer you? And what will you bring to the firm?”

Be Honest With Yourself

Finally, you stand the best chance if you are honest with yourself as you are doing your research to work out which firms are genuinely the best fit is for you.

Here is what Paula McMullan, Graduate Recruitment Manager at Gide Loyrette Nouel LLP (London), had to say:

“Know what you’re looking for, otherwise you won’t know when you find it! If you want experience in a particular area, look for firms that offer this. Think about what will make you want to go to work each day. Work out the ”must-haves“ and the ”nice-to-haves“ of your future firm so that you can check these off when doing your research. Don’t limit yourself to the firm’s website – see what others are saying on third party sites to get a different viewpoint. And be honest with yourself – if you like being part of an organised programme, a larger firm may suit you better than a niche practice, but if you have a more independent nature, find a firm that will allow you to have a say in your training contract.”

Take A Breath Before You Jump In

So before you go jumping into your training contract applications put time aside to carry out some thorough research. Then put some more time aside to consider your findings and to carefully decide which firms are the best fit for you.

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