In this blog, Antonia George from Vinson & Elkins LLP discusses how to come across well in a written application, and addresses some of the key things law firms are looking for. Antonia started her training contract at Vinson & Elkins in 2016 and is currently in her first seat with the Complex Commercial Litigation department.

Selling yourself to law firms in a couple of pages can feel like the impossible. It begs the puzzling question of ‘what are law firms actually looking for?’ Of course, each firm will differ in the details, but there are some key points to consider when applying to any law firm.

Do the research!

Invest some time before writing to look into each law firm you’re applying to. Familiarise yourself with its practice areas, key sectors it is involved in, offices, culture, and training programme. It can be very tempting to copy and paste parts of other applications into a new one but, since no two firms are the same, no two applications should be the same.

Make them want you by demonstrating your interest in that particular law firm, and confirm to yourself that this is a law firm that would suit you – the application process works both ways!

How can I demonstrate that I’d make a good trainee?

Beyond demonstrating a genuine interest in the firm and its work, employers are trying to discern from your application whether you have the potential to be a good trainee. This means that you need to showcase all the skills you would expect a law firm to look for. Every hobby, interest, and role you’ve held can be broken down into key skills.

Perhaps you used to help coach a netball team? – Communication skills! Leadership skills! Team building!

Perhaps you went on a Euro-rail trip over summer with friends? – Organisation! Interest in travel! Managing expectations!

And remember that juggling any of these things with academics demonstrates time management capability.

Anything and everything can be used to make your application shine. This process is as much about marketing as it is law, and you have to understand how to demonstrate that the last few years of your life have moulded you into a desirable candidate.

Write well

Use proper English, correct grammar, and check, and double-check, for typos. The application form in itself is a chance to demonstrate that you have excellent writing skills and attention to detail.

Don’t be shy

Many people have raised concerns over sounding as though they are bragging in their application…This is the time to boast! This is the time to lay all your achievements out on the table for law firms to admire. They want to hear about all of these things and down-playing your accomplishments would only be doing you, and them, a great disservice.

Make it stand out

The people reviewing your application will have sifted through hundreds, maybe thousands of applications, so try and give them something interesting to read that will make you memorable. How you stand out is for you to decide.

Good luck!