The LawCareers.Net Handbook 2021

Application technique

Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete an application form (hours rather than minutes). Plan to do them well in advance and don’t leave it to the last minute on deadline day to submit. Lucie Rees, graduate manager at Watson Farley & Williams LLP , suggests “saving the form as you go along – there’s nothing worse than spending hours doing something only for a technical hitch to mean you have to do it all again”. Always read through the entire form, including the small print, which may contain important instructions; and practise on a photocopy of the form first. It may be time consuming, but it is crucial to approach each application individually, back up your work regularly and avoid the temptation to copy and paste. Michelle Ruddle, recruitment marketing manager at Hogan Lovells , says: “Tailor your answers; don’t just copy and paste content from another application form, as you may end up referring to the wrong firm name in error, which shows lack of attention to detail. You should also have someone else check your application form before you click ‘submit’ to pick out any grammatical or spelling mistakes.” And while some recruiters say never copy and paste under any circumstances, others accept that you probably will, so take some advice on how to do it successfully, such as from this London barrister: “Be careful when copying and pasting. It saves time, but you won’t endear yourself to a set if you are obviously describing how much you want to join their main rival.” Similarly, Laura Newton of Brick Court Chambers says: “If you must copy and paste, do so with care! Make sure that the ‘variable’ parts get updated and that the text fits in with the rest of the form.” Cover letters Unless the employer’s instructions state otherwise, you should send a short covering letter with the application form (or CV). A covering letter gives you the opportunity

“You should research not only your chambers,but also the area of law you’re going into. Every chambers will want someone who wants to be there and who makes an effort in getting to know what they do. Your application is the first thing we get, so care needs to be taken when preparing it” – Ashton Chantrielle, barrister at 8 New Square. Application forms Many students struggle with the open-ended or competency questions on application forms. These questions vary, but tend to focus on teamwork, problem solving, communication and judgement (eg, “Outside of your studies, describe a situation where you have worked with a group of people to achieve a goal”). As a rule, the best answers are as significant and unique to you as possible, easy to discuss at interview and relevant to the job. Tackle the question by breaking it down into the situation or context, the task or problem faced and the outcome or result. Make sure that you read instructions very carefully. Don’t be like this candidate for a regional firm: “We ask people to list their strengths and weaknesses. One student obviously did not read the question properly and listed her strengths as being ‘honest, competent and hardworking’ – so far, so good – but unfortunately went on to list her weaknesses as ‘dishonest, incompetent and lazy’. Needless to say, she was not invited for an interview.” And keep an eye on word limits, as one barrister advises: “Brevity is key; don’t waste words on things that are irrelevant, so abstract as to lack sense or by trying to be funny. Save your humour for interviews.” Naomi Winston of Ten Old Square agrees: “Don’t write reams and reams, just because you can – remember that someone has to read your application (and maybe a couple of hundred others, too).”



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