Junior Lawyer 43
- Jan 20, 2019
I hope this message finds you well.
I am in a similar position as you were in in second year - I have completed one vacation scheme this year and have not been offered a TC afterwards. I am gutted, but I don't want to waste any time and want to start prepping early for the 2021/2022 application cycle. What advice do you have for me? What did you do that felt changed the game for you and allowed you to score 3 TCs!?
I'd really appreciate some insight and advice!
I'm incredibly sorry to hear about the rejection. I still remember how awful I felt in second year but trust me when I say it's more common not to get the TC in second year than it is to get it. In terms of what you can do for the next cycle, I've written about my advice for this situation quite extensively in the post below. I've also gone ahead and bolded the most important changes I made going into my third year.
1. Application strategy: My first cycle of VS apps was haphazard at best. I didn't have a clear application strategy and applied to literally any firm I had vaguely heard of. Not to mention my hatred of the WG test (from applying to first year schemes) meant I tried my best to stay away from firms that used testing of any kind (which is really as silly of a strategy as it sounds). I really only sent out about four good quality written applications, and received two interview invites. The other 6 I sent were all extremely last minute rushed applications.
My second application cycle I started really early on. In the summer of my second year, I had already come up with a list of 10 firms I was applying to and already started researching these firms and collating the information into documents. For firms whose VS applications I could expect to remain unchanged, I actually started drafting my applications. I also created a detailed summary (at around 200 words) of all my work experiences and really fine-tuned the descriptions of what I did so that they demonstrated transferrable skills. This made my job a lot easier for when I had to key in information into the applications. One huge difference for me when applying in my second year was my involvement with the Aspiring Solicitors Aspire Programme and the SEO London Corporate Law Programme. Applications for both typically open in July and the plethora of open days/networking opportunities I could access without having to apply separately, and the application review services (Note: only for their sponsor firms) was incredibly incredibly helpful.
2. Case studies/assessment centres: One of my feedback points post failed VS was that I lacked analytical skill in my case study. I really developed on this by practicing a lot of different types of case studies. My TCLA Premium subscription (and I'm not just saying this because I work with the team now ) really helped me because of the detailed law firm profiles and advice on case studies on the premium section of the forum. I must have re-did the two sample case studies Jaysen created about 6/7 times that year, just to practice my writing style, structure and level of analysis. Jaysen's masterclasses on M&A (a super frequent topic of case studies) and private equity were also incredibly helpful.
3. Commercial awareness: I used to think commercial awareness was just being knowledgeable about socio-political and economic developments. Only in my final year did I realise it was much more about your way of thinking and analysing a news story. I think this is a mindset that is best developed by daily exposure to news stories. For me the biggest resources that helped me were the Financial Times Daily News Briefing podcast on Spotify and TCLA's Commercial Newsletter. The newsletter in particular (again not a sponsored post ) is great because it does some of the thinking for you i.e already tying news stories to which teams/departments at law firms will see an uptick or reduction in work. Another good way of approaching commercial awareness is realising that partners rarely ever want to trip you up on purpose. Start with your application, did you mention interest in a particular industry, a particular deal, have you had work experience in other areas - what are the biggest issues affecting those areas? By the time I walked into my fourth interview in my final year, I was so used to the commercial questions being asked having to do with things on my app. Of course you can also expect more general questions on big issues, but that's where the resources I mentioned come into it!
In terms of game changing things that led to the three TCs, to be very brutally honest in my opinion while technical ability is 80% of what it takes, securing multiple TC offers (or actually even one TC offer) is also about (1) leveraging your unique experiences as much as possible and (2) being likeable and charismatic. Due to how subjective both these things are, I can't actually give the most concrete advice on them but I would recommend thinking about the following things as a starting point:
a) What experiences do I have that make me stand out? How can I include these in my applications/interviews? How can I convey what these experiences say about my character and personality?
b) How can I hold my own in conversations with partners? Do I feel confident enough to make appropriate jokes/to ask partners about themselves/to raise non-work related questions?