Featured Ask A Magic Circle Future Trainee Anything!

Discussion in 'Applications Discussion' started by Jaysen, Sep 11, 2019 at 10:55 AM.

  1. Jaysen

    Jaysen Legendary Member
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    Hi All,

    I'm pleased to say one of our long-time forum members, @Abstruser, has kindly agreed to answer any questions you have on this thread.

    She is a future trainee at a Magic Circle law firm, and a first-class law graduate. She secured multiple training contract offers in her second cycle of applications as an international, non-EU student. She is currently studying the LPC.

    You might want to use this thread to ask about how she worked on applications, went about developing commercial awareness or even tips for securing a first. Abstruser will be sharing her advice based on her own journey and experiences, but it's worth noting - there are many ways to approach all of these things and what works for one person might be different for another.

    Enjoy!
     
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  2. ZsofiaBori

    ZsofiaBori New Member

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    Hi @Abstruser,
    When you decide on a firm but before you would start an application, what would be the process of preparation/research that you’d go through to prepare yourself for the questions?
    Thanks!
     
  3. EmCam20

    EmCam20 New Member

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    Hi @Abstruser, What do you think was the main difference between your first and second application cycle? What did you do differently etc?
     
  4. studentdelaw786

    studentdelaw786 New Member

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    Hi @Abstruser,

    What podcasts/websites would you recommend for developing commercial awareness?

    Thank you.
     
  5. hajratahir11

    hajratahir11 New Member

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    hi, what is your top tip for being successful in the first cycle? And do you think a lack of legal work experience will hold you back?
     
  6. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    So I would always have a look at the questions before I start the research. But if the questions haven't been released yet, I would always try to collate enough information to answer "why this firm", "why law" and "why me", as those form the bedrock for 90% of the application questions I've encountered. Ideally you would already know how to answer "why law" and "why me" from your CV and previous experiences.

    As to "why this firm", I would try to find out:
    • Main practice areas
    • Training contract structure and chances for secondment(s)
    • Values and/or key competencies
    • Any recent news stories about the firm (check their recent deals and/or awards)
    I'd also try to keep up to date with the news as often firms ask you to talk about a current news story that might affect the firm or something similar. Its good to follow news stories that you are genuinely interested in, even if they might be quite 'niche' (I, for example, followed and talked about news stories relating to global waste management and recycling). But you should also be aware of more 'macro' stories like Brexit and the US-China trade war.

    Hope that helps!
     
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  7. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    I would say confidence made the biggest difference between both cycles. I was invited to two interviews in my first cycle, and three in my second - both at MC and SC firms. I was successful in 0/2 of the first cycle, and 3/3 in the second. In the first cycle, I was very nervous in interview - even if I had a correct answer I would come off as unsure and generally uncomfortable. Going into the second cycle, even if I had no idea what the 'correct' answer was in an interview, I was much less apologetic and nervous and demonstrated a lot more willingness to work towards a solution even if I didn't know it offhand.

    I also focused a lot more on my commercial awareness in the second cycle, which I think contributed to overall confidence. It also really helped me write better answers for my application questions, as I wasn't just researching a single news story for a single application question - I could situate my chosen news story within broader commercial trends which just lent a little bit more commercial nuance to my answers. Also, in one of my partner interviews I was asked to make three commercial predictions for the year 2018, which I would have been totally floored by in my first cycle - thankfully I had been reading the news regularly, so I could answer intelligently!
     
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  8. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    I love Finimize for short and concise news updates. I read their daily email updates every morning. I also like to listen to the FT's Daily Briefing on Spotify - its free, and I usually play it while I'm getting ready in the morning! Both are free to access. :)
     
  9. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    I can't really comment on being successful in the first cycle, as I was not successful in my first cycle! But I think it boils down to a few factors:
    • Being very clear about your motivations. This applies to both "why commercial law" and "why this firm". Be genuine - think about your experiences, what your personal ambitions are, what makes the firm stand out and how the firm will fit you and your ambitions.
    • Good application technique. There's lots of threads about this on the forum, and TCLA does great application reviews. Ultimately you want to directly answer the question you're being asked, without any unnecessary waffling.
    • Commercial awareness. Obviously this requires reading the news, but its more than that - its understanding how a business works, how they make money, how they grow etc. I would recommend starting with understanding SWOT and PESTEL business models and picking any random business (eg, Amazon) and researching how they operate. Once you can grasp that, you can make a lot more sense of the commercial news.
     
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  10. Asmee

    Asmee Standard Member

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    Hi @Abstruser,

    What do you think made you stand out or have more of an edge during the written application stage? I'm having difficulty getting to the interview stage and would love any suggestions on how to answer the questions. Also as an international, non-EU student I would appreciate any other suggestions you have for the process to secure a TC.

    Additionally, what do you think is an easy way to increase commercial awareness? I have been trying to keep up with reading the news everyday and even subscribed to the TCLA newsletter which has been really helpful too. Any other suggestions would be appreciated!

    Thanks and congrats!
     
  11. Lumree

    Lumree Distinguished Member

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    Hi Abstruser!

    How many firms did you apply to in your first cycles vs your second cycle?

    Thanks!
     
  12. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    I think it’s important to be very precise when you write applications. Every sentence you put in the answer should be there for a very specific reason.

    I found that a helpful way to approach questions was first to ask myself how I would answer the question in an actual spoken interview. This helped me narrow down my answer to one or two main points, and I would work my written answer around those points.

    I found I was only ever quizzed a bit about my international student status at interview stage. I would be asked questions like “why do you want to work here and not your home country” and “how do you feel about settling here long term”. So it’s good to have a think about your motivations in that regard.

    Finally for commercial awareness - I like listening to podcasts like the FT Daily Briefing on Spotify. When I was in uni, I actually joined a business society in final year in an effort to learn more about “business” - while I didn’t learn all that much, I found that socialising with likeminded people and being able to talk about current affairs really helped develop my commercial awareness as well.
     
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  13. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    Hi! It was roughly the same both cycles - around 8 or 9 firms.
     
  14. Lumree

    Lumree Distinguished Member

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    If you applied to some of the same firms, what would you say was different in your approach to these firms? I.e in your research, face to face meetings with them etc?
     
  15. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    I only applied to one of those firms in both cycles. The first time I was unsuccessful at app stage - the second I was offered the TC. Probably what changed the most was application technique. I don’t think the research aspect changed much.

    I didn’t meet them face to face - not even once actually. In all three TCs I was offered, I had never met the firm prior to being invited to interview. By and large my opinion is that interactions with the firm can help score a brownie point or two, but it definitely doesn’t count against a strong application if you haven’t met them before.
     
  16. Suzen

    Suzen New Member

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    Hi @Abstruser

    I am an international student and have entered my final year of law. I applied for training contracts this year but haven’t made it past the application stage itself. How do I identify my weak areas in my application form and what tips would you give to make the application form stand out?

    Thanks!
     
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  17. EmCam20

    EmCam20 New Member

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    Thank you so much!!

    Two further questions: How did you end up deciding between your offers?
    Did you ever consider applying for US firms in London?

    Thanks!
     
    #17 EmCam20, Sep 12, 2019 at 3:58 AM
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019 at 4:35 AM
  18. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    It’s funny - I had a clear top choice when I was applying, but I ended up deciding based on ‘feel’ more than anything else. I suppose because they were ultimately quite similar in terms of size and prestige I was able to base my final decision on intangibles like cultural fit etc.

    I did briefly - I attended a couple of open days and evenings at US firms but it was quite clear to me that the training style wasn’t quite what I was looking for, especially because I hadn’t (and still don’t) any idea of which practice area I wanted to qualify into.

    Hope that helps!
     
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  19. Abstruser

    Abstruser Legendary Member
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    Hi! So in terms of general advice, I answered a similar question above:

    As to how to identify weak areas - it’s difficult to comment offhand on an application as there are so many variables, but for me the best thing to do is to ask for a second opinion from a friend or someone else you may know.

    If you’ve already done that or can’t find someone, try to go line by line through your answer and ask yourself:
    • What am I trying to prove through this sentence?
    • Is this sentence answering the question?
    • Could I have written this in less words?
    • Does this sentence really need to be here?
    It’s also important to make sure you’ve actually understood the question and answered it fully. For example, if you’re asked ‘tell me about a recent news story and how it affects X firm’, you might have written a great piece about a recent news story, but might not have actually answered how you think it affects the firm.

    Hope that helps!
     
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  20. wildprincessx

    wildprincessx Star Member

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    Hi Abstruser,

    Thank you so much for your informative response. I was just wondering if you could elaborate on why you didn't apply to US firms- specifically what training style did you prefer over theirs. Also, do US firms generally expect trainees to know what practice area they want to qualify into?

    Thank you so much for your help!
     

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