Don't Let Rejections Dishearten You, Everyone Gets Them- With a Future Trainee at Trowers & Hamlins LLP

Welcome back everyone. In our second article today, we hear from a future trainee at Trowers & Hamlins LLP.


1. Who is your training contract with?

Trowers & Hamlins LLP


2. Are you a law or non-law candidate?

Law


3. Which university did you attend?

University College London (UCL)



4. Please could you tell us more about your background and current stage?

I am currently working as a paralegal at a public sector organisation and will start my training contract in March 2021. I completed my LPC in summer 2020. I studied a 4-year law degree with a year abroad in Spain and graduated in 2017. After my undergraduate degree I worked abroad at the European Parliament in Belgium for a year and in Manchester for a year, before starting the LPC full time in September 2019.

5. When and why did you decide to apply to commercial law?

I decided to apply for a career in commercial law in the final year of my undergraduate degree. I already knew I wanted to be a lawyer, but I was unsure which area of the law I wanted to work in initially. I really enjoyed studying law at university and during the summers of university I had undertaken work experience at various firms. I liked the variety of the work and found it challenging and relatable. I had also gone to a few open days and different events at university to learn more about commercial law firms too.


6. How many applications did you send?

16


7. How many interviews/offers did you receive?

9


8. How did you go about the application process? Did you map an application strategy?

I applied for training contracts in 2 different cycles. The first time I applied was during the 2016/2017 cycle. The second time was during the 2019/2020 cycle. In between this time, I did not apply which is probably quite unusual! During the first cycle I did not really have a strategy, I applied for firms I had spoken to at open days and had found that the staff seemed easy to speak with, down to earth and enthusiastic about the culture at this firm. I also picked firms which had big teams in areas of law which I was interested in and international offices. I did 4 vacation scheme applications and 3 direct training contract applications. I did a vacation scheme at Pinsent Masons in summer 2017 but did not get the offer.

9. Did you change your strategy during the application process and, if so, what did you change?

During the second cycle, I had done a lot more research. I had a strategy. I looked up which firms recruited heavily from their vac schemes and which accepted a more even number from direct applications. I applied for 5 vac schemes for firms which generally took on a high percentage of vac schemers and applied for 4 direct TCs at firms which recruited quite a large number from direct applications. I researched about the culture of firms and also the career paths of people who worked there i.e, whether many employees stayed for a long time or there was lots of lateral hiring. I definitely wanted to train at a firm where I could imagine myself long term so this was important to me. In addition a work life balance is important to me so I mostly did not apply to firms which were well known to have the longest working hours. I tried to attend open days or engage with graduate recruitment on social media at the firms I applied to. Finally, I used TCLA to research about the interview and application strategy at firms. I tried to avoid firms which were known for having really tough technical style interviews, for example where they asked lots of in depth questions about finance or commercial news where I felt that you would have had to do extra work and research on these areas specifically in order to succeed. I did not want to apply for finance heavy firms anyway, so it sorts of matched up with the firms I liked anyway.


10. How did you develop your commercial awareness?

Generally, I think I have always had a good awareness of the news, because I regularly keep up with what's happening around the world, but this was not necessarily commercially focussed. I signed up to the Commercial Awareness for Students newsletter and would read the all the stories on it. It comes out once a week and has 10 of the top stories. I also regularly read the monthly summaries of news stories and their impacts on law firms on TCLA. From this I would normally pick a few stories which I was more interested in and read about them on news websites, like the BBC or the FT. Occasionally I went to talks or online events to discuss commercial news and stories.


11. What is your best advice for succeeding at the interview stage?

My strategy for interviews was as follows:

1. Look up common interview questions (I did this using the TCLA list). Also try to find any information (law firms insights on TCLA) on what kind of interview questions the firm have asked in the past. From this create a list of questions you think are likely to be asked.

2. Write down and rehearse your answers to the questions on this list. I used to record myself on my laptop and watch the videos back to see where I needed to improve. Whilst this was embarrassing at first it was actually really useful.

3. Do mock interviews with the university careers service or whoever you can do them with

4. Pinpoint questions you are weaker on and spend extra time rehearsing or preparing for these.

5. Do more than one mock interview if you think it would help 6. Be confident and go into the interview with the mentality that you are good enough to succeed.

7. While rehearsing is important, try to be relaxed during the interview and answer naturally. Answer the question asked even if it's not one you specifically prepared for, do not try to shoehorn in things you have prepared if they are not exactly relevant. Do not try to regurgitate answers from memory as this can sound robotic. If you've done the preparation, your knowledge should come through.

8. Sell yourself. If at the end of the interview you feel like you haven't demonstrated your motivation for the firm or sold your skills, it's your last chance to do so. I don't see the harm in adding in a comment about this even if not asked specifically.

9. Ask questions you genuinely want to know and that could help you to confirm the firm is really for you. It's a good and rare opportunity to speak with seniors at the firm.


12. What is your best advice for case study interviews?

Remain calm even if you don't know the answers. Don't let wrong answers early on derail you for the whole interview. Try to structure your answers and just be as clear as possible when answering (no waffling!). Give concise reasons and justifications for your answers .If you really don't know something, you can say so rather than pretend you are certain of your answer but do also attempt an educated guess and give reasons for your thought process.


13. What was the biggest setback you encountered during your journey to a training contract? How did you deal with it?

I did a vacation scheme at Pinsent Masons in summer 2017, during my first cycle of applying, but did not get an offer. I got excellent feedback and the recruitment staff told me that I scored really highly in every round of the AC as well as during the vac scheme, but they didn't have enough spaces and so they had a very arbitrary/trivial reason for rejecting me. When I asked what I should do they just recommended to apply again and get more experience in the meantime. It gave me some confidence that I was good enough to get a TC, but I was so disillusioned at the process. That summer I also had 2 other final round assessment centres where I was given feedback that I did really well but narrowly missed out on the top scores on the AC. I was given some feedback on how to improve at least but it was really hard knowing you were so close. It was disheartening and frustrating at the time.

I think deep down I knew I was good enough but decided I needed a break from applying to training contracts and when I was offered the chance to do a traineeship in Brussels at the European Parliament, I took it. I enjoyed working there and exploring other opportunities and not thinking about applications. I also went travelling for a while. I came back to England and worked as a commercial litigation paralegal for 6 months in Manchester which I enjoyed and gained a lot of experience and skills from. It was like a 6-month seat because the firm I worked at treated paralegals the same as trainees. I think this break was really good for me, I learnt a lot and wasn't constantly stressing about applications and waiting for outcomes etc. I think that can be draining. I never stopped wanting to be a lawyer, but I stopped comparing myself to others and just enjoyed my life and made the most of opportunities I encountered. After this 2-year break, I decided I was ready to do the LPC and get back into doing applications.

I think I was fresh, motivated, and ready to work hard and really focus on what I wanted.


14. If there was anything you would do differently, what would it be?

I applied for some firms mostly because of their reputation, prestige, and very high salaries. I didn't love the areas of law they worked in, or the culture of a lot of those firms. I thought that I could work as a trainee with them for a few years and move somewhere else as I knew I did not want to work the really unsociable hours that came with them. I knew they weren't my dream firms but applied for the sake of it, because why not? In hindsight I think I wouldn't apply for those firms again, because applications take a long time and I think it's better to spend your time doing them for firms you actually want to work at.


15. What is the best piece of advice you can give to future applicants? Do you have any advice for individuals who might’ve been in a similar position to you?

Research a wide array of firms because there are loads of really good firms out there, not only the ones which have a big presence on your campus. Be focussed and develop a strategy for applications. Try to be disciplined with setting aside time to do applications or prepare for interviews. Don't let rejections dishearten you, everyone gets them. Reflect about why you were rejected though and really focus on improving on this specifically. If you need or want to take a break from doing applications, do so! I didn't regret my 2-year break at all personally.