Practice Makes Perfect - with a Future Trainee at DAC Beachcroft

Welcome back everyone! Next up in our series of interviews with future trainee solicitors, we had the fantastic opportunity to hear from a future trainee at DAC Beachcroft.

1. Who is your training contract with?

DAC Beachcroft

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


3. Which university did you attend?

University of Leeds

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

I was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to the UK in 2014.

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

Growing up, my mum was a lawyer and I spent a lot of time taking interest in her work. I was convinced then I wanted to be a lawyer. However, all the experience and information I had was about the law in Nigeria.

At college, a teacher suggested that I took a BTEC in Law shortly after I moved to the UK. This was really helpful because it was my first real introduction to law in the UK. Shortly after, Irwin Mitchell arranged a short internship programme for students at my college. I was selected for this and spent a week in various departments exploring first-hand what a career in law looked like.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in their family law department and was convinced I wanted to be a family lawyer. At university, I went back for a week in Irwin Mitchell's family law department but found I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. As a result, upon graduation I was keen to explore other options. I got a paralegal role in an insurance litigation department and then a further part-time role on the company's legal helpline dealing with a broad range of commercial issues. I thoroughly enjoyed this role leading to the decision that I was better suited for a career in commercial law.

6. How many applications did you send?


7. How many interviews/offers did you receive?


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

As I had really enjoyed my roles in insurance litigation, I found firms that had big/successful insurance practices and narrowed them down by way of location, LPC sponsorship, overseas offices, opportunities for secondments as well as expertise in other practice areas.

This meant that I was genuinely excited by the possibility of joining all the firms I applied to and thus made it easier to justify my interest in applications.
I also made a point to not apply for firms I had applied to in previous cycles. This was out of personal preference as I wanted this cycle to be a fresh start and when looking retrospectively at my previous applications, I personally felt I did not have clear justifications as to why I wanted to join those firms.

In terms of researching the firms, I used the Legal 500, Linkedin, Businessdesk and the FT among other sources. I was very intentional about picking out information about the firms from these sources and the legal press even before I had started my applications.

As I worked full-time with an additional part-time job, carving out time for applications was very difficult. I spent a few of my work lunches drafting applications and spent time on my commute researching firms. I also spent a few evenings after work completing my applications which was very difficult because it meant I was either working an evening or making applications. If you are in a similar situation, I would say remember that this is for a season and only in the short run. In the long run, you will be glad you put in the work.

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

Previously, I applied to any firm that was open at the time. I had no structure and no plan. This meant that all my applications were really rushed, and I had very little time research.

I also waited until I was invited to the next stage of the application process (video interview/psychometric test) to prepare for that stage. I found that none of my applications progressed from video interview/psychometric testing stages. After spending time reflecting, I realise my issues were simply down to a lack of preparation.

In my successful cycle, I carved out time well in advance of deadlines to research the firms and apply. I also started preparing for the next stage ahead of the invitation. I used the TCLA video interview simulator to improve my video interview skills, watched YouTube videos of successful applicants and also purchased premium access to Assessment Day for practice tests.

10. How did you develop your commercial awareness?

I changed my mindset about commercial awareness from being a thing that I needed for applications to being a thing I needed for life. I incorporated my learning into my day to day life. I listened to podcasts on my commute and spent a few days in the week listening to the Commercial Awareness Podcast, Trainee Talk and DAC Beachcroft's podcast instead of what I would normally listen to.

As I spend a worrying amount of time scrolling endlessly on Twitter and Instagram, I decided to incorporate my learning there. I followed the law firms I was applying to (they always post updates of cases, new developments) and @ComAware_4s (this was very useful and a few of my interview talking points, I found from some of their tweets).

I also signed up to various newsletters, TCLA, The Lawyer Portal, The Global Legal Post. I made an effort to actually read the content of these newsletters and contextualize the content (for example, if the content involved a client of a firm I was applying to, I would map out how that could affect the firm/practice area).

TCLA was my most useful resource for adding context to the content I had learnt. The courses were very useful in understanding the building blocks of law firms, their practice areas and generally issues in the industry. This made it easier to talk about issues in the news or in the sector as I was able to link it to the specific firm and how it may affect them.

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

My advice is summed up as 'practice makes perfect'. The most effective way is to keep practicing. I had model answers for the most popular questions, 'why law?', 'why this firm?', 'issues affecting the legal sector'. I had memorised my answers to these questions and I practised them out loud.

I also looked at the competencies that were required on the person specification and created questions & answers using these competencies. It is very likely that questions will be asked based on those competencies and you should be prepared.

Resources like Glassdoor, The Student Room and TCLA also have various questions previously asked by the firm in their interviews. You should prepare answers to these questions and practice your response.

At your interview, try and make these rehearsed answers sound more natural by taking breaths and tailoring these answers to the actual question asked. Use the language the interviewer used and after every answer summarise your point. In addition to the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model, use the essay structure (tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them in detail then repeat it to them). It reminds the interviewer of your points and also gives you an opportunity to refine your answer and make it tighter.

It is also worth doing a quick-fire round of interview prep questions with a friend/family member. I used the TCLA interview questions guide for this. This really improved my ability to think on my feet and give a clear, concise answer in a short time frame. Developing this skill helps when you are asked a question you are unsure about in an interview.

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

Identify the biggest/ most important issues in the case study. It could be an objective the client wants to achieve or an issue you have to resolve. It is worth noting that it may not be a legal issue- in fact, think of things on the business side except otherwise stated. If it is a client you are acting on behalf of, remember that it is likely that they are a business and simple issues like how to increase demand, make supply more effective, reduce overhead costs may be more useful to them than increasing their legal spend.

After identifying the issues, give solutions and discuss possible downsides/flaws in your argument. It is likely that the interviewer is about to ask you to identify the weakness in your argument and it shows self-awareness and problem solving when you identify those issues and possible ways to solve them.

Use a structure with your answers-. For example, issues, solutions, and problems with your solution. If you are given a long brief, refer to the supporting page numbers in your answer as it makes it easier to follow your answer. I think structure is as important as the content.

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

The rejections in the first two cycles were very difficult to deal with. It really affected my confidence and mental health. It made me feel like if I was rejected as a future trainee, I probably was not good enough to continue studying law which in turn affected my grades at uni, which then in turn affected my chances in the next cycle. This was something I had to take time off to deal with.

I had to remind myself that the rejections were not about me as person but about my professional persona and thus I had to improve that aspect of myself. This made it easier to compartmentalise and protect my mental health.

I then spent time improving myself and investing in the resources and tools I needed to secure a training contract. This gave me a much-needed confidence boost because I felt prepared and more confident in my abilities.

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

I would have invested the time and resources needed in my first cycle. I only recently found out about most of the resources I ended up using in my final cycle.
I would have spent more time researching resources to improve my skills, commercial awareness before my very first application. I would have also applied to only firms that aligned with my goals and not just any firm with a TC.

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?

My advice is that consider this a season of hard-work, financial investment, self-development in order to get the life you want.

If you work full-time (and then a bit, like me), you are probably struggling for time, so be very intentional about how you spend your time. Incorporate the application process into your day to day life and the things you do often. Also be intentional about creating time to make applications, save holiday days for interviews, vac schemes and even request the time off well ahead of time. Be prepared ! You don't want a lack of holiday days to be the thing standing in your way.

There are a lot of sacrifices along the way, but it will all be worth it.

All the best & good luck !


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