You Only Need One Yes- With Natasha

Welcome back everyone to the next article in our series of interviews with future trainee solicitors. In this article, we are delighted to have heard from Natasha, a future trainee at DLA Piper.


1. Who is your training contract with?

DLA Piper


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

Law


3. Which university did you attend?

The University of Birmingham


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

I am an ethic female, born and raised in UK. I am the first generation in my family to attend university and I am currently studying on the LPC.


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

I applied a couple of years after graduating after spending some time at one of the big four accountancy firms. I decided to apply to commercial law as I was interested in helping businesses achieve their commercial objectives. I wanted a challenging role and I liked that commercial law had such a variety of work that meant no two days were ever the same.

I also wanted a role that was international in nature, where I could be dealing with colleagues all over the world on a daily basis. I liked that working in commercial law still allowed me to give back to the community through pro bono work, enabling me to have a big impact upon society.


6. How many applications did you send?

9


7. How many interviews/offers did you receive?

6


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

My applications spanned over 2 Training Contract cycles. For each firm I applied to, I made sure I had interacted with them in some form whether this was through an open day, an open evening, or a Legal Cheek event. This enabled me to include a tailored sentence into my application about a specific deal the firm had worked on or about the culture that I had encountered. I found it relatively easy to narrow down firms as I knew I wanted to train in a regional office, rather than in London. Therefore, I created a master spreadsheet which I updated regularly. This included the application mode (whether VS or straight TC), the application deadline, the stages of the application process as well as any unique points about the firm that appealed to me. I also made sure I submitted my applications well before the deadlines, even if the firm said they were non-rolling, as often they did not get back to candidates before the deadline, but they had shortlisted before then.


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

I didn't change my strategy, however I continued to build upon the initial research I had on firms.


10. How did you develop your commercial awareness?

I identified topics and new stories that interested me and followed their updates through reading BBC News and the FT. I also tried to find personal connections with these topics so that I could demonstrate my interest e.g. the death of the high street or my previous work experience in retail. This enabled me to talk about the areas from a personal standpoint in interviews which showed it was a genuine interest. I also signed up to Finimize, TCLA and Lawyer2B, who all provide daily newsletters which I read and made notes on every day. I attended all Legal Cheek events in my local area, as these always have a topical theme which can be discussed in detail in interviews.


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

Have all the standard interview questions ready and fully prepared (why law, why this firm, why this location, recent deal the firm has done) and be sure to practice these to make them sound as natural as possible. These answers really need to be tailored to the firm and demonstrate how they are different to other commercial law firms . It’s important to think about why they are better (e.g. is it their one firm approach, the technology they use, or the training and development they offer which enables their people to thrive?) This way, when you are asked more difficult questions you have the time and energy to really think through the answers. Also, always ask for a glass of water at the start of the interview and drink whenever you need extra time to think of an answer. When you are in the interview, the main thing I would concentrate on is building a rapport with the interviewer by finding common ground - whether that is through the university you attended, the town you grew up in, or a client being a previous employer of yours. Always have at least 2 questions to ask at the end of the interview and make sure that 1 of them is about the interviewer themselves (their background, practice area, route to law) - Lawyers love talking about themselves!


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

Use the prep time to really analyse the documents they give; think about all the information they provide and more importantly, why it is there. Usually everything is there for a reason. Flag the issues that are important and try and link them together if possible. If the case study requires you to prepare something before the interview, then make sure you have set aside sufficient time in the preparation period to do this. Make sure this is set out in a logical way in layman’s terms - usually you are advising a client and they do not want to hear legal jargon which they can't understand. The interviewer will ask you questions which are designed to make you think deeper about the documents and information. It is fine to ask for time to think about the question and refer back to the documentation. They usually just want to see how you think about the question and how you analyse the information to get to some sort of answer - the answer itself isn't really important but rather the thought process and how you got there.


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

My biggest setback was when I failed to secure a Training Contract after a Vacation Scheme that went well. My feedback from my department was strong and I was recommended for a Training Contract, but I failed to build a rapport with my interviewer, which was the reason I failed to convert the Vacation Scheme to a Training Contract. I dealt with it by firstly taking time out from the TC process - sometimes you can feel that you are going round in circles and it can be draining to spend most of your time on applications and interviews. I then spent some time rebuilding my confidence by attending events such as with Aspiring Solicitors and receiving feedback on my interviews.


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

I would have developed the confidence a lot early on to really sell myself in interviews. I was always afraid of looking 'big headed' when talking about my achievements or how good I am at a particular skill - but if you don't tell the interviewer this then they will never know and they can't differentiate you from other candidates. There is a difference between coming across as arrogant and just talking through your strengths and experience. If I realised this sooner, I would have done much better in earlier interviews.


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?

Remember that people are far more likely to share their successes rather than their rejections. People don't put on LinkedIn when they get rejected, therefore it can seem that everyone is getting a Vacation Scheme or Training Contract apart from you - but this is far from reality. It may help to come off LinkedIn temporarily during these times so that you can concentrate on your own journey. But you will get there in the end - you only need one yes!
 

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Charlotteeeeee

Active Member
Dec 29, 2020
10
22
This was such a great post to read, thank you Natasha and Naomi for sharing!

I was wondering if you could provide some advice for converting a vacation scheme into a training contract. I have a spring vacation scheme coming up and it would be extremely helpful! I know you mentioned how you didn't get the TC based on not being able to build rapport with the interviewer, what does that specifically mean and how can someone go about tackling this? :)