I received a number of rejections in my first application round, where, even though I thought I was writing tailored applications, I later realised my language was too generic and could easily have been used to describe another firm.

I completely get that this is very difficult because firms – despite saying they’re all different – do seem very much the same. Here are the steps I followed:

Step 1. Research

I’d copy/paste all relevant information I found about a firm into a word document.

Main sources I used:

· Chambers Student Guide: The natural starting point, it’s great to get a sense of what the firm is like from an internal and external perspective. It provides a useful overview of the firm, any recent developments or achievements and an insight into the strongest practice areas.
· The Lawyer: Useful for profiles, recent developments within the firm and insights into a recent deal. I’d usually go back 3-4 years if I found lots of information, sometimes even more.
· Legal Week: If you haven’t used your free trial this I best saved when you have a 30-day period of applying to many firms or attending interviews. It’s a high-level version of the Lawyer.
· Firm’s website: The graduate page will give a sense of what they’re looking for and the perspective you have to take when applying. The main website is useful for finding a recent deal or learning more about a recent press development. Also check out the about page and any awards.
· Legal 500/Chambers and Partners: Useful for an insight into a firm’s strongest practice areas and how it compares to competitors – check tiers and the recommended people.

Secondary sources

· Lawyer2B: This can be a useful resource for profiling lawyers or graduate recruitment.
· Legal Cheek: This was in its infancy when I was applying, it now seems alright, albeit very gossipy.
· Roll on Friday: The profiles for the ‘firm of the year’ can be a very useful – if not informal – outline. Good for an insight into culture.
· Lex 100: Decent for a basic outline.

By this point, you’ll have a sizeable word document with a mix of great and irrelevant information.

Step 2: Condense

I would then split my screen with a fresh word document opened up (alternatively you can print out the research document).

I would then go through the very large research document and condense everything into my own words, summarising the relevant and discarding the irrelevant. By doing this you’ll not only come out with a very useful file with specific information about the firm but you’ll also start to pick up themes, remember facts and really understand the firm. The information you have to hand for your application will be targeted and when it comes to the interview, you’ll have a lot of useful information available.

Step 3: Spot the difference

By this point, you should have a better understanding of the firm and once you’ve done a few of these, you’ll have a sense of what makes Firm X different from Firm Y and how it sits against its competitors. Some of the areas a firm can differ include:

  • Geographic reach
  • Practice area strengths
  • Culture
  • Important deals
  • Clients
  • Management structure or management change
  • Leadership strategy
  • Recent mergers
  • Training or development
  • Lateral moves and recent partnership moves
  • Growth (internal and external)
  • Recent profit figures
  • Innovation & Technology
  • Offshoring
  • Size of intake
  • Competitors

You can then dip into this and pick three to four very specific details about the firm.

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