With summer deadlines on the horizon, law students and graduates up and down the country are busy considering which law firm to approach and starting to apply for training contracts. No matter where you are in the process, it can be a stressful time, with a lot riding on your applications.
To help provide some reassurance to those currently wading through online application forms, we decided to speak to someone who has successfully been through the application process and landed their ideal training contract. We recently caught up with Hannah Pilling, a trainee solicitor at JMW in Manchester and asked her how she found the process.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
During the first two years of my university degree, I could not see myself practising law as a career after graduation. It was only in my third year when I was able to choose my electives, being family law and medical law, that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Law.
My search for law firms was firstly narrowed to the firms who could offer me the opportunity to do a seat in my areas of interest as a trainee. Whilst some firms will practice certain areas, this does not necessarily mean they also take trainees in those departments. I think this is very important to double-check when choosing which firms to apply to. My search was further refined to firms which are specialists in the areas I was interested, I wanted to ensure that I learned from the best.
The training contract is a very demanding two years, so it was also important that I was applying to firms that provided me with exposure to high-quality work but equally maintained a social culture, to ensure I had a positive work-life balance. JMW was the obvious choice for me, being ranked tier one for family and clinical negligence, whilst simultaneously promoting an ethos of building strong relationships with clients and each other alike.
What did the application process for the firm you joined involve?
The JMW recruitment process involved a written application, followed by an interview with three partners.
What was the most challenging part of the application process for you?
No matter how much research and many hours you spend preparing in advance of the interview, inevitably, you cannot prepare for every question. I, therefore, found the ‘unknown’ of the interview process the most challenging. It was important to be prepared to think on your feet to answer a question you had not anticipated. The key was not to panic, digest and process the question, and then articulate an impressive answer. I tried to answer all questions honestly and not just giving answers I thought the partners wanted to hear.
What did you find most enjoyable?
The partners at my interview were completely down to earth and fair (and did not hesitate to bombard me with several difficult questions). Whilst the interview process itself was challenging, I left the interview feeling knowing that JMW was the firm for me. My initial thoughts on the firm were reinforced. I was, therefore, delighted to receive a training contract offer from the firm.
If you could give one key piece of advice for people currently in the midst of the application process, what would it be?
Be yourself. I do not think this can be stressed enough. It is important that you sell yourself as a candidate, rather than selling the idea of the ‘perfect’ trainee. Partners buy into your personality and you as a potential future investment for the firm. If I could advise one thing, have confidence in your abilities, this will shine through at any interview.
How’s your training contract going?
My first seat was in the family department. I thoroughly enjoyed my first seat in the department so much so that I requested to stay for a second seat. I felt as though the continuity of a further six months in the department, would allow me to further expand upon the knowledge and experience I gained in family law. As a trainee, I have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to top tier work, high net worth clients, plentiful client contact and a high degree of responsibility. I have also been able to attend numerous networking opportunities. My team, in particular, have nothing but time for me and have taken a real interest in my professional and personal development. I am someone who will ask questions where I am unsure and have been made to feel that there are no ‘stupid’ questions. I am very excited for the remainder of my second seat.