Applying for jobs is already stressful enough, but there are a few things you should know about law firm application forms.

What Are Law Firm Application Forms?

Law firm application forms are the start of the application process for training contracts, paralegals, and often work experience. The forms consist of general questions about yourself including personal details, experience, references, and so on. Whilst almost every law firm uses an application form of some sort, many aspiring solicitors struggle to know what to put down for the key questions being asked. The application form after asking for general details will go on to cover more comprehensive essay-type questions such as ‘why this firm’ or ‘tell us about a time when…’. The questions law firms use will base on their specialist work, values, culture, and current commercial issues.

Why Are They Used?

Law firm application forms are used to assess a large range of candidates through one standardised form, this way, it allows fairness to all. The law firm, if they hire you, is investing a large amount of money and it is likely that during your first few years, you will be a drain on their services rather than an asset. Therefore, they need to know they are hiring candidates that can be bothered to learn about their particular business, what they do, why they do it, what sets them apart, and importantly, why you may align with their values and culture.

What Students Struggle With The Most

I opened up questions to my Instagram following and some responses included:

    • Gaining and showing relevant experience
    • The time it takes to research
    • Being commercially aware
    • Facing and dealing with rejection
    • Length of words required for each question
    • Being able to confidently answer ‘why you’ or ‘what skills can you bring to the role?’

What Are They Trying To Assess?

As mentioned, law firms are looking to hire those who have clearly done their research, and are able to demonstrate work experience and key competencies such as attention to detail and time management. For example, ‘Tell us about a time where you lead yourself and others on a successful task’ is asking you to show leadership, collaboration, and time management. The exact scenario does not need to be work-related; it can be based on your extra-curricular activities such as rugby. However, it is always advisable to keep it business-based where possible.

Another popular question is ‘why this law firm?’. This question is asking you to demonstrate, firstly, what attracts you to the firm, why this is and what are they working on currently that is of interest to you. These questions allow candidates to show of their commercial awareness and firm research whilst specifically tailoring this to the individual. A top tip for this style of question is to outline what they are doing, why this interests you, and then conclude with how the law firm can accommodate those interests.

One last highly popular question which trips up most candidates is ‘tell us about a time where you have disagreed with another co-worker and explain how these issues were resolved’. This question is looking to assess, firstly, how you deal with conflict or disagreements, how well you work with others, and how you can remove yourself subjectively and objectively do what is best for the team and the firm. It is always important to show a remained calmness and professionalism in these scenarios.

But What About My Grades?

It’s no secret law is all about academia and academic records. That being said, there is a new movement where law firms are straying away from having a cutthroat approach to A-level grades in particular. With many discrepancies over A-level grades arising from the coronavirus lockdown and many allegations of unfairness, law firms have recognised this and re-evaluated the way in which they screen their applicants. Whilst this may be the case, magic circle law firms still require high A-level grades.

Whilst grades are important, it only makes up a percentage of the application form. Therefore, if you can show strength in another area where you lack in another, your mark will improve.

So How Do I Prepare And Research?

Preparation is key! As we all know failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Preparation starts from choosing the right law firm for you, it is a two-way street, it takes the law firm to align with what you are looking for just as much as what the law firm is looking for in you. Application forms should be treated as a law school essay. Planning, research, writing, editing and submitting. Research the firm’s current work, what they have done, and what they specialise in, then focus on their values and make sure to show these through your responses to their competency-based and experience-based questions.

Some Helpful Websites

    • Chambers Students
    • Aspiring Solicitors
    • Law firm websites

Another great way to research is to sign up for and attend as many law firm events as you can! These events are great ways to ask associates in person what their thoughts are and how they find working for the firm. Once your final editing has been completed, get a friend, parent, or other to proofread your answers. Sometimes re-reading the same paragraphs makes our eyes lazy so fresh eyes can notice small mistakes. I was once told that if you have read your response to ‘why this firm’ and not cringed, you haven’t sucked up to the firm well enough.

One last but majorly important note… spelling! Spelling and grammar are imperative, lawyering and legal work are all about attention to detail, and misspelling a law firm’s name on an application form is a sure route to rejection.

Stay tuned next week for top tips on video interviews!