How Tough is it Really to Secure a Training Contract?

We all know the legal market is an over-crowded and over-competitive industry. Unfortunately, there are just not enough Training Contracts (TCs) to cover every legal graduate out there (imagine how much easier life would be if there was).

The financial crisis of 2012 (and the years leading up to it) had a big effect on the number of TCs commencing each year. For example, in 2013/14 the number of registered TCs was just 5,001. This number seems crazily low when you think about the number of people who successfully apply to study Law at University (see below), not to mention the amount of non-legal graduates who then go on to study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

Of course, the economy has begun to recover now and this shows in the number of  TCs registered in 2014/2015, which had risen to 5,457.  Unfortunately, although this number has risen, the case still remains that the number of legal graduates far outweighs the number of TCs available. In fact, the number of successful applications for law undergraduate courses has increased by 28% since 2007 and 3% since last year.

I know it sounds very depressing, but don’t give up! Keep looking around and applying for TCs that catch your eye and you will secure one. It may not happen as quickly as you would like it to (it certainly didn’t for me) but it will happen. You just have to keep gaining experience and make your applications as strong as possible. (Check out my previous blog about that here).

A number of excellent websites exist to help your search and I’ve listed a couple below for you guys:

  1.  – this website is by far my favourite and is actually how I found my TC!

Although the internet is one our greatest tools when searching for a job, please don’t forget about all of the other sources available..

Make sure you get in touch with your University careers team. Sign up to receive vacancy emails (BPP’s vacancy bulletin was very helpful to me whilst studying the LPC). Don’t be afraid to rely on word of mouth – ask all of your friends and family if they know anyone who works in a law firm – what’s the worst that can happen.

I think it’s important everyone who decided to study Law knows exactly what they’re getting into before they start. It can be very difficult to find a TC but keep searching, don’t give up and you will find one that suits you!

If you read my blog and have any suggestions for topics you would like to find out about, please let me know! As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact me by leaving a comment or using the Contact page. 

Application advice

So, you’ve found a Training Contract you want to apply for and you’re probably wondering if your CV is good enough or if your cover letter conveys what a good match you are for the firm. The same goes for application forms which can be very long and, let’s face it, boring!

Don’t panic! This is how the majority of people feel when applying for a Training Contract (and most other jobs, to be honest).

Here’s my advice on what to do before applying:

1. Read the advert/person specification 

I know this sounds absolutely obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people waste their time by applying for Training Contracts that aren’t right for them.

You have to carefully read through the advert to ensure you are what the firm is looking for. If not, they will most likely not bother looking at your application. For example, if a firm states in their advert that they are looking for a a candidate with a 2:1 degree and you have a 2:2, I wouldn’t bother applying. It sounds harsh, but the reality is that firms get a lot of applications and will specifically look for people who meet the specifications they have listed.

You also have to make sure the firm is the right one for you. Don’t apply for every Training Contract you see, just because you are desperate to secure one, or you could end up in a place you don’t belong – you don’t want to spend the next two years (or more) of your life in a place that isn’t suited to you.

2. Do your research

Most people only research companies when they have been invited for an interview/assessment centre in order to impress potential employers with their knowledge of the company. However, I think it is important to research each firm before you even think about applying. The reasoning is pretty similar to no.1 above, but it is very important you apply for the right firms. If you are interested in family law, apply for firms that do family law. Again, seems obvious but I know a few people who have applied for Training Contracts that do not even practice the areas they want to go into in the future.

3. Read through your CV/cover letter/application form

I’m involved in the recruitment process at work; which means I get to read through many CVs and cover letters and I was surprised at how many contained spelling mistakes and simple errors. I even saw a cover letter that mentioned the wrong firm. I get it, everyone copies and pastes their cover letter, but you have to read through it and make sure you have personalised it to that firm! It’s a huge no-no when you read a cover letter that is clearly copied and pasted from a different application – employers know you’re applying to different firms, but you shouldn’t make it completely obvious.

I’ve seen a perfectly good candidate be turned down because they made a very simple mistake in their CV. Don’t make this same mistake. Read through everything a couple of times before you submit your application, it could be the difference between you getting invited for an interview or not.

4. Don’t make your cover letter sound too cheesy

Let’s be honest here, the majority of what we write in a cover letter is complete rubbish. We say a lot of things we think will impress the employer and try to make it sound as though their firm is the best thing since sliced bread and you are the very best person for the role. That’s fine; you should big up the firm and yourself, but please don’t make it sound like you’ve been dreaming of working for that firm since the day you were born.

Employers can see right through really long and complimentary cover letters and you can come across as being fake and disingenuous. My advice is to set out your skills and how that relates to the firm itself and the work they do. Just be careful not to look so keen it actually puts them off of you.

5. Sell yourself

The whole point of making your application is to be invited for an interview and, hopefully, be given a Training Contract following that. In order to do that, you need to sell yourself and show that your skills are better than all of the other applicants. Don’t be afraid to point out your abilities and why they make you an excellent candidate. You should be confident in your application.

Your CV/cover letter/application is the first opportunity employers have to get to know you, so don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Demonstrate how passionate you are about law and how the experiences you have had, whether at university or through working, have allowed you to hone the necessary skills to make you successful in your future career.

Remember, you need to convince employers to invite you for an interview!

You can find a whole plethora of advice and application tips online so look around and you’ll be making great applications in no time.

Good luck!