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How to get a Training Contract with a 2.2
I managed to secure a training contract after obtaining a 2.2 degree in Law from the University of London. I was part of the University's external LL.B program.
I had a full time job and studied most evenings and weekends. Over a 4 year period my course covered the same ground as that which is covered by full time students in 3 years. As such I felt that it was something of an achievement to graduate with a 2.2. However, I did realise quickly after graduating that a large number of firms were looking for applications for a training contract from candidates with a first class or 2.1 university degree. This being with a preference for degrees from old rather than red brick universities.
I also found that city firms in their application forms had a large section covering school and university activities and a very small section for work experience. This gave me the distinct impression that they were looking for young applicants.
I think that without contacts within a large firm that you are very unlikely to be offered a training contract. I understand from some recent research that many large firms use a filter system for online applications whereby applications with a 2,2 or below are weeded out at the first stage of assessment by the computer.
Medium And Small Firms
I would recommend that you set your focus on mid-sized or small firms. Once you are qualified, you will have scope for moving onto a larger firm later on in your career. Your key objective is to secure and successfully complete your training contract.
Many mid-sized and small firms will be looking for a 2.1 or above degree. Quite naturally with a big pool of candidates they want the best trainees that they can get. Having read this far you may feel disheartened. However this part of the article is merely to set the scene and give you a realistic starting point for your search for a training contract.
Standing Out From The Crowd
You need to do your utmost to make your application stand out. If you have previous work experience then you may have contacts who could potentially place business with the firm of solicitors that you are applying to. Remember that new clients are the lifeblood of a firm of solicitors. Small and medium sized firms particularly in a recession are very interested in new clients. If you can demonstrate that you have potential sources of new business for that practice then you have something very valuable to offer them. In addition to this you are demonstrating that you have business acumen. If you do not have work experience then you may have friends and family members that have influence upon where instructions for legal work are placed.
Highlighting Your Special Skills
If you have a particular skill such as being fluent in a number of different languages, then you would be a great asset to a firm that has a lot of clients that have as their first language a foreign language that you speak. You need to think outside of the box and ask yourself what special skill or knowledge do I have that would benefit a firm of solicitors. They are after all a business that supplies legal services.
Working As A Paralegal
I would also recommend as a step towards obtaining a training contract that you get a job as a paralegal with a firm of solicitors. Through this type of work you will gain valuable experience and demonstrate a commitment to a career in law. The firm may in time offer you a training contract on the basis of the quality of work that you produced whilst working for the firm. You will also have a good platform from which to apply for training contracts with other firms.
Getting Past The Gatekeeper
A challenge that you will face is getting past the gatekeeper if you have a 2.2 when the firm is looking for a 2.1 or above. The larger the firm the trickier this is likely to be. In a small firm the decision maker will probably be the senior partner. If you ring a small firm there is a fair chance that you will be put through to the senior partner. Once you are through to the senior partner you can then ask whether your 2.2 application will be acceptable. If the flow of the conversation allows you can tell the senior partner very briefly why you would be an excellent trainee. If you make a good impression then you may be invited to submit an application. A larger firm will probably have an Human Resources department. You can when speaking to the HR person test the water.
You will almost certainly have dozens of applications rejected before you receive that elusive offer of a training contract. You should view each application that you make as being a step nearer to the one that will be successful. If you get interviews but are not offered a contract then ask the firm for feedback as to why you were not successful. Armed with feedback you can fine tune your approach and become a stronger candidate at the next interview.