While you don't need a developed and extensive legal network to be successful in obtaining a Training Contract, the best way to build knowledge and insights on the firms and the areas of law that interest you, is to have conversations with those who are already there; be it graduate recruitment, current fee earners, or future trainees.
When it comes to applying for Training Contracts, no one is expecting you to have a fully formed network, and no one is expecting you to know absolutely everything about the legal specialities of your chosen firms. That being said, demonstrating that you've taken steps to reach out to those in the profession, and utilising their experience to inform your knowledge of commercial areas that interest you, are important for those first steps into the legal profession.
Here are a few top tips to keep in mind:
- Stay connected
Connect with the firms you like on LinkedIn and follow graduate recruitment on their various social media channels. Keep an eye out for the advice they're sharing, and any upcoming events and open days they may be hosting. These events give invaluable insight into what the firm looks for in a trainee and what you can expect from a Training Contract with them, they also offer the opportunity to meet people from the firms you like and ask them direct questions.
- If you don't ask, you don’t get
Approaching people, on LinkedIn or via email, is far less daunting than you may think. The worst that can happen is you don't get a response and you'll be surprised at how many people are willing to help.
- When sending a LinkedIn request, an accompanying message goes a long way. People are far more likely to connect and respond if they know what you'd like from the outset.
- Be targeted in your questions. Do you want to know about the sectors they work with, the sort of tasks trainees have been given, what they like most about working where they do? These are more likely to elicit a response than broad questions.
- You'll have one shot with the messages so be genuine. It's very obvious when candidates are re-wording an application question (to try and make life easy) rather than asking what they really want answered.
The Training Contract process is tough but there's help and support in more places than you may think – be proactive and you'll give yourself the best start possible.