Sofia’s insights into securing a first seat employment trainee role with Irwin Mitchell

Created on 14 Dec 2023

We recently caught up with Sofia about how she secured a first seat employment trainee role with Irwin Mitchell, her top tips for the application process and how Bright Network helped her secure the role.

What stood out to you about Irwin Mitchell?

Irwin Mitchell stood out to me as a firm which is supportive, nurturing and exciting to work for. I found that every individual who worked at Irwin Mitchell was extremely positive, helpful, and insightful in supporting me to apply for the firm. This perception encouraged me to apply and gave me the confidence that the firm was the right place for me. 

In conjunction, I found that the opportunity to train in a full service firm rather than a specialised firm aligned with what I sought out of a training contract - as it gave me the time to decide which area and pathway I wanted to embark on rather than commit too early on!

How did you make your application stand out?

I made my application stand out by ensuring that I had a wide variety of experiences and skills demonstrated in my application. In doing so, I made sure that my experiences and skills aligned with the values Irwin Mitchell was seeking, such as 'initiative', 'tenacity' and 'empathy and 'interpersonal skills'. This enabled me to show who I was whilst showcasing why I would be a good fit for the firm. 

I further tried to highlight how I had gained true insights into the firm from speaking to individuals working at the firm, to attending talks led by Early Careers or societies at my university. 

What part of the application process did you find the most challenging?

I found the assessment centre the most challenging part of the process. I had never attended one and I found the various components (the interview, the group presentation and the written task) slightly overwhelming. This was exacerbated by the fact it was all online in the midst of the third lockdown! Nevertheless, I found Bright Network's 'Bright advice for acing your assessment centre' and the Bright Network Academy extremely helpful. These resources provided me with an outline of what to expect and I utilised them as tools to help prepare me for my assessment centre - in the end, helping me secure my vacation scheme! 

How did Bright Network help you secure this role?

Bright Network helped me secure my training contract with Irwin Mitchell by giving me the opportunity to participate in the Bright Network Commercial Law Internship Experience in July 2020. This virtual internship was extremely valuable as it exposed me to and gave me access to a wide variety of firms and areas of law. This opportunity was invaluable in 2020 and confirmed my interest in pursuing a career in law.

Furthermore, I used Bright Network's 'Career Advice' pages during my second year of university to help guide me through my assessment centre and interviews. The tips the site offered were extremely helpful, and gave me the confidence to navigate the application process.

Did you get any feedback in the past that helped you with your application?

Some feedback that helped me in my application was to genuinely stop and think... 'What do I want out of this application?'. This question is fundamental to determining whether you could see yourself working for a specific firm in the long term, and whether the line of work the firm offers is for you. As law firms typically recruit two years in advance, it is important to be honest with yourself and consider whether, in the chance this application turns into a training contract, the firm and its work is something you would still want in the future. This honesty will translate into your application, as it will make you a stronger candidate who graduate recruitment can see genuinely wants to work for the firm.

What are your top tips for tackling tough interview questions?

My top tip for tackling tough interview questions is to stop, think and take your time. It is easy to feel as though you must immediately answer the question and rush through your answer, but by taking a second or asking for a minute to clarify your thoughts - you will answer more coherently and effectively. 

Additionally, prior to your interview, I would recommend curating a list of potential questions (from personal to topical issues in the news and to firm specific questions) to create outline answers for. This will equip you with a skeleton and a basic ground to then adapt to whatever the interview might ask you. Although the questions prepared might not be exactly what you are asked, it'll give you a foundation to build upon - giving you a sense of confidence and control over the question!

What top three tips would you give Bright Network members looking to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Utilise your network -  In order to succeed, use the network around you. Be it your university classmates, the individuals you meet through Bright Network, or people you meet through internships and everyday life. The network you build will aid you in finding opportunities, helping you navigate application cycles and provide honest feedback to become the best applicant you can be.  
  2. Attend as many events as possible - In order to expose yourself to the legal industry and determine whether you truly do want to become a solicitor, it is critical to attend as many workshops and talks as possible. A lot of these will be hosted through your university's law society or Bright Network and will be free. Furthermore, attending law fairs and networking at them is a great way to get yourself out there and meet as many individuals as possible. The more you expose yourself to the industry, the more you will understand what you want from it.
  3. Be yourself - It is important to sell yourself for who you are and not as somebody you think law firms want. If you are struggling to figure out what you might offer a firm, ask your friends and family - they know you better than most and can help identify your strengths. Think about the activities you might already enjoy, and think - how can I utilise this and turn it into a strength? Could I start my own club at my university with a specific focus on this activity? Could I get onto a committee? Could I get a part-time job in this activity/area? This will indicate to firms that you are an individual who has interests which are multi-dimensional and have created opportunities. This translates to show that you are an individual who takes risks, seeks opportunities and would make the most of their training contract!
Recently secured a role? Let us know!

Let us know where you've secured your work experience, internship or graduate role. We want to celebrate your success with a gift from us and exclusive invitations to evening networking drinks throughout the year.

Looking to follow in Sofia's footsteps? Discover live graduate opportunities with Irwin Mitchell.

Bright Network member, Sofia
Sofia, University of Exeter
Irwin Mitchell, First Seat Employment Trainee