There are a myriad of blogs out there on how to ace traineeship applications and perform at assessment centres. These are valuable resources and, the more you read, the more you'll see a common theme emerge: recruiters want candidates who stand out from the crowd.

These days it's common for candidates' CVs to tick all of the boxes in terms of grades, legal work experience and committee positions. Whilst these are commendable, it's always a good idea to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

There are an infinite amount of things you, as a prospective trainee, can do to buck the trend and make yourself stand out. Remember that recruiters are not just looking for a competent worker, but also someone they can get along with and who gets along with others. Here, I set out a few examples of how to capitalise on opportunities to develop and sell your skills.

Trend 1: Focusing solely on academics

It can be easy to focus solely on academics. However, an understanding of the law is only one part of being a solicitor. Networking is an example of a skill that is somewhat overlooked at university, despite it being vital to success in your future career.

You're never too young to start connecting with professionals. It can be daunting, but remember that being comfortable speaking about yourself and asking questions in pressurised situations is great practice for interviews.

Buck 1:

  • Joining the W.S Society as a student member is a good way to meet fellow students, as well as heavyweights in the legal profession. Events hosted by the Society include balls, wine tasting and 'speed networking'.
  • Look out for Law Society Scotland and SYLA events online. They run socials, debates and seminars on areas of interest. During these, capitalise on your opportunities - grab any business cards offered to you and connect with the people you've met via LinkedIn.

Trend 2: Believing law firms only want evidence of legal experience

It's a common misconception that law firms are only interested in hearing about the legal side of things.

Buck 2:

  • My advice is this: do not underplay jobs or work experience in other sectors. The customer service skills and commercial awareness you gained as bar supervisor, in retail, or in any other job, are just as relevant to a career in law as any legal work experience.
  • Draw on core transferable skills and show what you have learned from challenging situations.
  • Working well as part of a team, dealing with tricky customers and having an understanding of how businesses operate are all abilities that recruiters will value.
  • Showing that you held down a student job at the same time as studying also speaks volumes for your ability to manage multiple commitments at once.

Trend 3: Relying on university experiences

Relying on university projects and achievements to beef up applications is deceptively easy to do. Though important, they are also bound to feature heavily on the CVs of other applicants.

Buck 3:

Get involved with things that throw you out of your comfort zone and set you apart from others, such as:

  • Initiatives like Street Law and volunteering as a judge in the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament for schools.
  • Legal Hackers run an introduction to basic programming - you'll learn about things such as Blockchain, which will allow you to sell more extensive tech-related knowledge and skills.
  • Enter student competitions (e.g. theInternational Negotiation Competition or the Brown Mosten International Client Consultation Competition).
  • Get in touch with the Law Society if you have a blog idea that you'd like to share. Past university essays are a good starting point if you are struggling for ideas.

Trend 4: Thinking rejections equal failure

When it comes to applying for traineeships, it's inevitable that some firms will reject you. The key thing to remember is it's not personal and there's definitely something to be said for experiencing rejection as a learning process.

Buck 4:

In the immortal words of Churchill: "failure is not fatal". If you have experienced rejection, ask for feedback where possible and learn from it. Before joining Brodies, rejections led to me bucking the trend and working in-house for a year whilst completing a fully-funded LLM. Everyone takes a different path and often the less conventional yours is, the better.

The closing date for traineeship applications is 30 September 2018. For more informationandto apply for a traineeship, please visit the Traineeship section of our website.


Lorna Hewitt

Trainee at Brodies LLP