Traineeship Application Advice

15 / 06 / 20

In 2018-19, 591 prospective trainee solicitors began training contracts in Scotland, according to the Law Society of Scotland. Whilst the process of applying for a traineeship may seem daunting, there are many great resources online which can help you get the ball rolling. I would recommend visiting the Law Society of Scotland’s website, which gives a great starting point and more background on the traineeship process itself. 

Once you have familiarised yourself with the process of qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland, it is never too early to start preparing. Unlike many other sectors, larger law firms will begin recruitment for future trainees up to 2 years in advance. Therefore, the importance of being prepared and having gathered valuable work experience before you begin your applications is crucial. Some tips which any law student can benefit from, no matter what stage in their university career, are as follows:

  1. Research – try to familiarise yourself with what is going on in the legal world, and more importantly, at the firms which you are interested in. For instance, you can look into high-profile trials which are ongoing or any large projects which the firms you are interested in are working on. The Scottish Legal News is a brilliant daily news source, which you can subscribe to by email here. Thorough research will shine through in an application, as it shows you have a genuine interest in a firm and will give you some talking points within an interview setting. Try and think of some questions which relate to the topics you have researched, to ask those who are interviewing you!
  2. Your LinkedIn Presence – A great website to use for research during your search for a traineeship is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, which allows you to connect with and interact with other professionals from around the world. Think of it like Facebook, but for professionals. There is a wealth of information which you can find on LinkedIn, you just have to look for it. For instance, say there is a specific firm which you would like to apply to – why not search for some of the current trainees that work there? You will be able to gather a wealth of information from their profiles, like what kind of work experience they gained during university. But remember – LinkedIn is a professional website, so make sure to use an appropriate photograph of yourself and be mindful that firms may look up your profile! For more information about LinkedIn, visit DULS’ blog here.
  3. Self-Reflection – this may seem like a strange point, but one which will make you stand out and practice regularly. Being self-aware and reflecting on how you dealt with a situation is a key skill of a trainee solicitor. During your traineeship, and throughout your entire career, you are constantly learning and developing. Being able to reflect on situations which went well, and maybe not so well, are key skills to learn and will help you in completing your PQPR forms which are required by the Law Society whilst you are training. Before drafting an application or attending an interview, try to spend 5 minutes reflecting on yourself and some of your previous experiences. For instance, what is one of your proudest non-academic achievements? What are some of my key skills, and what skills could I develop more? How would I describe myself in 3 words?
  4. Dundee Universities Careers Service – this is a service which I utilised heavily during my time at Dundee University. They offer a variety of different services, such as 1 on 1 CV and application meetings, in which they will help you draft up something impressive, as well as conducting mock interviews to help you prepare for any question which could pop up! Stephen Watt in particular, who works at the careers service, was an incredible help to me during my time at university. I would highly recommend anyone to book into the careers service!

Assessment Centre Tips

So, you drafted an impressive application to a firm which you would love to work for, and then receive an invitation to an assessment center – what next? Following on from my tips above, you could book into the careers service to have a run through of what you can do to prepare for the big day and run through some questions which may come up in an interview. This is something which I did before I attended the assessment center at the firm I work for, and I found it extremely beneficial. In addition to this, I have a few tips (some obvious, but absolutely worth reiterating!) for the day of your assessment center: 

  • Prepare the night before. This may seem like an obvious point, but do not overlook it! Look at your train times and iron your clothes the night before, have a printed-out copy of your application ready for you to read over and bring an umbrella! 
  • Turn off your phone. Whilst your loved ones will be keen to find out how you got on, but there is nothing more embarrassing than your phone ringing during an assessment center! It may be a good idea to do the same, if you are wearing a smart watch.
  • Practice calming techniques. Assessment centers are nerve wracking, even for those who seem completely calm and collected on the outside! Never underestimate the power of simple breathing techniques and their ability to keep you calm and collected. There are many apps which you can use such as Headspace – why not do a 5-minute meditation practice as you sit on the train or taxi on your way to the firm? Going into an interview or assessment with a calm and collected head will allow you to think clearly, stop you from feeling flustered and allow you to show your true potential. 
  • Speak to people! Although an assessment center can be a nerve-wracking experience, it’s a good idea to interact with the other candidates and make new connections. Engaging in conversation with those around you will keep you feeling calm whilst you wait to be interviewed and shows the firm that you are a friendly and approachable person. There is nothing worse than sitting in silence! 

I hope this blog is something which you will find useful, no matter what stage you are in your legal education and is a resource which you can revisit during the different stages of finding a traineeship. It can be a disheartening process, but I would encourage you to trust the process and keep going. Interviews, applications and assessment centers are all valuable learning exercises, so make the most of them, chat to your fellow candidates, and reflect on how things went! Feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn (Megan Anderson) if you have any questions! 

Best of luck! 

Megan x