Chris Miller, due to start his traineeship at Brodies in 2019, discusses how to get to know the right firm for you.

The thought of applying for traineeships can be a daunting one, especially when you realise that the supply and demand of law students is very much in the favour of the firm hiring. So it is not surprising that many aspiring legal graduates resort to the scatter gun approach, whereby every firm in the country receives a less than tailored application. I hope that by writing this blog I am able to show you that traineeships are as much about finding the firm that is right for you, as they are about being offered one full stop.

Align your own interests to those of a firm

The most important thing is to give yourself a chance to find out what it is you want to do - what area of law you want to specialise in? I realised, through having worked substantially in the retail and hospitality sector, that commercial/corporate law was a potential keen interest. So I focused on firms in Scotland which were known for their corporate reputation. After identifying about nine or ten, I started researching them. I did this by looking at their websites, recent cases that they were involved in, and their community impact. I also made the effort to attend networking events, conferences, and social events - all of which gave me a better idea of who they were.  

Hands-on experience gives you the best insight

The way I truly got to know the firms, however, was by working with them directly. I understand that placements are hard to come by, which is why I recommend applying early for the vacation schemes, giving yourself the best chance of success. Even the experience of the assessment centres prior to the vacation schemes provide some measure as to how you would be treated as an employee.

I spent time with three firms over the summer, discovering what life was really like as a trainee in different companies. Each experience was vastly different, and the insight I gained from each firm could not have been achieved without being there.

Ultimately, what I am saying is do your homework and learn what you can from where you can before you start applying. If you identify a firm that you find attractive and put in the ground work, you will gain much more substance for your application. This coupled with a genuine desire to work there will significantly enhance your chances of making it through to the interview stages.

Interviewers love asking ‘why this firm?’ -  so I advise you to go and find out!

Guidance about applications

What to expect from application forms and speculative applications, including how to write a great covering letter.