Whether you are a recent graduate seeking your breakout role or are already working in the legal sector, applying for training contracts can be daunting. In the competitive world of law, it’s especially important to make your CV stand out from the crowd.
In this article, we share tips on what to include in your CV to help you to secure a training contract.
The first section of your CV should be a personal statement – i.e. a short summary of your key skills, experience and achievements.
Due to the volume of applications received by firms, this is the ideal opportunity to sell yourself and show why you would be an ideal candidate for their training programme.
‘I am a recent History graduate and I have lately started the Diploma in Law. I was drawn to the many different aspects of Family Law during my work experience and I would love to take on a role where I can further develop my knowledge. Through writing my dissertation and presenting in student seminars, I have enhanced my communication skills and developed my ability to work as part of a team. I believe that my skills, experience and dedication will make me a valued trainee solicitor.’
Remember quality over quantity – give relevant detail but keep it brief. Aim for 4 or 5 sentences of around 150 words in total.
Education and Qualifications
As a recent graduate, your educational achievements are your key strength. List your qualifications in reverse chronological order, from your degree all the way through to GCSEs. Make sure to include the name of the institution, the dates you attended, the qualification and the grade.
If you’re currently studying for the GDL or LPC, this should be at the top of your list, with the date you’re due to qualify.
Any details of your undergraduate studies, such as specialist modules related to law or a law-related dissertation may be worth including if you didn’t do an LLB.
If you have legal work experience, mention this first. You might have previously worked as a paralegal, legal assistant or secretary or done a summer internship at a firm – anything like this is all valuable experience.
Legal experience of any duration is beneficial, so even if it was just shadowing a lawyer for a week, it’s still worth mentioning.
If you’re lacking in work experience, highlight how you have shown an interest in the law in other ways, by attending law fairs or networking events. Voluntary work within a government body or even attending court as a member of the public will all help to showcase an interest in the legal sector.
It’s fine to mention non-legal work experience (including part-time jobs), as long as you can demonstrate the transferrable skills gained from this experience.
You should give specific examples of how your studies and work experience have developed your skills.
For example, if you had a part-time job in a shop, you can demonstrate how you have gained financial literacy, organisation and time management skills whilst in the role.
Other Key Skills to include:
- Commercial awareness (i.e. an understanding of the organisation and the industry)
- Emotional intelligence
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Networking and relationship building ability
- Analytical skills
Skills such as those listed above are important in the legal sector, and it is especially important for prospective trainees to show employers that they are strong potential candidates.
Achievements, whether law-related or not are still important to include. These could be awards, prizes, scholarships or commendations from either school, work or extra-curricular activities.
Similarly, list any hobbies or interests that have shaped your skill set. This will not only showcase your abilities, dedication and commitment, but they will also give you an edge in comparison to other candidates.
Structure and Format
Ideally, your CV should be no more than two sides of A4, laid out in clear sections. Use headings and bullet points to coherently list details of your achievements, skills, experience etc. Lengthy chunks of text are likely to get skimmed over or even ignored by recruiters.
On occasion, some firms require candidates to structure their CVs in a certain way, so make sure to do your research and follow any required formats.
Change it Up
In order to have the best shot at securing a training contract, it is recommended that you tailor your CV according to the specific contract in question.
Do plenty of research into the firm or company and what the training contract entails. If there are certain values or cases mentioned on the firm’s website, you could allude to an interest in this area of law in either your personal statement or cover letter.
Candidates who demonstrate a true interest and enthusiasm for a firm and their specific training contract are more likely to succeed than those who have applied to training contracts in bulk without any variation in their CV.
Finally, proofread your CV to make sure that it is free of mistakes and inconsistencies. Do not be afraid to ask for help – it’s always beneficial to get a friend or family member to have a read through, or alternatively submit your CV for a free review with TopCV.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful and wish you luck with your application process.
For more careers advice, check out the dedicated Law Graduates section of our blog.