"Why law?" or "Why do you want to be a lawyer?"

Firstly, what is this question getting at? Are you applying to a commercial law firm? If so, it potentially means why do you want to be a commercial lawyer or why commercial law? Consider the type of firm you're applying to. What are the firm's core practice areas? 

Once you've established the practice area you'll focus on, look at what the lawyers do in that area (see our 'What do lawyers do?! Portal' or 'Sector' Insights Portal) and then review that against your own interests / experiences. 

  • You need to demonstrate that you and the firm are a good fit. 

Think about what you have done at university, work or in your personal life that has advanced that passion. (NB - go beyond studying law at A Level/Uni as most candidates will have done this.. your application should make you stand out!). 

Also, don't just focus on the actual 'law' bit. Consider the legal industry generally - what do lawyers do aside from giving legal advice? 

  • Lawyers are strategic and entrepreneurial - a lawyer doesn't just think about the legality of a query from a client. They think about the practicality of their advice and how their legal solutions advance the client's business

  • Lawyers are business developers - it is pretty impossible to get by in the legal industry if you have no people or business skills. You need to retain clients and win work. You need to be a people person!

  • Lawyers are innovative and dynamic - if every commercial lawyer offered the same solutions/advice where is the competitive edge? You need to challenge the norm and think outside the box

"Why this firm?"

It goes without saying that you have to have done your research so... here's your chance to shine! 

Strong applications will show a good understand of the following: 

  • the firm's key practice areas 

  • international footprint (i.e where else does the firm have a strong presence?)

  • firm culture (is it known as being a supportive firm? does it have a good work/life balance? is it a firm for the 'people'? is it more driven to a corporate culture i.e. long hours and late nights but big exciting cases for huge companies?)

  • values (why does the firm exist? what is it its purpose?)

  • news stories the firm is involved in 

[Check out our 'Law Firm Research' page to help guide your research about a firm.]

Link your understanding of the firm to your own interests and goals. Don't be generic - provide a personalised answer

Think about where you see yourself post qualification. The firm are looking for future partners so you have to show that you are interested in the firm long term too. Why do you think this specific firm will help make you the best lawyer? 

Tips on how to go about answering this question: 

  • think about the firm's practice areas (or the specific areas you're applying to):

    • how does the firm rank in the Legal 500 and Chambers for this area of law?

    • are there any news stories or cases in this area worth mentioning? Look at the page on their website for recent cases - there will be a section providing you with all of this detail 

    • how do these areas of law link in with the firm's values

    • are there any notable or key clients that are worth mentioning? 

    • how big are these practice areas for the firm? (If they only have one lawyer specialising in the area then chances are it's not a massive part of the firm's presence.)

    • are there any key lawyers in the firm worth mentioning?

  • link the area of law / your research to you and your own interests and goals:

    • what is it about this firm that made you want to apply? If it was one of their practice areas then talk about why that practice area appeals to you:​

      • did you study the subject in great detail?​

      • have you done related work experience in that area? 

      • do you have a personal story that helped you realise this was the career for you? 

    • then look more widely at the firm's culture, values and clients - why do you want to work for the firm's clients and how does this link with where you see yourself in 5/10 years time? (By clients, you can make reference to a particular sector - see 'sectors' portal).

"A news story that interests you"

The inevitable commercial awareness question! 

The key to a strong answer is picking a news story that actually does interest you and not one that you think will look more impressive to the firm. If you can talk passionately about a topic it shows that you are genuine and your analysis will be more effective

However, that said, the news story you choose should relate to the firm in some way. Hopefully, if you're applying to a corporate firm that means you're actually interested in corporate affairs and therefore your natural instinct would be to talk about a corporate related news story. If you pick a family news story or talk about a criminal matter but the firm you're applying to is solely corporate and banking... well, even if your application gets through to the second stage, it will be difficult to show your genuine interest in the firm at interview stage. 

Once you've picked your news story, think about how your chosen news story presents threats and opportunities to both the law firm (i.e. via an increase or decrease in work) and to the sector generally. Be strategic in your response as that's the role of a lawyer! 

Tips on picking a news story: 

  • If you've done your research, you'll understand the personality and culture of the law firm you're applying to and the position of it in the market. What sectors or practice areas are important to the law firm's business? Where does the firm have a strong presence? 

  • To demonstrate that you truly understand the law firm, picking a news story that fits nicely into one of the firm's sectors can only help your application and further demonstrate your passion to that particular law firm

  • Once you've decided which sector of the firm is the strongest or which sector interests you the most, see what's happening in the news in that area of law or sector (you can just google it or search the relevant category on the Financial Times or BBC News). 

"What do you do in your spare time?"

This is a character question. The answer to this question will help the firm understand what type of person you are and what you'll bring to the table. 

  • Do you play a sport or partake in any team activities? - Including details of any sports activities and memberships of teams demonstrates team work and commitment. 

  • Have you done any volunteering work? - Whether it was a one off or an ongoing commitment, volunteering shows care and dedication. It shows that you want to give back and shows you'll add value to the office. 

  • Do you go to the gym or go for runs? - Keeping fit shows dedication and discipline. If you fit the gym or a run into your busy schedule it also shows you can prioritise and are organised. Talk about a specific training schedule you have or diet plan you follow. 

  • Don't forget to include the socialising you do! You need to demonstrate to the firm that you have social skills as you'll regularly have to attend networking events, team socials and meet clients. The firm will want to know that they can put you in front of a client!

"Describe your greatest non-academic achievement and why was this important to you"

Note the emphasis on 'non-academic'! The firm wants to know that you are well rounded and have more to offer then just good academics. 

Things to think about:

  • Do you have a part time job? If so, you could talk about a particular achievement at that job i.e. did you change the way the team worked by suggesting or implementing an idea you had? 

  • Did you raise some money for charity? You could talk about a particular fundraiser you took part in or were responsible for and why that was important to you. 

  • Did you master a challenge such as climbing a mountain or running a marathon

Other ideas include:

 

  • work experience you've done and the impact you had,

  • any volunteer work you may have done, 

  • whether you're part of a committee or society and your role in that group, and

  • any travelling you may have done. 

Common training contract application questions!

If you're finding the idea of starting your training contract search (or completing the applications) a bit overwhelming... here is an idea of the type of questions you'll be asked in the application. Start thinking about examples you could use to answer these questions and note them down. If you feel like you may not have anything to write about, use your time to get involved in activities that will help you provide good responses to the below questions. 

  1. Why do you wish to pursue a career in the arena of commercial law and why are you interested in this firm? 

  2. Having undertaken your research into the firm, if you were to step into the shoes of our Senior Partner, how would you ensure that we continue to remain competitive in the legal marketplace?

  3. Describe the attributes, experience and skills that you possess that would contribute towards you being successful at our firm

  4. Please write about a current issue or news articles that has interested you. 

  5. Please give an insight into you as a person without repeating anything that you have already mentioned in this application (achievements, hobbies, interests etc). 

  6. Please give us details of your main extra-curricular activities including positions of responsibility and any charity work or other initiatives you are involved with. Briefly explain their importance to you. 

  7. Please give details of your greatest achievement to date and what you consider to be the important lessons you have learnt from this. 

  8. Apart from your studies, describe two situations where you have worked with a group of people to achieve a goal. What was your own contribution and what was the outcome? 

  9. Please name one change you would make to this firm and explain your rationale for this change. 

  10. Why would we wish to recruit you as a trainee? 

  11. Please briefly describe a recent commercial issue in the news that has taken your interest and give your reasons why 

  12. Tell us about any recognised awards or academic prizes you have attained? 

  13. Please provide us with an example of you going the extra mile for clients

  14. Please provide us with an example of you working in a team

  15. Please provide us with an example of you problem solving

  16. Please provide us with an example of your ability to prioritise 

  17. The current state of the global economy has placed significant pressures on a number of organisations. Imagine that this firm is going to meet with potential clients for the first time. What should our lawyers do to ensure the meeting is successful? 

  18. The firm expects its trainee solicitors to be innovative and able to spot opportunities. What one change would you recommend we make in order to help ensure the firm meets its long term goals? 

  19. Describe a time when you provided customer service which went beyond your normal duties. Why do you feel this was above the expected standard and what motivated you to undertake this approach? 

  20. What has been your greatest achievement outside of academia and why do you feel it was so significant? 

  21. Why do you want to become a solicitor and what key skills can you demonstrate that make you particularly suited to the role?

  22. Please explain one of our published cases and why you found that particular case interesting.

  23. If you were recommending our firm to a potential client, what are the key points you would highlight? 

  24. What are the advantages of two law firms joining forces in the current legal market? 

  25. What is it about a role of a commercial lawyer that appeals to you?

  26. Do you have any other information that is relevant to your application such as language skills and positions of responsibility

  27. What is the one thing you would like us to know about you as a person

  28. What are the major challenges facing the legal services sector and how would you suggest we tackle these? 

  29. We have a strong focus on exceptional client service in the firm. What do you think this should look like?