Training contract covering letters are harder than you think- help!

#1

Hello, I was just wondering if anyone could give me any pointers in writing a covering letter for training contract applications to commerical / corporate law firms (London based).

I did write a draft but was told it was too waffly (that’s what you get for having an arts degree) so I am trying to be concise while at the same time getting my personality across; something I’m finding really hard bizarrely. I am only just about to begin a law conversion course in September so I am a bit concerned about not having enough legal knowledge (especially because although I’ve got some experience under my belt I don’t have any vacation schemes! Petrified by this), though I am a keen follower of international politics etc & took part in debating societies. Obviously I’m going to adapt my covering letter to the individual firms I apply to, but I just need a solid template. Does this seem like a good plan:

Salutation
Purpose of letter: what I’m applying for & when, where I am education-wise
Why this firm is marvellous: mention any awards / current interesting cases they’re doing etc, why the training contract they offer is different… what else?
Why I’m brilliant: tailor experience to fit areas of law (e.g. I like charity law, I have a lot of charity experience)… though I’m worried about sounding like an a*se if I try and make myself sound too brilliant.
Thanks, Bye.

Needless to say I’m super worried about getting a training contract because it feels so out of my hands. Plus, to be blunt, I really need help with my fees which is why I’m mainly applying to the larger firms. I know I do have a chance (got a 2:1, have a personality etc), but I feel distinctly average. How can I make myself stand out or do I just leave my CV to do the talking on that front (again, don’t want to risk coming across as pretentious). Anyway I’m rambling, but would be really really grateful for any advice, thanks so much!

#2

Hi,

Always keep in mind that the main purpose in providing a cover letter for a training contract application is all about answering the million dollar question; ie: WHY YOU WANT TO JOIN THE FIRM.

Nevermind if you do not have ‘enough legal knowledge’ - the firm(s) you are applying to would be expecting this; otherwise, they would only limit their applications to law students (like Slaughters and May).

You should come across as a dedicated individual in pursuit of a career in law (and perhaps one who is much more eager and steadfast than your standard law students, since you are changing direction, and you know what you want now).

Use your previous experiences (professional and personal) to outline your unique qualities, and try to relate them to the firm’s criteria (and in doing so, your personality will come across naturally).

Remember: it’s mostly about why you are personally interested in the firm you are applying to, ahead of all the other ones.

I am sure you will do fine. You can also peruse past articles of ‘Lawers 2 B’ and similar journals for a cover letter template.

Best of luck,

#3

Umm, I don’t mean to e a cow, but I disagree with the previous poster. As far as I’m aware, none of the big firms limit applicants requiring them to be law grads. S&M take a significant number of law graduates. I wouldn’t worry at all about not having a great amount of legal knowledge - I assume you havn’t done the GDL yet? If not, firms will not expect you to know the ins and outs of legal concepts in the same way that they might expect a law grad to. Just make sure you read the legal press and keep abreast of issues affecting the legal industry, are able to demonstrate that you’ve researched and have sound reasons for purusing a legal career and understand what’s involved.

I would also not agree (although this is just personal preference really) that the most important thing is to answer the question ‘WhyX firm?’. While, obviously you should show that your application has been targetted to that firm and you understand the work they do, their culture and what sets them apart bear in mind that they already know what makes them great! What they don’t know is what makes you great. They’ve sold themselves to you at law fairs, careers events, via website etc, now it’s your turn to sell yourself to them. Obviously there are subtle and not-so-subtle ways of doing this …

The structure I tend to use for covering letters is … salutation, introduce yourself (where you are, what you’re doing etc) briefly, why law?, why X firm?, anything pertinent not covered in CV or which you feel needs expanding (eg: mitigating circumstances, availability for interview - although the latter’s not that relevant for big firms I suppose), sign off. My advice would be to work your qualities into the why law and why X firm sections. So eg, if you say you like the analytical and technical nature of law - why do you think you’re someone able to deal with such work?

Of course if you want to do a bit about yourself feel free but I’d advise you to beware of the cliched ‘I’m a hard working, reliable individual …’ type of stuff. I’s only really do a section specifically about me if I felt there was something I’d done which was particularly pertinent and should be drawn to their attention/expanded on - maybe previous work experience/extra curric activity which is a bit different or particularly relevant.

Hope that helps.

#4

Brilliant, thank you both so much for good advice.

#5

This is great information - thanks to all for posting.

I believe it is true that Slaughter and May do not limit applications from non-law grads.

For further information on [[example cover letter|covering letters]] see the wiki page [[example cover letter]].

#6

Hey all, just read your postings now - you’re very much welcome.

Returning to my original point, ie: ‘million dollar question’, I should point out that my advice is based on the information supplied by Charlotte Hart (HR at Links).

I attended a Bright London’s event couple months back where Charlotte was presenting a very good workshop on how to best complete a training contract application. I basically mentioned some of the points given to us on the day.

Best wishes,