How Many Training Contract Applications Should You Do?

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Next City Lawyer
May 28, 2023
[time to read]
min read

Students receive mixed - and often unhelpful - advice when it comes to the number of training contract / vacation scheme applications they should submit.  Back when the Next City Lawyer team were applying for their own training contracts, some of us were told that fewer than six applications is the best approach; others were told to send as many as 50 to maximise their chances!

Our view is that any rule as to a specific number of applications is wrong. It all depends on the candidate. We would generally recommend you do as many applications as you possibly can without sacrificing quality.

One of the founders of the Next City Lawyer Team applied to 23 vacation schemes (his first year grade was a very low 2:1 from Durham University) and wanted to maximise his chances.  He got rejected by firms like Burgess Salmon and Eversheds but won vacation schemes at more competitive firms like Allen & Overy and Freshfields - and results like this happen all the time.

So much of the application process comes down to the HR screener that looks at your answers that day.  You don’t want to leave anything to chance.  There’s an infamous story about a firm where the HR team was caught binning half of the applications they received just to reduce their workload.  Shocking but probably true - and you want to make sure you have applied to enough places to account for bad luck (and allow for some good luck!).

We think a well done application takes around 6-8 hours for a student to write or we can work with you to hugely speed up the process.  Although you will become quicker over time, every single application should involve detailed research and cogent, bespoke answers that are free from any spelling or grammatical mistakes. You should also print out each application and review by hand to catch errors - you will thank us for this after! This process is not easy and it’s quite hard to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other candidates so make sure to try your hardest on each one.

Only ~2.2% of training contract applications to the top law firms in the UK were successful in 2022.

Since the application period spans several months, there should be enough time to produce quality applications. We would traditionally advise a candidate with a 2:1 from a reputable university to do at least 10 applications as an absolute minimum (but to aim for more).

While no one wants to admit they are a weaker candidate, if you have lower grades from a less prestigious university you should apply to even more law firms to increase your chances.  Limited work experience is less of an issue, as we can show you how to turn ordinary jobs (e.g. stocking shelves at Tesco) into huge selling points for your application.  

Equally, going to Oxbridge is not the golden ticket it historically was (CityAM).  We find that Oxbridge candidates with average grades are sometimes at a disadvantage at certain firms who want to create more diverse intakes - so these candidates still need to make sure they apply to a big pool of firms. In fact, many law firms now scout out graduates with First Class degrees from less prestigious universities to balance out their intakes or do CV blind interviews. So do make sure you apply to many firms to boost your chances!

Which law firms should you apply to?  There’s many factors that influence this decision, but it’s worth reading our article on what you should not prioritise as an applicant.

You can learn more about how we can help you secure a training contract here.  

  • Our Application Database has >95 examples of successful applications for >70 different law firms for £14.99 each. Each application includes expert line-by-line commentary by our team of qualified solicitors from US, Magic Circle and Silver Circle firms to help you craft your own perfect application and secure a training contract.
  • Our Practice Case Study will help you turn your assessment centre into a training contract offer. This realistic mock case study takes 45 minutes to complete. It includes >15 pages of expert feedback which will teach you vital commercial content that you need to know and help you to assess how strong your practice performance was.  It costs just £19.99.
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