How to Overcome Law Firm Rejection

How to Overcome Law Firm Rejection

For any aspiring lawyer, applying at a law firm for work experience, a vacation scheme, or for a training contract will be part of the parcel. You will need their expertise, knowledge and experience to improve your legal and technical skills as well as to be able to qualify as a lawyer in the first place, in the case of the training contract. But as any lawyer will tell you, rejection is the norm and not an exception.

Before talking about how to overcome rejection, it is good to know the why and the how – and how to combat it.

Why Was I Rejected?

Law firms will reject an applicant for many reasons, which will differ with the class of law firm.

For an international to larger national law firm, rejection may simply be because there were too many applicants and not enough spaces. When there are thousands of applications and only twenty spaces, the cream of the crop will inevitably rise to the top and take those spaces. Often larger law firms, in response to the barrage of applications, will use algorithms to weed out lower university grades, lack of experience, and other key terms that they would not consider immediately.

Smaller law firms will typically reject based on unsuitability based on experience, lack of spaces due to their size, and answered questions, relying less so on algorithms.

How Does Rejection Take Place?

Larger law firms will often not get back to you if you have not got the position you had applied for. This can be especially disheartening, as applicants will want to get individual feedback on their application and work on themselves. This experience is common, and will leave you wondering where you went wrong. You may ask yourself; was I too vague? Did I answer the question wrong? Did I need more experience? Was it my grades?

Smaller law firms may get back to you and cite their lack of spaces and too many applicants as reasons, as well as stating that due to too many applications, individual feedback will not be available per application. Another unfortunate eventuality for those aspiring to do law.

The fact of the matter is that you may not find out from the law firm at all, and go on to repeat mistakes in applications year after year lest you change your answering habits. Luckily for you, we have useful top tips on this exact issue here.

How To Overcome Law Firm Rejection

Having established the why’s and how’s of rejection, let us get on to how you can combat these and have a successful application.

As established, in an ideal universe, each law firm applicant would get individualised feedback, but the onus is unfortunately on the applicant to figure it out. The good news is that there are a lot of resources available for you to diagnose your performance and pinpoint what could have gone wrong.

Below are five tips to keep you going and to assist you in your journey in law:

  • Don’t give up

It is easy to say: “Don’t give up” and leave it at that, but this really is a useful thing to keep in the back of your head. No matter what the application is, it is crucial that you keep advancing your legal knowledge and technical experience where possible. Combined with more knowledge of where you may be going wrong, it is inevitable that you will perfect the formula for a successful application.

  • Improve commercial awareness

We have a lot of useful articles to assist you with this, but any source elsewhere will do too. By increasing your commercial awareness, that is, by reading articles on the law firm’s own websites, those created by us at The Legists, or elsewhere, you can answer the commercial awareness questions with ease and show that you understand the wider world of law.

This might also include law firm specific commercial awareness questions; in which case it will be down to your comprehensive law firm legal research to answer in an informed but not forced manner.

  • Apply everywhere

The unfortunate reality is that unless you have law connections within family or friends with existing law firms, or have graduated with a 2:1 or a 1st Class from a good university, there is an uphill battle for an application, at least for the initial steps of the process.

As an extension of the “don’t give up” point, it is a good tactic to spread your base and apply everywhere. Of course, do not apply to a place you know does not specialise in your niche, will not be a good fit for you as a person, or that you know will reject your application based on the law firm’s own specialties (I.e., if your electives and their firm’s specialties misalign).

But having ruled these out, make a list of law firms and do your research on each of them. This will take time and metaphorical sweat, blood, and tears, but it is an essential step, as the more firms you apply to, the more you increase the odds of being accepted somewhere. If you have done your research well, that place will still fit your ambitions and more importantly, you as a person.

  • Obtain (relevant) experience

An issue many applicants face will be the lack of experience. In an age-old problem, law firms want applicants with experience, but to get experience applicants want to work at the law firm first.

So how can you get around this problem? Well, there are many ways.

Firstly, if you know any family or friends with lawyer acquaintances, and if appropriate, ask to work for them as a summer work experience student. I myself was blessed with this opportunity in my first year, allowing me to make an informed decision to be a lawyer in my first year of law.

Secondly, applying to vacation schemes where and when possible will allow for easier training contract application down the line, especially if the vacation scheme is at the same law firm as the one you want the training contract from. Any vacation scheme experience anywhere will go a long way to show that you have an idea of what is expected of you, and that you have had experience in the intense legal world.

Finally, another method would be to call a law firm, and ask to speak to the person in charge of organising work experience and internships. Once you have a person or department to contact, and it is appropriate, it may work in your favour to send over a cover letter and CV asking to shadow and work as a work experience student. The best experience is at a law firm, as you get to see the trials and tribulations that lawyers go through in the real world, outside of the law school (or equivalent) bubble. It is imperative that you include a cover letter, as this shows your dedication and professionalism, which may go a long way in any decision made by the firm.

  • Work on yourself

This one may seem self-explanatory, but there is more to it than meets the eye. This may mean improving aspects of your life not just for you, but also your image as portrayed to the law firm through your application answers.

For example, when asked about hobbies, if you do not play a sport or engage in some form of extracurricular activity, then perhaps begin to do so. It shows the law firm that should a partner or co-worker come up to you for small talk, that you can relate to them and be friendly and approachable, making you a relatable person as well as a better lawyer. If your supervisor approaches you and talks about football, could you hold a conversation? How would it look if you could – or could not?

You should do something that is true to yourself as much as possible, but the reality is that some of the hobbies of young people today may be completely foreign to your co-workers, and especially for older partners and senior partners. You need to be able to have an interest in the hobby and talk about it, potentially at length, so it should be something you would be interest into a degree.

For this reason, commonplace and widely known hobbies that transcend age barriers would be best suited for this. See photography, sports, pro-bono work, creative writing, et cetera. There is something out there for everyone that not only improves you, but also your image, and ultimately your chances at being given a training contract. Good camaraderie goes a long way, ultimately.

In conclusion, don’t give up and remember to keep working on yourself. The road to law is long and arduous, but the trick is to be adaptive and remember your end goal.

Guney Boran Tatli



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