in Job Applications, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

How Badly do you want a Training Contract? Test Yourself

People often get in touch to say that they are looking for a training contract and will do anything to get one. Really?  I can almost guarantee that in the majority of these cases if we were to push them further on this they would not have walked up and down high streets banging on solicitor’s firm’s doors, neither would they have telephoned round 400 firms within 100 miles and offered their services for free, nor would they have researched all the in-house departments within 100 miles and asked for work experience.

How badly do you want a training contract?

Use the test below to see how your desire for a training contract actually matches up with the work that you are doing to get one.

1. Have you made less than 20 applications for a training contract?

Believe it or not there are careers advisers in certain universities and colleges in the UK who advise potential training contract applicants to only make less than 20 applications for either training contracts or vacation placements. This is absolute nonsense. I am not sure which planet these careers advisers are coming from. If the advice they are giving is of this standard I seriously question whether or not that particularly institution should even have a careers service in the first place. This is irreparably damaging certain students’ prospects of success in the legal profession.

There is no magic number of applications to make for training contracts. You make as many as it takes to get to where you need to be. Furthermore you do not tell firms how many applications you are making if you get to the interview stage. There are techniques for dealing with this. 

Only someone who has made over a thousand applications for a training contract can say that they have done everything they could to get one through making applications.

2. Have you got less than 2 pieces of work experience on your CV?

If you have no or little work experience on your CV, this will impact directly on your ability to get a training contract. There is no such thing as too much work experience and you can always leave some of it off the CV or summarise it if necessary.  Anyone with a little bit of work experience will again struggle to get anywhere in training contract applications. Work experience is the key and across our website you will find article after article stating this. It does not matter what you do, how many academic qualifications you get, if you do not have work experience you will struggle to get anywhere in the legal profession. 

3. Have you anything interesting to say about yourself and your life to date?

A lot of people applying for training contracts have nothing interesting to say at all and their CV is boring. They have no interests apart from working, eating out and going to the cinema, and have done nothing with their life to date except go to university and hold down a part time job.,

Yes but without the part-time job I would not be able to live. 

This may be true, but sometimes you have to put your long term career prospects ahead of your short term need for cash.  If you cut down on nights out would that mean that you needed to work less and perhaps be able to spend more time looking around for work experience in the legal profession?

4. How many firms have you telephoned to ask for either work experience or a training contract or simply to speak to someone for advice?

10?  Well done, you are probably in the top 5% of all training contracts applicants. Anything more than this and you are doing extremely well. Most training contract applicants will simply make one telephone call and decide against any more. It is a very hard step to take and one that most people shy away from. I have to confess that many years ago when I was applying for training contracts I would not have telephoned any law firms under any circumstances as I was absolutely terrified of making a fool of myself. However, looking back I can see that probably would have made a significant difference to my chances of success in getting a training contract and progressing my legal career.

A lot of legal recruitment is undertaken on an ad hoc basis with spur of the moment decisions being the key with a lot of firms. Do not forget this as it will make a considerable difference to your ability to find work. If you come from a sales background then telephoning round law firms will be an easy task to take, but anyone else will find it very hard.

So how badly do you think you really want a training contract? Have you telephoned 200 law firms, banged on 300 law firm’s doors, phoned round all your local in-house departments and written to the local authority to ask for a few weeks work experience?  Have you brushed up your CV and added in interesting points about yourself? Learning to play golf or going sailing? Have you given up your part-time job that pays for your evenings out in the pub on a Friday night in order to spend that time instead looking around for work experience that will get your legal career going?

I would say that the vast majority of applicants may think they want a training contract badly but in fact through their actions do not demonstrate that they are particularly bothered about getting one. Put some effort in!

Author: Jonathan Fagan MIRP MAC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) – Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment (  Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal recruitment consultant, author of the Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV and the Guide to Interviews for Lawyers. He has recruited for law firms across the UK and overseas in all shapes and sizes. If you have any questions that we have not covered above, please email us at

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at