Week 2 – CVs and covering letters
Getting an apprenticeship with a law firm can seem daunting but over the next few weeks we will be sharing some useful tips to help you kick start your legal career. Last week we looked at how to identify the right role and register for vacancies. If you haven't read it yet click here.
This week we are looking at CVs, covering letters and how to "get through the door" of a potential employer.
Before we start though, key points to remember:
- An apprenticeship is not a course; it is a job with training.
- To be an apprentice you need to get a job.
- A specialist legal apprenticeship provider can help, but can never guarantee, to get you a suitable job role.
- Apprenticeships in popular sectors such as law and accountancy are over-subscribed, making competition fierce.
- There is no apprenticeship funding for graduates and so if you are a graduate an apprenticeship is unlikely to be for you.
- Almost all law firms are looking for good GCSEs (at least 5 A* to Cs) and many look for good A levels as well.
- Think about a backup plan if you are not successful. This can make you feel less stressed and actually help you during the application process.
CVs and application forms
Having a well-written CV is vital. Sadly, many good applicants never get beyond the first stage because their CV is poorly set out, contains spelling mistakes or doesn't include relevant information. Fortunately the National Careers Service has some excellent support materials to help you write your CV or complete an application form here. Just a few tips from us though:
- Get a few people you trust to read it – a teacher or, even better, an employer.
- Include any relevant skills. Employers are looking for people who:
- Are organised
- Can work as part of a team
- Can build relationships
- Can cope with responsibility
It doesn't matter if you haven't yet been able to demonstrate these skills in a job. But you might have:
- Organised an event
- Played in/managed/coached a sports team
- Done some voluntary or charity work
It's the skills that count, not where you obtained them!
Finally: read it, read it again, get some people that you trust to read it and don't send it to anyone until you know it is perfect. You won't get a second chance to make a first impression!
This is your opportunity to really stand out. Some applicants send their CV to employers with no covering letter or email or (even worse) a standard letter that has clearly been used for lots of different jobs. It does take time, but it is worth it. Again, there is really good advice on how to write a covering letter on the National Careers Service website here. You can also see how to lay out your letter.
Some extra top tips:
- Parts of the legal sector are quite traditional. If your handwriting is clear, write your covering letter by hand and send it by post or, even better, drop it in personally. If you are smart and well presented this might be fed back to the decision maker!
- Most law firms are (or were) partnerships rather than companies. If you are writing to a firm of solicitors always talk about your "firm" not your "company". Attention to detail is vital for lawyers and even something as apparently small as this needs to be right!
- Always research who you should send the letter to and address it to that person. If you are not 100% certain, send it to the senior partner or managing partner of the firm (you will usually find this on the firm's website).
- Legal apprenticeships are new and the firm may not have heard of them. If it is a speculative application you may want to add an initial paragraph such as:
"I am writing to see whether you may have any opportunities for legal apprentices with your firm? The legal apprenticeship pathway is a new way for firms to recruit ambitious people into administrative roles and then receive training that can enable them to progress into fee-earning positions in the future. If you were to take me on the cost of the training would be [met by the Government in full] [if you are under 19][subsidised by the Government] [if you are 19+ with no qualifications higher than A level]. Your firm may also be eligible for a £1,500 grant if you haven't recruited apprentices in the last year."
Next week – work experience.
Week 3 – Preparing for interview
Week 4 – Interview technique
Week 5 – Becoming an apprentice if you already have a job in the legal sector.